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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-04-06

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

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

Internet English

Athens, Greece, 06/04/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Defence Minister pledges support to Albania
  • Papantoniou predicts big fall in inflation
  • Details of second OTE share offer decided
  • Kaklamanis, Kyprianou meet on national issues
  • European Socialists meet in Thessaloniki on Balkan security
  • Alternate Foreign Minister off to IGC meeting
  • Ministers end Achaia tour
  • Police confiscates smuggled weapons from Albania
  • Armed Forces bureau attacked
  • Train strike Monday
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange


NEWS IN DETAIL

Defence Minister pledges support to Albania

"No one controls the South and no one wants to go there because of the great dangers," Greece's National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said in a question put forward by an interviewer of the French Le Monde asking whether the Greek contingent will be deployed in the southern region of Albania which is home to the ethnic Greek minority. Tsohatzopoulos said Athens proposed that the Greek contingent, as part of the multinational force to be deployed in Albania, be stationed in Tirana. "But everyone wants to go there," the Greek minister said.

"There are two issues pending," Tsohatzopoulos told Le Monde in the interview which was published today. "First the return of the weapons (which are in the hands of the insurgents), which in my opinion will take the form of a purchase, and second to supervise the distribution of the humanitarian aid."

Tsohatzopoulos, who was interviewed by Le Monde on the occasion of his visit to Paris for talks with his French Counterpart, reiterated Greece's "political solidarity" to Albania's Prime Minister Bashkim Fino as well as his government's promised economic assistance to the country. Greece has promised a loan of 20 billion drachmas to the Bank of Albania in order to finance restructruring programmes. Greece has also pledged to participate in the international police force to be deployed in the country with a 600-strong armed force.

Asked if Greece would be willing to cooperate with FYROM in order to avoid a potential regional destabilisation, Tsohatzopoulos said Athens had already contacted Skopje as well as its other neighbours "to stress that stability in the region depends on cooperation from all of us as well as on EU solidarity."

Asked if the Greek government also counted on cooperation from Turkey, Tsohatzopoulos said Ankara's willingness to participate in the multinational force was received in positive light but warned that "it should be made clear that the situaton in Albania should not be used as pretext for a hegemonic intervention, the kind we have grown accustomed to expect from Ankara."

"The EU should realise," Tsohatzopoulos stressed, "that Greece is not willing to allow disputing of its sovereignty or of its borders from Turkey."

"At the same time," he added, "we have no objection to Turkey's deepening its ties with the EU, to the extent that it accepts to aknowledge the territorial status quo and find a solution to the Cyprus problem."

Papantoniou predicts big fall in inflation

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou announced his optimism regarding the course of the inflation addingt that the government will not impose new measures. Papantiniou was speaking in an interview with the Sunday newspaper "Kyriakatiki Eleftherotypia."

By the end of 1998 inflation will have fallen to 2.5 per cent, the Minister said.

Speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting on Friday, Papantoniou announced 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 on Friday 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.

Kaklamanis, Kyprianou meet on national issues

President of the Greek Parliament Apostolos Kaklamanis and President of the Cypriot House of Representatives Spyros Kyprianou held a meeting today in Athens focusing on national issues.

The meeting took place on the fringes of the Presidents of Mediteranean Parliaments Conference being held in the Greek capital.

After the meeting, Kaklamanis and Kyprianou told reporters they exchanged views on the goals of the two-day Conference as well as on the lack of positive developments in the Cyprus issue.

Asked to commend on a statement by US Ambassador to Greece Thomas Niles that the United States would intervene in the case of military conflict in the Aegean, Kaklamanis said:

"This is nothing new. What impressed me regarding Mr. Niles' statement was that he does not seem to consider the prospect of a positive initiative on the Cyprus issue."

Niles made the statement to the Greek weekly newspaper "To Vima". According to the newspaper, Niles does not rule out the possibility of such an incident in the Aegean at the same time holding reserve optimism as to the making of progress in Greek-Turkish relations at present. He appears to also have reserve optimism regarding the commencement of direct talks between Cypriot President Glafcos Cleridis and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash by June 1st. Niles said the US will come forward with an initiative on the Cyprus issue when conditions for its successful implementation will have been maximised.

Asked whether he foresaw tension in the Aegean, Kaklamanis said "nothing has yet changed regarding ... the existence of a real threat in the Aegean..."

Kyprianou said a US political decision leading to positive developments in the Cyprus and the Aegean issues would be important.

"In other words," Kyprianou said, "the United States must feel the need for Turkey to change its attitude."

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 on Friday.

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 was due to leave today for Noordwijk in the Netherlands for a meeting of "conclave" of Foreign Ministers within the framework of the European Union's Intergovernmental Conference (IGC).

This 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.

Ministers end Achaia tour

Labour Minister Miltiades Papaioannou, Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis and Labour Undersecretary Christos Protopapas told a joint press conference marking the end of a two-day tour of Achaia this afternoon that they were pleased with the communication they had with the local authorities and the people of the region.

They said they were given the opprtunity to elaborate on the government's work and also to be informed of the people's concerns.

Demonstrating construction workers threw yoghurt at Papaioannou and Protopapas in Patra yesterday 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.

Meanwhile, a man arrested by police yesterday for instigating the incident was freed today after the ministers decided not to pursue the case through the courts. The arrested is member of the Communist Party of Greece whic today criticised the government of "terrorising the working class."

Police confiscates smuggled weapons from Albania

Police today arrested two Greek nationals after finding them in possession of weapons believed to have been smuggled from Albania.

The arrest was made in the region of Kastoria on the Greek Albanian border and police confiscated ten automatic weapons and 716 bullets.

Police arrested Christos Makridis, 34, and Vasilios Gotsis, 64. A third person, believed to be Albanian, evaded arrest.

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 yesterday, 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

Today'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 in Athens will range 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

(M.S.)

(M.S.)


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