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Athens News Agency: News in English, 97-04-05

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, 05/04/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Defence Minister's view of Albania peace force role
  • March inflation drops to 6.0 percent
  • Details of second OTE share offer decided
  • European Socialists meet in Thessaloniki on Balkan security
  • Alternate Foreign Minister off to IGC meeting
  • Motor oil fined 100 million drachmas for marine pollution
  • Ministers jeered in Patra
  • Armed Forces bureau attacked
  • Train strike Monday
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange


NEWS IN DETAIL

Defence Minister's view of Albania peace force role

None of the states sending troops to participate in the multinational force for Albania want to deploy their men in southern Albania, the stronghold of the insurrection, according to Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos in an interview in today's issue of Le Monde.

"We propose that the Greek forces be deployed in the centre, around Tirana. However, everyone wants to go there," he said, adding that "no one is in control of the south" of Albania and no one wanted to go there because of the greater risks involved.

According to the Minister, the multinational force, whose mission will be to safeguard the distribution of humanitarian aid, will have to confront two "urgent matters".

"(Apart from ensuring delivery of the aid) we will have to gather the arms (looted during the insurrection) and in my view we won't be able to avoid paying for them, buying them back in some way," he said.

"Albania is not in a position to assume on its own the cost of the transition (to democracy). If we don't realise that soon, there will be other Albanias," warned Tsohatzopoulos, adding the view that President Sali Berisha "bore most of the responsibility for the failure" of the democratic process in his country.

Meanwhile, Foreign Undersecretary Yannos Kranidiotis stressed that Greece was not in competition with any other country involved in the multinational force, nor was it interested in zones of influence, but that its goal was close cooperation in order to resolve problems by means of collective efforts.

He was speaking in Thessaloniki today in response to comments that Prime Minister Costas Simitis made hints with regard to Italy's role while addressing a European Socialist Party meeting yesterday.

Kranidiotis emphasised that the Greek detachment should be stationed in the centre of Albania, in Tirana, and that it should not be isolated. He added that one section of it should be stationed in the south as a "symbolic presence" in helping settle the situation.

Albanian Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano expressed the view that the composition of the peace forces should be mixed, and spread over in all areas of the country that were in crisis.

March inflation drops to 6.0 percent

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou announced shortly after a Cabinet meeting yesterday 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 most.

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 of 1996.

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 economic policy.

Details of second OTE share offer decided

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday 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 yesterday.

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 said.

Alternate Foreign Minister off to IGC meeting

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou leaves tomorrow for Noordwijk in the Netherlands for a meeting of "conclave" of Foreign Ministers within the framework of the European Union's Intergovernmental Conference (IGC).

Tomorrow afternoon the Ministers are to meet with European Parliament President Jose Maria Gil-Robles and other Europarliament respresentatives, after which the IGC will convene, continuing on Monday.

The IGC agenda includes aspects of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), institutional issues, employment and social policy.

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 Corinth.

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 ministry sources.

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.

Ministers jeered in Patra

Demonstrating construction workers threw yoghurt at Labour Minister Miltiades Papaioannou and Undersecretary Christos Protopapas in Patra this morning at the entrance to the city's Labour Centre.

The demonstrators jeered the two officials, saying they knew nothing about the workers and the problems they faced. Papaioannou said that if the incident had been provoked by a few individuals then it was of no importance.

"However, if the incident was instigated by a political party then it should be considered as a provocation, something unworthy of the trade union movement," he added.

The Minister and Undersecretary are visiting the prefecture of Achaia as part of a briefing tour of the region by government officials.

Armed Forces bureau attacked

Thirty to 40 masked people carrying iron bars broke into the Armed Forces Public Information Bureau in the central Athens district of Exarhia at noon today, damaging property and writing slogans such as "Down with the army" on the walls. No one was hurt. None of the staff at the bureau is uniformed or armed.

Train strike Monday

No trains will be running on Monday 7 April due to a strike by workers at the Greek Railways Organisation (OSE). Only those used to transport essentials such as fuel and produce will be operating.

WEATHER

Tomorrow's weather will be clear early on with some cloud increasing during the afternoon beginning in the west and north, spreading to the rest of the country by nightfall, when there will be some rain, with snowfalls in the north. Athens will be mostly fine, with cloud later in the day, temperatures between 5-15C. Thessaloniki's temperatures will be between 2-13C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 263.326 Pound sterling 430.230 Cyprus pd 525.145 French franc 46.652 Swiss franc 183.272 German mark 157.093 Italian lira (100) 15.841 Yen (100) 212.308 Canadian dlr. 188.887 Australian dlr. 204.590 Irish Punt 413.664 Belgian franc 7.612 Finnish mark 52.447 Dutch guilder 139.594 Danish kr. 41.223 Swedish kr. 34.512 Norwegian kr. 38.668 Austrian sch. 22.320 Spanish peseta 1.856 Portuguese escudo 1.562

(Y.B.)


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