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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-08-31

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 31/08/1997 (ANA)


  • Greek leaders express sorrow for Diana's death
  • Transport minister reportedly resigns his post
  • Brademas says Cyprus settlement will improve Greek-Turkish
  • relations
  • EU presidency says Treaty of Amsterdam to be signed Oct 2
  • International conference on democracy, development opens in Athens
  • Clinton names Nicholas Burns as ambassador to Athens
  • Greek PM urges ministers to work together
  • No gov't comment on Reuters Olympics poll
  • National Bank of Greece to tap market for Dr 100 bln
  • Greek bourse slumps in week of strong selling pressure
  • Energy projects underway in northern Greece
  • Russian tourist found dead on Mt. Athos
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange


Greek leaders express sorrow for Diana's death

Greece's President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos and Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas expressed their grief on Sunday at the death of Britain's Princess Diana.

Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris early on Sunday with her millionaire companion Dodi Al Fayed when their driver apparently lost control and hit a concrete post by the River Seine as they were being chased by photographers.

"The death of a celebrity always creates sorrow," President Stephanopoulos said.

"Princess Diana was a philanthropist," he added. "Aware of this was an unfortunate Greek youth who had won her sympathy."

Diana moved the Greek people when she came to Greece last September to attend the funeral of a young lawyer whom she had befriended when he was being treated at a London hospital for cystic fibrosis.

"We are grieved at Diana's death," Press Minister and Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told the Athens News Agency pointing at the "tragic circumstances," surrounding Diana's death.

Britain's Ambassador to Greece Sir Michael Llewellyn Smith also expressed his sorrow at the death of Princess Diana.

"The sorrow is enormous in Great Britain," the British Ambassador said on Sunday in Chania, where he was on a private visit.

Transport minister reportedly resigns his post

Greek Transport and Communications Minister Haris Kastanidis has sent a letter to the prime minister containing his resignation following media reports that he was personally reprimanded at a cabinet meeting last week.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Kastanidis will discuss the contents of the letter with Kastanidis tomorrow.

According to Reppas, the content of the letter was not known to anybody else in the government, except the prime minister.

In a statement released late on Saturday, Kastanidis said he wanted no further misinterpretation of his political line, which solely comprised backing for Prime Minister Costas Simitis in carrying out the government's tasks.

Kastanidis, who is due to meet Simitis on Monday morning to discuss his grievances, made no reference to resignation in the statement.

On Saturday, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that Simitis had made no reference to individual ministers during a cabinet meeting on Friday.

According to government sources, the prime minister had urged ministers collectively to show better coordination, cooperation and solidarity.

Kastanidis was reportedly angered by media reports on Saturday claiming he was the butt of Simitis' criticism.

Brademas says Cyprus settlement will improve Greek-Turkish relations

Former U.S. Senator John Brademas said in Athens on Saturday that he believed that the resolution of the Cyprus problem was the key for an improvement in Greek-Turkish relations.

In statements to the ANA on the sidelines of the Athens Summit '97, an international congress on "Democracy and Development: Europe's Contribution to the Globalisation of the Economy", Brademas said that the Cyprus problem was an anchor "tied around Turkey's neck" which will not allow it to join Europe. He said however that he was pleased that many Turkish businessmen desire a settlement of the problem.

Commenting on the Madrid communique, signed between Greece and Turkey on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid this summer in an effort to normalise relations between the two NATO allies, Brademas said that he was encouraged to see that and that he thought it was a step forward.

Brademas, who is of Greek descent and who has also served as president of New York University, said "my own opinion is that the resolution of the Cyprus problem is the major key to the improvement of relations between Greece and Turkey and therefore I am very pleased that President Clinton has appointed Richard Holbrooke, whom I know very well, to be a special envoy to focus on the Cyprus problem."

Asked what he envisaged as success being for Holbrooke, U.S. President Bill Clinton's emissary on the Cyprus problem, Brademas said:"I don't want to be too precise other than to say that my view is that getting an arrangement where there is a constitutional structure, that will have one country, one sovereignty, with respect for the rights of all the people, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots, which will make it possible for the north to be able to improve its standard of living, would be in the interest of Turkish Cypriots and this ofcourse means that the Turkish military forces must be withdrawn and I think that the present prospect of beginning negotiations for entry of Cyprus into the EU should be regarded as a forward step.

"My own opinion is that in the long run it's much better for Turkey, for the country of Turkey, not to have the albatros of Cyprus around its neck. Because so long as Cyprus remains divided, with Turkish forces there, Turkey will never be able to enter Europe.

"I was in Istanbul in May and I talked there with a number of leading Turkish businessmen and I was impressed by the fact that they clearly want to see the Cyprus problem resolved. They know that the present situation which is being going on for 23 years now is very bad for Turkey. Not only bad for the people of Cyprus.

Asked to comment on Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's recent statements that Cyprus' accession into the European Union could lead to war as well as to statements by Turkish leaders which are not compatible with the spirit of the Madrid communique, Brademas said:"I don't want to pour kerosene on fire. Mr. Denktash is in a situation where any change is not good for him. So you have to take this into account when you listen to some of his rhetoric.

"I'm familiar with those statements and I guess I can say that I do not agree with them. After all Mr. (Bulent) Ecevit was the man who was prime minister when Turkish military forces invaded Cyprus. So he has a long history in that respect, and he has not made a constructive contribution to the resolution of the problem."

The Athens Summit '97 officially opened at the historic Pnyx Hill across from the Acropolis late yesterday. The three-day congress is organised by the National Technical University of Athens, under the patronage of the European Parliament and European Commission President Jacques Santer.

EU presidency says Treaty of Amsterdam to be signed Oct 2

The European Union's current Council president, Luxembourg foreign minister Jacques Poos, said on Friday that the Treaty of Amsterdam will be signed on October 2 and then ratified by the 15 national member-states' parliaments.

Poos made the statement after a meeting in Athens with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, which was also attended by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis. The meeting dealt with a broad range of EU issues, Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus problem.

Poos placed particular emphasis on the preparation of a special EU summit on employment on November 27, stressing that it will adopt key decisions leading to "specific actions which will allow the reversal of current market tendencies".

Regarding the EU enlargement process, which involves 11 prospective members, Poos said that despite the significant work done to date, it is not certain that the issue will close until the end of the year.

Questioned whether the solution of the Cyprus problem was a precondition for a start to negotiations for EU membership of the island republic, the EU Council president replied that not only the presidency but the EU as a whole had decided that negotiations would start early next year.

"The relevant decision has been confirmed at European Council summits and EU ministerial councils, and the relevant assurances have already been given to the Cypriot government," he said.

He added that the Cyprus problem and Greek-Turkish relations would be discussed at greater length during a working dinner with the leadership of the Greek foreign ministry, which was scheduled for Friday evening, and that the Luxembourg EU presidency appreciated Athens' decisions for an improvement of relations with Ankara.

Poos will travel to Turkey on Monday, where he is scheduled to meet in Ankara with Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz and Foreign Minister Ismail Cem.

Simitis stressed the particular importance for Greece of the debate in the EU on the issue of employment, reminding that discussions to date have placed emphasis on stabilisation and the monetary aspects of economic policy.

He also said Greece expects the adoption of specific measures for fighting unemployment at the summit, and called for the allocation of funds and the mobilisation of organisations such as the European Investment Bank towards that end.

Regarding enlargement, Simitis reiterated that Greece supports the simultaneous start to negotiations with all prospective members, so as to avoid groundless objections, delays and enmities in the event of different treatment of the various countries.

However, he agreed with Poos that the enlargement process would take time and would not be completed until after 2000.

International conference on democracy, development opens in Athens

Athens Summit '97, an international conference on democracy and development entitled Europe's Contribution to Globalisation of the Economy opened on the Pnyx Hill across from the Acropolis on Friday.

The congress is organised by the National Technical University of Athens, under the patronage of the European Parliament and European Commission President Jacques Santer. It is also held in association with the London newspaper "The European".

Clinton names Nicholas Burns as ambassador to Athens

As expected, US President Bill Clinton has appointed former State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns as ambassador to Greece.

Mark Robert Parris was named Washington's new ambassador to Ankara.

Burns is a veteran diplomat who served on the White House's National Security Council as a Russian affairs expert until he moved to the US State Department as spokesman.

Parris served as the National Security Council's expert on South Asia until April this year.

All nominations require US Senate confirmation.

Greek PM urges ministers to work together

Prime Minister Costas Simitis called on Cabinet members to display better coordination, cooperation and solidarity in carrying out their duties, as he summed up the government's first year in office and discussed prospects for the coming three years.

According to informed sources, at Friday's Cabinet meeting Simitis told ministers that the government's greatest foe was inaction, as he said the main opposition New Democracy party did not present a sound alternative.

Simitis made special reference on the need to keep campaign promises, according to the same sources. Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas later said the prime minister had stressed that the government's economic programme was on schedule, and that 1998 would be a crucial year for Greece with regard to meeting targets of the Economic and Monetary Union.

At the same time, he said, efforts would be intensified to improve economic indicators and achieve a higher rate of growth.

According to informed sources, the agenda of yesterday's Cabinet meeting also included public administration, agriculture, health, education and transport.

The spokesman said the government would be putting emphasis on solving citizens' daily problems. For example, there are plans to renew the urban bus fleet, with old buses being sent to neighbouring countries, particularly Albania.

In response to a press question, Mr. Reppas said that Greek-Turkish relations were not discussed at the meeting.

He noted, however, that Turkey has chosen to create tension in bilateral relations, adding that Greece should not be drawn into "tricks" of Turkish officials.

The spokesman said that recent Turkish moves showed that Ankara was not in a position to fulfill its obligations emanating from the Madrid communique.

The Madrid communique, calling for normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations, was signed by Simitis and Turkish President Suleyman Demirel on the sidelines of a NATO summit earlier this summer.

No gov't comment on Reuters Olympics poll

Athens refused to comment on a Reuters poll indicating that Rome, which plans luxurious accomodation for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members in the city's fashionable Via Veneto boulevard, was ahead with regard to its facilities and local support.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas yesterday refused to comment on the Reuters survey published on Thursday but said that Athens met all the criteria for hosting the Olympic Games.

"Athens is so ready as to demand to host the Olympic Games," Reppas said. "Athens should be the first choice of IOC members."

According to Reuters, 16 of the 21 contributors, which included international sports federations, sponsors and journalists who follow the IOC, believed Rome would be the IOC's first choice when it meets in Lausanne on Sept. 5. Four said they thought the IOC would pick Athens and one thought Stockholm would prevail.

National Bank of Greece to tap market for Dr 100 bln

The National Bank of Greece is preparing to take a quantum leap towards modernisation and international expansion with a 100-billion-drachma share capital increase due by the end of the year.

A final decision will be taken by the bank's general shareholders' meeting on September 16, it was announced yesterday.

According to bank sources, the share capital increase will also benefit the interests of the Greek state, which is a shareholder.

National Bank is the largest Greek bank, leading the most powerful group of financial services in the country, with 26 companies operating under its umbrella.

The bank's total assets were 8.357 billion drachmas at the end of 1996, taking 149th place worldwide according to Banker's July edition. The National Bank Group's total assets stood at 11.304 billion drachmas. It held 47.3 percent of total deposits and repos among Greek commercial banks, 34.1 percent of loans and 30 percent of the volume in bond and foreign exchange trading.

The bank operates 499 branches in Greece and 81 units in 15 countries abroad.

The National Bank of Greece has begun implementing a major restructuring project adopting measures aimed at producing a healthier balance sheet. The bank wrote off non-performing loans of up to 55 billion drachmas in 1996 and ended its participation in loss-making enterprises to a total of 63.6 billion drachmas.

The bank has already earmarked 61 billion drachmas from last year's operating profits to write off non-performing loans in 1997.

The bank has cut back on more than 300 jobs since 1996 while its operating costs rose by 12.4 percent last year, down from a 17.1 percent rate of increase in 1995.

National Bank hopes a successful share capital increase will help the bank implement its ambitious expansion programme in the United States and in northeastern Europe.

Greek bourse slumps in week of strong selling pressure

The Athens Stock Exchange operated in a very negative climate last week with share prices often coming under heavy selling pressure.

The general index lost 4.72 percent of its value reflecting market concerns over the course of inflation, a larger-than-expected budget shortfall and pessimism over Athens' bid to host the 2004 Olympic Games.

Trading conditions improved however, with turnover totalling 65.915 billion drachmas for an daily average turnover of 13.18 billion up from 9 billion the previous week.

The bank sector suffered the heaviest blow losing 6.52 percent, with National Bank of Greece at the centre-stage ending 10.4 percent lower since last Friday.

August was a month dominated by market bears for the Athens bourse. Prices lost 5.05 percent in the month, while turnover totalled 217.566 billion drachmas, down from 286.749 billion in July.

Out of the 20 trading sessions of the month, 11 were negative and 9 positive.

The market tried to move upwards during the first two weeks of August but drastically changed direction the following fortnight.

Energy projects underway in northern Greece

The Public Power Corp. (DEH) will create a new national energy centre in northeastern Greece with two projects that will take advantage of natural resources in the area, DEH president G. Birdimiris said on Friday.

Birdimiris said the first major project to be set into operation in the area would be the Thisavros hydroelectric dam, taking advantage of the Nestos River waters. Two of its units are already in operation, including the dam.

The second project is a power station under construction in Komotini fuelled by natural gas.

The long-term aim of the state-run utility, he said, was to link up all energy producing units into a type of "energy highway" that would also help the area's development.

Benefits include an abundance of water, which collects in the natural reservoir of Nestos, and would provide water during the dry summer months and prevent flooding during the wet months and improved distribution of power in eastern Macedonia and Thrace .

Russian tourist found dead on Mt. Athos

A Russian tourist was found dead in the autonomous monastic community of Mount Athos yesterday and police say the man was probably murdered.

The body of Vladimir Kirikine, 37, was found at 1.30 a.m. outside his lodgings, near the monastery of Vatopediou on the peninsula.

Kirikine was visiting the area with a group of his compatriots, who are being questioned by police.

The police said the body had received wounds to the stomach but that it would be moved to Thessaloniki for an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.


Clear weather is forecast for most parts of the country today except for northern Greece where light cloud and scattered showers are expected with the possibility of storms. Winds north northwesterly, moderate to strong. Athens will be mostly sunny with temperatures ranging from 20C to 30C. Light cloud is forecast in Thessaloniki with a minimum temperature of 19C and maximum of 28C.


Friday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 280.567 Pound sterling 454.991 Cyprus pd 530.323 French franc 46.380 Swiss franc 188.773 German mark 156.071 Italian lira (100) 15.939 Yen (100) 234.995 Canadian dlr. 202.110 Australian dlr. 206.098 Irish Punt 417.434 Belgian franc 7.559 Finnish mark 52.040 Dutch guilder 138.572 Danish kr. 40.997 Swedish kr. 35.865 Norwegian kr. 37.726 Austrian sch. 22.158 Spanish peseta 1.847 Port. Escudo 1.537


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