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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-05-11

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

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

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 11/05/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Defence Minister comments on Aegean issue
  • Bill to resolve conscription problems
  • Greek troops in FYROM military exercise
  • Violence against travellers in southern Albania
  • Santer concludes visit to Greece
  • Albanian escapee recaptured
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Defence Minister comments on Aegean issue

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said today that Greece had an inalienable right to extend its territorial waters from six to twelve miles and would do so when it saw fit.

However, he added, along with any such extension, Greece would at the same time safeguard the free navigation and movement of vessels in the Aegean.

Tsohatzopoulos was speaking in Thessaloniki when asked by reporters to comment on a front-page article in the Sunday newspaper ''To Vima'' claiming that Greece was edging towards agreement with Turkey on the flight of military aircraft over the Aegean.

Noting that he had not read the article, Tsohatzopoulos underlined that Athens cannot under any circumstances enter into negotiation with Ankara on Greece's sovereign rights.

Bill to resolve conscription problems

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos today announced the final arrangements contained in new legislation aimed at resolving the problem of draft-dodgers abroad and conscientious objectors.

Speaking at the sessions of a Council for Overseas Greeks (SAE) presidium meeting in Thessaloniki, Tsohatzopoulos said a relevant bill had already been tabled in Parliament and approved by the 300-member House's Scientific Committee.

Under the provisions of the bill, draft-evaders living abroad will be able to return to Greece if they agree to complete a few months military service and pay off their remaining term on a monthly basis.

Up to now, Greek men avoiding the draft by going abroad were allowed to return to the country only under special circumstances and only for a short period.

The exact number of months to be served and the amount to be paid will depend on the age of the person concerned and family obligations.

By way of example, draft dodgers who were born between 1957 and 1964 will serve six months and pay off the remainder of what they would normally have served at 100,000 drachmas per month.

Conscientious objectors meanwhile will be able to choose one of two forms of alternative service -- either ''unarmed'' service in one of the branches of the military, or ''social service'' in a public organisation.

Tsohatzopoulos clarified however that both alternatives would entail a term of service double the normal.

This was unavoidable, he said, because countries such as Spain which introduced the option of alternative service of almost the same duration as regular service suddenly faced a conscription problem resulting from the appearance of thousands of ''conscientious objectors''.

The arrangements are contained in a bill on military conscription which will be discussed in Parliament by the end of May.

Greek troops in FYROM military exercise

A platoon of Greek army commandos arrived in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) today to take part in a nine-nation military exercise. It is the first time the Greek army has been in the region since World War Two and comes at a time of rapidly improving bilateral relations.

The exercise, organised by the "Cooperation for Peace" Organisation, is aimed at confronting a natural disaster, in this case a hypothetical earthquake and subsequent leak of toxic liquid into the Axios River and of toxic gas into the atmosphere. The Greek troops' role will be to transport the "wounded" on amphibious craft along the river to nearby hospitals.

Another three NATO member states, the USA, Italy and Turkey, will be participating in the exercise, along with troops from the FYROM, Bulgaria, Albania, Slovenia and Romania. FYROM President Kiro Gligorov is expected to attend the start of the exercise on Monday at the Krivolak military base near the town of Negotino.

While in the neighbouring country, the Greek platoon will also visit the town of Valentovo to lay a wreath at the military cemetery where 11 Greek soldiers and officers are buried, casualties of a battle during the First World War.

Violence against travellers in southern Albania

Armed gangs attacked and robbed a group of about 400 illegal immigrants shortly after they had been deported from Greece back to Albania over the border post of Kakavia. Two buses were also held up yesterday and two people who tried to resist were injured, according to a report from the ANA's correspondent in Tirana.

These are just the latest in a series of violent attacks on those returning over the border into southern Albania. Travellers on the roads from Kakavia to the southern Albanian towns of Gjirokaster and Sarande do so at their own risk.

Multinational forces stationed in Gjirokaster to oversee aid distribution have officially announced they will supervise the operation of the customs post at Kakavia and the road leading there from the city. However, they have not as yet made any specific moves.

Political observers believe that the situation, as well as the lack of willingness by the Albanian Public Order Ministry to send more police to the south, is part of an effort by groups loyal to President Sali Berisha to provoke discord among the population of the southern regions and to undermine the role of the National Salvation Committees there.

Santer concludes visit to Greece

European Commission President Jacques Santer concluded a three-day official visit to Greece today, declaring his satisfaction with progress in infrastructure works under way in Greece, as well as the rate of absorption of European Union funds, the ANA's Thessaloniki correspondent reports.

"There haven't been any development projects of this magnitude since the time of Pericles," Santer told a press conference before his departure from Thessaloniki today.

Santer explained that funding prospects for 1999 would be announced by the Commission after the Amsterdam summit, but said that they would be included in a package along with the Commission's report on candidate countries for accession to the EU, as well as the entirety of the EU's structural policies regarding expansion. The drawing up of this package, he added, would also entail a consideration of the cost of expansion.

Replying to a question with regard to a proposal by Northern Greece Industrialists' Association president Nikos Efthimiadis for a "Santer plan" to support Balkan nations, Santer said a comprehensive framework existed, which however concentrated on each state separately.

The EU had special agreements with Bulgaria and Romania, he explained, which covered the entire spectrum of relations. The EU was also contributing 450 million ECU to Albania, a higher amount of aid than to any other country.

Today Santer also visited the offices of the Development of Vocational Training Centre (CEDEFOP), which has moved from Berlin to Thessaloniki, becoming the only EU organisation based in Greece.

Meanwhile, Macedonia and Thrace Minister Philippos Petsalnikos made a proposal to Santer for the founding of a European Commission Regional Bureau in Thessaloniki to support the city's exapnding role in the Balkans and the Black Sea region.

Santer promised the proposal would receive due consideration, although he pointed out that the Commission's funds were currently subject to strict fiscal discipline.

Albanian escapee recaptured

An Albanian escaped convict was captured on the island of Kos late last night after a search during which a man unconnected to the case was killed after his motorbike collided with a police car.

Andreas Murati, 37, had threatened a taxi driver, George Uganas, 37, with a knife and ordered him to hide him in his taxi and take him to the boat to Piraeus. The taxi driver agreed, for the sum of 500,000 dr., and arranged to meet Murati three hours later. Uganas then notified the police, who set up a road block and stopped the taxi. Murati attacked two of the policemen with his knife, injuring them slightly, while he himself was also slightly wounded in the arm after being shot at by one of the two officers.

Meanwhile Kyriakos Bournis, 29, was killed when his motorbike collided with a police car involved in the hunt for Murati. Police say Bournis was driving on the wrong side of the road.

WEATHER

Mostly fair throughout the country, with possibility of some local cloud in the north later in the day. Winds will be light and northerly, and moderate over the Aegean. Temperatures on the mainland will range between 13-28C and on the islands 16-25C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 268.544 Pound sterling 435.548 Cyprus pd 529.907 French franc 46.818 Swiss franc 187.205 German mark 157.797 Italian lira (100) 15.968 Yen (100) 220.293 Canadian dlr. 193.797 Australian dlr. 208.876 Irish Punt 408.188 Belgian franc 7.652 Finnish mark 52.372 Dutch guilder 140.472 Danish kr. 41.507 Swedish kr. 35.059 Norwegian kr. 38.117 Austrian sch. 22.446 Spanish peseta 1.871 Port. Escudo 1.569

(Y.B.)


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