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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-07-23

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 23/07/1997 (ANA)


  • Greece welcomes House of Representatives resolution on Cyprus
  • Government to make its policy on immigrants "more specific"
  • Hariri begins two-day visit to Greece tomorrow
  • Stephanopoulos on restoration of democracy
  • OTE to appoint digital switch supplier by August
  • First oil exploration leases for western Greece approved
  • Greece to finalise '98 economic policy in October
  • Greek EU-funded post office plan in jeopardy
  • Special forces reinforce security along Greek-Albanian border
  • Cache of ancient coins found on Corfu


Greece welcomes House of Representatives resolution on Cyprus

The government today welcomed as ''very positive'' a US House of Representatives resolution on the Cyprus problem calling for the demilitarisation of the island and the withdrawal of the Turkish occupation forces.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that if the points contained in the resolution constituted ''active elements of US foreign policy, then a permanent and viable solution of the Cyprus problem may be attained''.

The spokesman noted however that similar texts had in the past been adopted by representative bodies of the United States ''but they were not implemented in the country's foreign policy''.

Commenting meanwhile on the joint declaration signed Sunday by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, Reppas underlined that the latter was not acting independently but ''constitutes an extension of Turkish foreign policy''.

The spokesman added that the declaration was almost identical to one signed in January this year by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and Denktash.

The latest declaration outlines a series of steps towards partial economic integration and promotes cooperation in the fields of security, defence and foreign policy.

''Attempts are being made to dynamite efforts for a settlement of the Cyprus problem and this kind of behaviour must be isolated,'' Reppas said.

Meanwhile, US State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said yesterday a major opportunity was emerging for a solution of the Cyprus problem.

The spokesman was speaking at his last regular press briefing, as he is to be posted in Athens as the new US ambassador.

"I think that we are being given a great chance in eastern Mediterranean. We have a new relation between Greece and the US, which means that we can move forward in a way that we could not in the past. We have a great respect for Prime Minister Simit is and Foreign Minister Pangalos. We can work with them especially on Cyprus, " Burns said.

Government to make its policy on immigrants "more specific"

The government confirmed today that it intended to make its policy on immigrants residing and working in the country ''more specific''.

Replying to reporters' questions, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the issue would again be discussed by the Cabinet at a forthcoming meeting.

Reppas clarified however that this did not signal a change in policy but simple that the government would it more specific.

Labour Minister Miltiades Papaioannou said yesterday that the government was thinking of reconsidering its policy on illegal immigrants and not excluding Albanians and migrants from other countries bordering Greece from the right to become registered and acquire legal status.

According to two presidential decrees approved by the Cabinet on June 27, foreigners and illegal immigrants living and working in Greece will be able to be registered as of September 1.

When the decrees were initially approved, their provisions would have applied to about 200,000 of the estimated 450,000 illegal immigrants currently in the country, because labourers from countries sharing borders with Greece were not covered by the new legislation.

In effect, this exempted immigrants from Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Papaioannou noted that the original proposals contained in the decrees, which were drafted by his ministry, included all foreigners.

Hariri begins two-day visit to Greece tomorrow

Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is expected to arrive in Athens tomorrow on a two-day official visit during which he will have talks with Premier Costas Simitis, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas announced today.

Hariri will also have talks with Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, the spokesman added.

Stephanopoulos on restoration of democracy

President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos said today the 23rd anniversary of Greece's return to democratic rule following a seven-year military dictatorship provided an opportunity to once again ascertain that there was no longer a problem of democracy in Greece.

"Democracy has been permanently restored and prevails, and the present period of our political life is one of full and smooth function of our democratic institutions," the President's message on the July 24 anniversary said.

Democracy was restored in Greece in July 1974 after the collapse of the 1967-74 junta following an abortive coup in Cyprus and the subsequent invasion of the island republic by Turkish military forces. Turkey continues to occupy 37% of the island in the north, which in 1983 it unilaterally declared as the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" that is recognised only by Ankara, and maintains 30,000 troops there.

Stephanopoulos said ensurance of democratic rule was not in itself sufficient for the prosperity and progress of the Greek people. "It is a fundamental condition, which we have already consolidated, but much more still remains," he said.

He said it still remained for the Greek economy to reach the level of the other European Union member states, and for successful confrontation of the national issues still pending, "particularly repulsing Turkey's aggessiveness in the Aegean".

OTE to appoint digital switch supplier by August

The Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) is expected to appoint a supplier for 600,000-1,800,000 digital switches by August 1 as part of a fast track investment plan for 1997-1998 worth 135 billion drachmas, OTE sources said today.

OTE's traditional suppliers Intracom and Siemens are so far tipped to win the contract, which is due for debate by OTE's board in three meetings starting on Thursday, the sources told the Athens News Agency.

They said the state telecom was likely to use direct award for the contract because forging a long-term agreements with suppliers or calling an international tender would delay the procurement, which is urgently needed.

The board's second and third meetings to discuss the award would be held on Tuesday and Friday next week, the sources said.

OTE president Dimitris Papoulias has informed Prime Minister Costas Simitis of progress in the state telecom's investment plan and fresh needs that have arisen, they said.

First oil exploration leases for western Greece approved

The government yesterday signed two contracts with a US consortium for oil exploration and exploitation in four stretches near Ioannina and the northwest Peloponnese.

The contracts were granted to a consortium comprising the companies Enterprise Oil Ltd, Union Texas (Transnational) Ltd. and Mol Ltd., while the DEP-EKY group, a subsidiary of the Public Petroleum Corp., signed for the state.

Development Minister Vasso Papandreou said at the signing ceremony that allowing exploitation of mineral resources marked the beginning of modernisation for the country's petroleum exploration policy, which could mean tremendous benefits for the overall economy.

She said the contracts allowed for the utilisation of local petroleum potential, the transfer of technology and know-how, creation of new jobs and additional revenues for the national economy.

Under the terms of the contracts, the contractors will conduct six years of exploration in the Ioannina area, with a minimum investment of US$20 million.

In the northwestern Peloponnese, the consortium's companies are committed to four years of exploration, with a minimum investment of $17 million.

The consortium was also obliged to assign a consultant approved by the government to carry out an environmental study for each region, Ms Papandreou said.

In addition, the government has the right to discontinue all work in the event environmental problems occur. It can also take measures to restore certain environmental damage at the expense of the consortium, which is further obliged to compensate damage caused to property or persons, as well as to ensure protection for neighbouring regions.

Greece to finalise '98 economic policy in October

The government will base 1998 economic policy on its plan to align with other European Union countries and finalise the details in October, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

Speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Mr. Papantoniou said the primary goal of economic policy would be to bring consumer price inflation below three percent, helping to ensure the country's entry into EU economic and monetary uni on.

Mr. Papantoniou refused to be drawn on 1998 taxation, saying only: "Economic policy will be within the framework of the convergence programme".

According to government sources, economic policy for 1998 will centre on public sector wage increases of up to four percent in two phases of two percent each; a freeze on public utility charges to aid falling inflation; and drastic public sector spending cuts.

The government is expected to maintain its "hard drachma" policy in 1998, again as part of efforts to lower inflation.

Greek EU-funded post office plan in jeopardy

Greece, which has failed to claim 40 billion drachmas in European Union funds to overhaul its post offices, may have to scrap the plan and ask for the money to be allocated to other programmes, an EU Commissioner said yesterday .

"The Commission is currently studying a new proposal from the Greek authorities. However, existing problems can only be resolved by means of specific, timely decisions and moves by the proper authorities," Commissioner Monika Wulf Mathies said.

In December 1995 the EU endorsed the government's proposal to reshape its antiquated post office system between 1994 and 1999 but a business plan has yet to be submitted, barring the release of funds.

"In the absence of the right moves, Community funds earmarked for the (post offices) programme can, in principle, be moved to other Community Support Framework programmes in Greece," Ms. Mathies said.

She said Hellenic Post Offices had failed to make organisational changes, including the creation of a unit to monitor the programme, that would facilitate the release of funds.

Ms. Mathies was replying to a question by Greek conservative Eurodeputy Kostis Hadzidakis, a member of the main opposition New Democracy party.

Special forces reinforce security along Greek-Albanian border

Army commandos yesterday began taking up positions along the border with Albania near Kastoria and Florina, following government decisions to strengthen border security.

A Hellenic Air Force helicopter at noon flew to local airport, where it will remain stationed in order to patrol the mountainous region from Ioannina to Florina.

One helicopter had already been patrolling the region and it is hoped that the second will contribute to increasing security.

Meanwhile, joint army and police patrols operating in the region will be reinforced by the formation of new units.

The government took the decisions to increase security in northwest Greece at a two-hour meeting of ministers on Monday.

The measures are aimed at checking the activities of armed gangs of Albanian criminals along the border.

Cache of ancient coins found on Corfu

A cache of 206 ancient silver coins was discovered yesterday during salvage archaeological excavations on the Ionian island of Corfu, in the Paleopolis area.

Archaeologist Kalliopi Preka-Alexandri said the coins were found in an ancient pot of little value.

The group includes a tetradrachma coin issued during the reign of Alexander the Great, a drachma by Lysimachus and a very rare coin issued by Illyrian King Monumius.


Fair weather is forecast over most of the country today, with light cloud in the north and east. Winds mostly northerly, moderate to strong, becoming very strong in the southeastern Aegean. Athens will be sunny, with locally strong winds and temperatures ranging from 22-33 C. Thessaloniki will also be sunny, with temperatures of 20-32 C.


Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 281.341 Pound sterling 471.041 Cyprus pd 531.414 French franc 46.033 Swiss franc 189.318 German mark 155.248 Italian lira (100) 15.956 Yen (100) 242.098 Canadian dlr. 204.054 Australian dlr. 208.047 Irish Punt 417.930 Belgian franc 7.520 Finnish mark 52.636 Dutch guilder 137.913 Danish kr. 40.779 Swedish kr. 35.942 Norwegian kr. 37.666 Austrian sch. 22.065 Spanish peseta 1.844 Port. Escudo 1.539


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