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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-04-08

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, 08/04/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greek battalions to be stationed in Tirana, Vlore
  • Greece 'a stone's throw from EMU': Papantoniou
  • Defence undersecretary in US
  • Fears of arms smuggling from Albania
  • US envoy confers with justice ministry on copyright
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange


NEWS IN DETAIL

Greek battalions to be stationed in Tirana, Vlore

Italy has proposed that the main Greek battalion participating in the multinational peace force in Albania be stationed in Tirana, with another company in Vlore, according to an announcement by Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos today.

The minister said the battalion will consist of both regular soldiers and volunteers with a five year tour of duty. There will be no need to include conscripts in the Greek corps, as already 1,000 volunteers have applied, he said. The multinational force is expected to be ready to depart at the beginning of next week.

Government spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said later that the Greek government had agreed to the Italian proposal concerning the stationing of a Greek batallion in Tirana and a company in Vlore.

Athanassakis said the government considered the issue concerning the stationing of the Greek contingent ''closed'' at the present stage.

He added that only the issue of access routes and road axes remained open and that this matter would be dealt with soon.

Replying to questions, the spokesman said the government believed that the Greek contingent's role could be more substantial if stationed in the areas initially indicated by Athens.

Athanassakis reiterated that Greece was in no way ''playing with the spheres of influence in Albania''.

''The presence of the Greek force is related only to security and stability in the region as well as with the humanitarian aid which will be sent,'' Athanassakis said.

Tsohatzopoulos met today with Coalition of the Left and Progress leader Nikos Constantopoulos for talks on developments in Albania, the Cyprus problem, Greek-Turkish relations and Greece's role at the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC).

He clarified that the purpose of the multinational force to be sent to Albania was for procedures to be set in motion in June or July for the holding of general elections in the neighbouring country, the disarming of civilians and to secure the safe distribution of humanitarian aid.

Tsohatzopoulos said it was only natural for ''different desires'' to be expressed by the countries participating in the force regarding the geographical disposition of the troops, adding that it was not impossible for some ''combination'' of these desires to be attained.

Replying to reporters' questions on Greek-Turkish relations, Tsohatzopoulos said it was not possible to talk in terms of a ''new climate''.

''Between a 'new climate' and Turkey's positive initiatives there exists a clear gap,'' the minister said, adding that the question was whether Turkey genuinely wanted to come closer to Europe and was prepared to abide by the rules of international law, in which case the road to Europe would open up, ''or whether they are the usual moves''.

''Time will tell,'' Tsohatzopoulos said.

Greece 'a stone's throw' from EMU: Papantoniou

National Economy Minister Yannos Papantoniou told an Economist Conference here today Greece was just a stone's throw away from meeting the criteria of the European Union's Maastricht treaty and called for decisive action in both the public and private sectors to bridge the remaining gap.

The annual "Roundtable with the Greek Government" held by the Economist Intelligence Unit opened last night with a speech by Germany's former foreign minister Hans Dietrich Genscher.

Papantoniou, saying Greece was the only EU member state to have made such great strides towards convergence in such a short time, called for a faster rate of privatisation and share offers, the deregulation of the markets, the attraction of private capital for public works and support in making Greek enterprises more competitive.

He predicted that the public deficit would fall to 4.2% of the GNP by the end of the year and that inflation would drop to 4.5%.

Over the next five to ten years, added Papantoniou, it was expected that the inflow of foreign capital would continue at an increased rate, irrespective of the level of interest rates due to the trust displayed by foreign investors.

He dismissed concern over the large current accounts deficit, saying that over the next two to three years it was expected to be of the order of 4.5 to five billion dollars, but would be easily subsidised.

Development Minister Vasso Papandreou told the conference the Greek government would adhere to the implementation of the convergence programme as well as its development programme, while privatisations would go ahead as scheduled, with significant structural changes allowing for an improved operation of the market and general business environment.

Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis spoke of the need for an expansion of the tax base in Greece over the next few years, along with a gradual reduction in the tax burden. He stressed the Greek government would to make a greater effort to manage the public debt.

Democratic Socialism Movement leader Dimitris Tsovolas called for more social justice and solidarity on the part of the European Union towards Greece. He contended that the Maastricht treaty led to an inhumane and extreme form of neoliberalism. Greece should not have as its priority the convergency of a few unrealistic macro-economic indicators but should aim at a more populist economic policy and a social policy more characteristic of a welfare state.

Federation of Greek Industries president Andreas Kanellopoulos complained of insufficent privatisation, infrastructure problems, overvaluation of the drachma which undermined the competitiveness of Greek products and too much state intervention. He called for a reduction in public spending, emphasising that despite progress that had been made in the Greek economy, the problems remained.

In statements later, Papantoniou assured that the government would not introduce new fiscal measures, despite the shortfall in state revenue in March, and expressed optimism that by the end of the year there would be no problem.

Papantoniou said that revenue inflows would pick up in May because of the taxes to be levied, with retroactive force, under the provisions of the new tax law.

Acknowledging the shortfall in revenue, Papantoniou underlined that it pertained to non-tax income of a temporary nature, since the 60 billion drachma reduction in March in Bank of Greece and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) dividends would be made up over the next few months.

Defence Undersecretary in US

Defence Undersecretary Dimitris Apostolakis, currently heading a Western European Union delegation to the US within the framework of the WEU's Transatlantic Forum, said the visit was designed to find ways the European Union's defence wing could work together with NATO towards peace, stability and security in Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, the ANA's New York correspondent reports.

"Greece assumes the WEU presidency on 1 January 1998. The purpose of our visit here is to have contacts with various US officials and to answer any questions... the American public might have about the WEU's intentions, chiefly with regard to NATO," the Undersecretary said in an interview in New York yesterday.

He stressed there were no differences of opinion between the two defence organisations.

"We are particularly interested in the ways these two organisations can cooperate... we simply want to ensure that the way in which expansion towards the east will occur, the way new countries are included in the Atlantic Alliance, will result in as few 'tremors' and concerns as possible on the part of Russia, which of course is interested in what happens around it," explained Apostolakis. He added that progress had been made and the details were expected to be worked out easily.

Turning to Greek policy regarding military flights over Cyprus, the Defence Undersecretary observed that agrement had been reached with Turkey not to carry out major military exercises in the Aegean during July and August, chiefly to avoid hindering the movement of tourists, which was of interest to both countries. He added that this period could be extended by perhaps two weeks either way.

"What has been called a moratorium on flights over Cyprus in reality does not exist... if discussions reaches a phase where some facilitation is required on the part of the Cypriot government, then the Cypriot government will decide," he stressed, adding:

"We must make clear and I want to stress that these flights over Cyprus by Greek planes are legal, following the approval of the Cypriot government, while flights by Turkish aircraft over Cyprus have no legal foundation and above all do not have the prior approval of the Cypriot government.

Replying to a question on the composition of the Greek contingent in the multinational peace force for Albania, Apostolakis said the contingent would be supported by a medical and mechanised unit, with the possibility of assisting in practical terms, such as transporting bread-manufacturing equipment.

"...We hope that that it will not be necessary to use force, for that is not the purpose (of our presence). The goal is to keep channels of communcation open, the roads leading from Tirana to the airports, roads connecting major towns. That is the duty of the Greek unit. It is not exactly to police, but to help the Albanian government during this phase of reconstruction."

He noted that the Albanian government had asked for Greece's assistance in every area, such as humanitarian aid, which had already been sent, and financial assistance. Finally, following a request from the Albanian government, Greece would be helping to reorganise the Albanian armed forces and its police, he said.

Meanwhile, with regard to Turkey, Apostolakis commented:

"Every now and then Turkey makes some moves in order to impress, some rhetorical declarations, which unfortunately are not followed up by action which would decrease the tension between the two countries."

Fears of arms smuggling from Albania

Greek authorities are increasingly concerned that weapons looted during the recent insurgency in southern Albania are finding their way into the hands of this country's underworld.

The arrest yesterday of two Greek nationals at the Albanian border in possession of three Kalashnikov assault rifles, three hand grenades and ammunition, underlined authorities' fears.

According to reports, Christos Makridis, 34, a depot master for the interstate bus company KTEL, along with 64-year-old farmer Vasilios Gotsis, have been charged with illegally importing and possessing arms as well as trading in arms.

An estimated 600,000 military weapons are currently circulating in Albania after being taken from military camps during the unrest.

US envoy confers with justice ministry on copyright

US Ambassador to Greece Thomas Niles today visited Justice Minister Evangelos Yiannopoulos to raise the issue of intellectual property rights and the loss being incurred by US beneficiaries from the illegal use of films and music.

According to a Justice Ministry announcement, Yiannopoulos told Niles that a bill to be voted on in Parliament in the next few days contained a provision foreseeing the establishment of special divisions at the first instance courts of Athens, Thessaloniki and Piraeus to hear intellectual property cases.

Similar divisions will also be set up at appeals courts, the announcement said.

WEATHER

Today's weather will be partly cloudy with some snowfalls, mostly in the northeast and scattered showers over the Aegean. Strong to gale force northerly winds will begin to abate this evening. Temperatures in Athens will be 5-10C and in Thessaloniki from 3-7C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 267.205 Pound sterling 434.198 Cyprus pd 527.546 French franc 46.590 Swiss franc 182.285 German mark 156.835 Italian lira (100) 15.908 Yen (100) 212.893 Canadian dlr. 191.595 Australian dlr. 208.003 Irish Punt 416.243 Belgian franc 7.600 Finnish mark 52.384 Dutch guilder 139.376 Danish kr. 41.168 Swedish kr. 34.710 Norwegian kr. 38.571 Austrian sch. 22.283 Spanish peseta 1.856 Portuguese escudo 1.563

(M.P.)


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