NEWS IN DETAIL
March inflation drops to 6.0 percent
National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou announced shortly
after a Cabinet meeting today that inflation fell to 6 per cent in March
from 6.6 per cent in February.
The latest drop in inflation was greater than the expectations of the
government which had hoped for an annual rate of 6.2 per cent at the
According to National Statistics Service (NSS) data released by Papantoniou,
the sharp drop was due to the fact that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in
March rose by only 2.2 per cent, compared to 2.7 per cent in the same month
The 2.2 per cent rise was the result of price increases of clothing and
footwear, durable goods, household items and services, hotel, coffee shop
and restaurant services, transport -- mainly due to increases in petrol
prices, alcoholic beverages and cigarettes and foodstuffs.
Papantoniou said that the government's target of 4.5 per cent inflation in
1997 -- three percentage points lower than inflation last year -- had been
half-achieved in the first quarter of the year.
Forecasting further reductions in the coming months, Papantoniou said the
rapid drop in inflation reflected the effectiveness of the government's
Details of second OTE share offer decided
Prime Minister Costas Simitis today chaired a Cabinet meeting which focused
on the second share offer by the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation
(OTE) and Greece's positions at the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC).
National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and government
spokesman Dimitris Reppas said it had been decided to sell 45 million
shares, corresponding to 10.7 per cent of OTE's stock, to Greek and foreign
investors and employees of the telecommunications organisation.
They said the current value of the shares to be sold totalled 270 billion
drachmas, with 60 per cent of the proceeds going to OTE for investment
programmes and the remaining 40 per cent to the state.
The procedures for this second share offer are expected to have been
completed by mid-June.
The first offer last year saw the sale of 8 per cent of OTE's shares on the
Athens Stock Exchange, at an admission price of 4,000 drachmas per share.
The current price of the share is 6,000 drachmas.
Commenting on the Cabinet's decision, Reppas said the present offer came at
a time when developments in the economy were favourable and strengthened
investor interest in the Greek capital market.
On the IGC, Reppas said the government wanted emphasis to be placed on the
social nature of the European Union.
The government, he added, had certain reservations about flexibility with
respect to decisions by EU bodies, a concept supported by the more powerful
countries of the Community, favouring instead the principle of unanimity
and institutional equality and balance between member states.
Reppas said that Greece was interested in the strengthening of the EU's
common foreign policy and described as successful the Greek government's
efforts for the acceptance by its Community partners of the notion of
guarantees for territorial integrity and solidarity among member states.
Papantoniou later told reporters that the OTE offer was the biggest share
offer in the Greek market and one of the biggest by telecommunications
companies in the European market.
He added that the shares would be sold to Greek and foreign institutional
investors using the 'book building' method, and to private investors, OTE
employees and pensioners through public subscription.
In the event of excess demand, Papantoniou added, the state would be
entitled to sell a further 2 per cent of OTE shares.
European Socialists meet in Thessaloniki on Balkans stability
Stability in the Balkans is a prerequisite for security in the whole of
Europe and the European Socialist Party is in favour of political dialogue
for the resolution of the crisis in the region, the ESP presidium told a
press conference today.
ESP President Rudolf Scharping said that dialogue among the political
forces of the Balkans could play a decisive role in developments in the
region ''since the ultimate objective must be the political resolution of
problems, because otherwise we will have an outbreak of conflict''.
In this respect, he added, the fact that representatives of socialist
parties from countries of the Balkans would be participating in the ESP
Conference for the first time was of particular significance.
Scharping was speaking shortly before the opening of the sessions of the
ESP Conference in Thessaloniki.
In similar vein, ESP Vice President and Greek National Defence Minister
Akis Tsohatzopoulos said that the ESP would, at its conference in Malme,
Sweden in June, submit a collective proposal on security which would
include the Balkans.
Asked by reporters about EU enlargement, Scharping said the ESP believed
that those countries wishing to participate in enlargement should be
allowed to do so, following the necessary negotiations.
He added however that in the case of certain states, such as the Balkan
countries, which have particular problems, efforts were being made to
establish cooperation on a third level -- ''that of regional cooperation'' -
- which will open the path to the Union.
Replying to another question on the issue of Turkey's accession to the EU,
Scharping replied that the matter would be discussed during the coming
years and expressed concern about domestic developments in Turkey since
''the trend (towards) total accession... may lead to great difficulties''.
''If Turkey wants to remain a state supported by Western-style democracy
and wishes to continue to be of a secular nature, then it must accept very
cordial observations from NATO and the EU regarding its very good
democratic tradition which is now however in jeopardy,'' Scharping
Police defuse bomb at Alitalia offices
Police dismantled a bomb at the Alitalia airlines office on Vouliagmeni St.
shortly after midnight last night, after an unidentified caller rang the
newspaper Eleftherotypia, police sources said.
The home-made bomb was found in a bag near the entrance. Responsibility was
claimed by the "Militant Guerilla Group" in later phone calls to Skai radio
station and another to Eleftherotypia.
Anti-terrorist officers said later that the device did not explode due to a
fault in the wiring of the makeshift time bomb.
The device comprised a 30 cm cylinder containing dynamite, connected by
wires to a time-switch and 9 volt battery.
The officers clarified that the bomb was initially defused by a robot
before being dismantled by bomb disposal experts.
Motor Oil fined 100 million drachmas for marine pollution
Motor Oil Hellas has been fined 100 million drachmas for marine pollution
last August 9, when oil leaked into the sea during the loading of the
tanker "Kriti Sea" at the Motor Oil refinery at Aghi Theodori, near
The decision, reached by Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis and
Environment and Public Works Minister Kostas Laliotis, provides for the
fine to be deposited in a special "Green Fund" to be channelled to local
government organisations in areas polluted by the spill, according to
The oil spill polluted coastal areas as far as the northeastern Peloponnese
and the Saronic island of Aegina and endangered the safety of both the
ship's crew and the staff of Motor Oil as well as the refinery and the ship
itself, according to the ruling.
In demonstrations shortly after the incident, members of the environmental
organisation Greenpeace demanded stricter measures to prevent marine
pollution. Seventeen of the demonstrators were arrested after chaining
themselves to mooring buoys and loading cranes near the refinery. They are
scheduled to be tried on April 10, after several postponements.
International meeting in Athens calls for end to Albanian crisis
The solidarity of the international community in restoring peace and
stability in Albania was confirmed at a meeting at the foreign ministry
yesterday between EU council president, Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van
Mierlo, OSCE special envoy for Albania Franz Vranitzky and new Albanian
Prime Minister Bashkim Fino, according to Foreign Minister Theodoros
Pangalos, who also participated in the meeting.
Mr. Fino, who participated in the latter part of the talks, placed special
emphasis on the holding of elections, which he stressed would be fair and
democratic and would be held with the support of the OSCE and the
Vranitzky set out the three areas of action planned by the international
community. These are distribution of humanitarian and economic aid, to be
directed by the European Union, as well as establishment and protect ion of
democracy and human rights, which include the June elections that will be
coordinated by the OSCE.
During a separate meeting later, Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Mr.
Vranitzky agreed on the need for efforts to continue at finding a political
solution to 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.
Greece demands retraction of Ankara's war threat
Athens called on Ankara yesterday to retract its threat of war against
Greece and to accept the existing borders in the Aegean in light of efforts
to find common ground in Greek-Turkish relations.
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos told a press conference after talks
with the Dutch president of the EU Council of Ministers, Hans van Mierlo,
that the Greek side had clarified three "very simple things".
The Dutch EU presidency has embarked on an effort to establish a common
ground for resolving differences between Greece and Turkey. Yesterday's
meeting focused on Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus problem.
Mr. Pangalos said that Turkey should first retract its threat of war if
Athens exercises its right to extend its territorial waters from six to 12
nautical miles. The Turkish national assembly passed a resolution
threatening Greece with war in the event
Mr. Pangalos clarified that Greece did not intend to exercise this right
immediately "but this does not mean that because we do not relinquish this
right of ours any other country is entitled to threaten us with war."
He said both Athens and Ankara must declare that war between the two
countires was inconceivable.
"We are not asking for this to be done by means of a resolution of the
Turkish national assembly. The Turkish premier or foreign minister could
make such a statement," Mr. Pangalos said.
The Greek foreign minister stressed that Turkey's aspiration to secure an
overall renegotiation was both inconceivable and impossible as far as
Greece was concerned, "because apart from anything else, it would mean that
for the first time there would be discussion in Europe about the re-
delineation of borders.
Mr. Pangalos implied that Athens had rejected a proposal of the Dutch
presidency for the formation of a so-called "committee of wise men" to
examine Greek-Turkish differences.
He said that Greece did not accept that third parties could negotiate on
behalf of the Greek and Turkish governments.
He clarified, though, that Greece was not opposed to the effort being made
by the Dutch presidency to achieve some convergence between Greek and
Turkish views regarding the procedure for resolving the problems.
Commenting on the presence of the Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen.
Ismail Karadayi at a Greek embassy reception in Ankara on the occasion of
Greek Independence Day at the end of March, Mr. Pangalos said it was "a
very good move which flatters us, but it is not enough."
Replying to a question on the EU-Turkey Association Council meeting, Mr.
Pangalos stressed that Greece had never been opposed to its convening, "but
we do insist on the refusal to approve the financial protocol for as long
as Turkey fails to satisfy the rudimentary conditions which we have
More Turkish violations of Greek airspace
Turkish aircraft yesterday infringed air traffic rules in the Athens Flight
Information Region (FIR) and violated Greek airspace on several occasions
between the islands of Limnos, Lesvos, Kos and Rhodes.
According to reports, three formations of Turkish F-16 and F-4 "Phantom"
warplanes violated Greek airspace in the region between Kos and Rhodes 15
In all cases the Turkish aircraft were recognised and intercepted by
Hellenic Air Force Mirage 2000 and F-16 fighters. In one case recognition
and interception developed into an engagement.
National Bank to issue bond loan
National Bank of Greece will turn to international markets for a long-term
subordinated debt bond loan of US$150-200 million.
The general meeting of shareholders yesterday gave the bank's administration
the green light to proceed with the loan, which is expected to have a
duration of up to 10 years.
Underwriters of the loan are international financial house Salomon Brothers
and the Chase Bank.
National Bank of Greece Governor Theodoros Karatzas told shareholders at
the assembly that the loan would bolster the bank's credit ratings and lay
the groundwork for a future successful share capital increase with the
participation of foreign investors .
Temporary weather improvement is expected during the day, but will continue
to be unstable in most parts of the country with cloudiness, rain and
storms in the eastern and southern parts getting worse overnight. Winds
will be westerly, weak to moderate, turning strong by nightfall. Athens
will be partly cloudy with temperatures between 6-18C. Thessaloniki will be
overcast with possible rain and temperatures between 4-15C.
Aris of Thessaloniki takes Korac Cup
Aris Thessaloniki won the European basketball Korac Cup after beating Tofas
Bursa 88-70 in Turkey last night and overturning a 77-66 home field defeat
by Tofas last week.
Aris was winning 85-67 roughly 30 seconds before the end of the match when
disgruntled Turkish fans started throwing thousands of objects onto the
court, leading to a temporary suspension to the match. Referees ordered the
evacuation of the arena and the game resumed and ended normally.
Aris is the second Greek basketball team, along with local rival PAOK, to
win both the European Cup and the Korac Cup.
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