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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-12-19

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, 19/12/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Giant operation for missing Ukrainian airliner resumes
  • Athens hosts second Midle East peace process meeting
  • Eurosocialist Party President praises Greece's role in Balkans
  • Romeos in London for talks with British gov't
  • Papantoniou: Greek economy now entering battle of competitiveness
  • Greek equities end substantially lower
  • Ergobank signs 100 mln US dollar syndicated loan
  • European Commission approves ILP control of Hellenic Steel
  • Cost of traditional Christmas dinner rises slightly
  • GSEE, ADEDY claim strike a success
  • Greek-Albanian agreement on cultural artifacts, museums
  • Greek jewellery exhibition
  • Survey results on attitudes towards foreigners
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Giant operation for missing Ukrainian airliner resumes

A giant military operation with the deployment of an estimated 5,000 troops was resumed at dawn today to locate the missing Ukrainian Yakovlev-42 airliner with 73 people on board that vanished 36 hours ago, minutes before it was scheduled to land at Thessaloniki airport, defence ministry sources said.

The main search was now concentrated in the Pieria mountain range with commandos, police, firemen, local farmers and relatives of the missing passengers.

The sources said that the rescue teams began the search in the triangle of the villages of Kato Milia, Fotina and Morna where the altitude exceeds 2, 000 metres covered with a heavy blanket of snow and in some points inaccessible.

It was near Kato Milia when the pilot of the fateful airliner had sent his last message to Thessaloniki's Macedonia airport the aircraft vanished at 9.13 p.m. on Wednesday while at an altitude of 3,500 feet. Kato Milia, about 28 miles from the airport, is in rugged terrain.

Adverse weather conditions, heavy fog and low cloud formations prevail in the region, with visibility at less than 100 metres.

Meanwhile, scores of relatives kept an all-night vigil at the airport, waiting for news of the missing passengers.

A team of Ukrainian aviation experts arrived in Thessaloniki last night to join the search.

Athens hosts second Midle East peace process meeting

Israeli and Palestinian delegations met in Athens yesterday for the second "Athens Meeting" on the Middle East peace process.

The meeting, organised by the Greek government, aims to examine the course of the peace process and allow an exchange of views on stepping up the process. The first "Athens meeting" was held last June at the Vouliagmeni seaside resort.

Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis formally opened proceedings, which will be held behind closed doors.

Diplomatic sources said a third meeting tentatively scheduled for the coming summer will also include the participation of Israeli, Palestinian and Greek businessmen. Mr. Kranidiotis proposed that the third meeting be held in Athens.

Participating in the present meeting are two vice-presidents of the Israeli Knesset, deputies from both the Israeli ruling coalition and opposition, as well as the Israeli foreign minister's brother.

Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos is expected to close the meeting with a speech on Sunday. The European Union's emissary on the Mideast peace process Miguel Angel Muratino is also scheduled to speak on Sunday.

According to diplomatic sources, Greece as an EU member-state wants to play a coordinating role in the region without usurping the peacemaking efforts of other countries in the region.

"Our ambition is for this informal channel of communication, which has been created through the Athens meetings and which is not binding on governments, to develop into an institution which can contribute to procedures to clear obstacles in official talks," a source said.

In his address yesterday, Mr. Kranidiotis said that Greece wanted to offer organisational support through these meetings in a more informal climate which offers the opportunity to both sides to exchange ideas and opinions on the peace process. He stressed that Greece was opposed to any terrorist actions, regardless of the motives they served and said the Greek government aimed to undertake the training of a number of Palestinian police officers working in anti-terrorist services.

He noted that the "creation of axes" in the region did not contribute to efforts for regional stability and peace and referred to Greece's efforts in the Balkans and the Mediterranean - particularly through the recent Southeast European summit on Crete .

Cyprus, he added, was an issue for the "collective security of the Eastern Mediterranean", saying that the Cyprus and Mideast issues were issues directly linked.

Eurosocialist Party President praises Greece's role in Balkans

European Socialist Party president and vice-president of Germany's Social Democrat Party Rudolf Scharping praised Greece as being the sole stabilising force in the Balkans.

He was addressing an event of the Institute of Strategic and Development Studies (ISTAME) "Andreas Papandreou" yesterday on the state of central and southeastern European countries.

"Greece is the sole stabilising force in the Balkans and stability and democracy in the region is a vital interest, both of its own and of Europe's," he said.

Addressing the same event, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos stressed the need for strengthening the role of Greece and of central European countries to enable the consolidation of peace and development in the region.

Mr. Scharping said in his address that states abiding by the principles of European civilisation can join the European Union, namely, a state of justice, a free market, enlightenment and democracy.

However, it is important that it should be understood that the EU is open to all the European countries on the above basis and is willing to contribute to the democratisation process "from Croatia to Turkey" with great assistance so that "no one will feel excluded."

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the precondition for stabilising the situation in the Balkans is, on the one hand, support for central European countries which join the EU and, on the other, strengthening the role of Greece as the sole member-state of the EU, the WEU and NATO in the region, taking into consideration Greek actions for the creation of a subregional security zone and a single market in the Balkans.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos also stressed the need for focusing on Cyprus' accession effort, including it in the effort of promoting Euro-Mediterranean security and cooperation policies by the EU.

Later Scharping met with Premier Costas Simitis with whom he discussed issues concerning the Socialist parties in the European Union and the results of the recent EU summit in Luxembourg.

Mr. Scharping leaves today for Ankara, where according to diplomatic sources, he is to make an attempt to defuse some of the tension between the EU and Turkey that arose after the summit.

Romeos in London for talks with British gov't

Public Order Minister George Romeos began a two-day visit here yesterday in light of Britain's assumption of the European Union presidency.

At the same time, a delegation he is heading will be briefed on British authorities' experience on such issues as anti-terrorism action, football violence and corruption among law enforcement officials.

Mr. Romeos held talks yesterday with British Interior Minister Jack Strough and Undersecretary Joyce Quinn, a former deputy.

"This visit is part of a series of visits abroad, having already visited Germany and the US, and has the main target of developing cooperation with police of other countries in very many sectors. Given that present-day crime in all sectors has no border and, consequently, cooperation primarily with the police forces of European Union countries is necessary," he said.

Mr. Romeos said that his talks with the British interior minister and the undersecretary moved within this framework, adding that public order ministry officials held parallel talks with British police services.

Papantoniou: Greek economy now entering battle of competitiveness

The Greek economy is entering the battle of competitiveness, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said during the budget debate in Parliament last night.

"In the last four years, we won the battle of stabilisation, we are winning the battle of development, and now we must win the battle of competitiveness, " he said, stressing that this required a restructuring of the labour market and privatisations, to be achieved through consensus.

The minister appealed for "self-restraint" by the social partners in their incomes claims in order to attain Maastricht criteria in the next two years.

"Our aim is to reach the 'finishing line' of convergence in 1998, by reducing the deficit below 3 per cent of GDP and inflation below 3 per cent, at 2.5 per cent, in order to claim our position in EMU early in 2000 and have the drachma enter the Euro on Jan. 1, 2001".

He announced that a policy of de-escalating taxes for businesses and low- income earners would begin in two or three years, while in the meantime, spending on social services would far exceed the projected inflation rate.

Greek equities end substantially lower

Greek equities came under pressure to end substantially lower on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday.

Traders said the market lacked fresh incentives to attract investors.

The general index closed 0.83 percent lower at 1,502.14 points.

Trading was extremely heavy reflecting transaction of large blocks of shares in National Insurance and Mortgage Bank. Turnover totalled 81.3 billion drachmas.

Sector indices lost ground. Banks fell 0.51 percent, Insurance eased 0.39 percent, Leasing ended 0.63 percent off, Investment dropped 0.20 percent, Constructions fell 1.36 percent, Industrials eased 0.88 percent, Miscellaneous ended 1.24 percent down an d Holding fell 0.05 percent.

Ergobank signs 100 mln US dollar syndicated loan

Ergobank, one of the biggest private banks in Greece, yesterday signed a two-year syndicated loan worth 100 million US dollars with a group of 18 international banks.

The loan will be used by Ergobank's London branch to fund lending and investment programmes.

The syndicated loans carries a 0.125 percent margin over Libor, with favourable terms reflecting the bank's positive credit rating abroad.

Sanwa Bank, a Japanese bank, acted as underwriter to the deal, with Barclays Capital and Commerzbank acting as co-underwriters.

European Commission approves ILP control of Hellenic Steel

The European Commission has authorised a takeover deal according to which ILVA Laminati Piani, a subsidiary of the Riva Group, will acquire through its wholly owned subsidiary Chabana, 10.37% of the shares of Hellenic Steel Company from the Japanese company Itochu.

As a result of the operation ILP would hold, through various wholly owned subsidiaries, 51.66% of shares of Hellenic and would obtain sole control of that company.

Hellenic is a Greek company specialising in the cold rolling and coating of flat steel products. It has no activities apart from those covered by the ECSC Treaty. In 1996 its production of cold rolled wide strip was 320 000 tonnes and its turnover was 1 48 million ECU.

In cold rolled strip, ILP/Hellenic will have a combined Europe market share of less than 10 % in cold rolled strip, less than 15% in hot dip galvanised and less than 15% in tinplate.

These are modest market shares and will not give the parties the power to determine prices, restrict production or distribution or hinder effective competition.

Cost of traditional Christmas dinner rises slightly

The cost of the traditional Christmas dinner table rose slightly this year, as opposed to last year's levels as prices of items comprising it show small increases and decreases.

According to figures by the development ministry, the total cost increased by 0.9 per cent to about 2,600 drachmas.

On her part, Development Minister Vasso Papandreou said the holiday markets are operating smoothly and with adequate supplies of all items.

She said daily checks by the ministry's services ascertained that consumer goods showing increased demand, such as meat, fruits and vegetables, are being provided in quantities that are more than enough for consumers' needs and at prices which are competitive.

Development Undersecretary Mihalis Chrysohoidis said that checks will continue all over the country throughout the holidays and called on consumers to be careful with whatever purchase they make.

GSEE, ADEDY claim strike a success

The General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) and the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) claimed that yesterday's 24-hour strike was a success. Mobilisations were in protest against the government's economic policy.

The strike was particularly felt in the transport sector and industrial plants.

ADEDY President Yiannis Koutsoukos, who addressed a central rally in Kaningos Square, said trade unions rejected the government's incomes policy, while mobilisations would continue. He called for immediate measures of support for employment and increases in social spending.

The rally was followed by a march to Parliament, where trade unionists handed a petition to Parliament President,Apostolos Kaklamanis, who responding, acknowledged the fairness of unionist demands, particularly those relating to unemployment. However,he said that there were no margins for changes in the budget. A new round of mobilisations is expected by public utility unions after Christmas on the taxation draft bill.

Greek-Albanian agreement on cultural artifacts, museums

Greece will provide Albania with a catalogue of all cultural artifacts belonging to the latter that found their way to south of the border, allowing for their return as soon as an official request is made.

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and his visiting Albanian counterpart Arta Dade signed a joint communique yesterday on the issue.

Furthermore, Greece will undertake the reconstruction of Albania's museum network and the education and re-education of Albanian achaeologists through a series of scholarships. Cultural exchages were also discussed.

Greek jewellery exhibition

The most complete exhibition on Greek jewellery will be inaugurated at the Bianca Villa in Thessaloniki on Dec. 21 in the framework of Cultural Capital of Europe events.

It is the first time that six millenia of Greek jewellery from prehistoric times, classical Greece, the Byzantine era, the period of Ottoman occupation to modern Greece are on display.

The objects come from 14 of the largest museums in the country.

Survey results on attitudes towards foreigners

Residents of Macedonia mostly believe that foreign workers take away jobs, are too many and are of different religious backrounds, but do not consider them dangerous or "unwanted", according to a study by the National Research Centre.

While Black Sea Greeks (Pontians) from the former soviet republics, Russians, Bulgarians, Italians, gypsies and Serbians are seen in a mostly positive light, Albanians, Turks and residents of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are generally disliked.

Financial dealings with Balkan peoples are well received and only 17 per cent are reportedly hostile to foreigners.

WEATHER

Cloudy weather and rain is forecast for most parts of Greece today with snowfall in the mountainous regions. Winds variable, strong to gale force. Athens will be sunny with a few clouds and temperatures from 3-10C. Thessaloniki will be overcast with temperatures between 0-6C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 277.214 Pound sterling 458.939 Cyprus pd 531.236 French franc 46.662 Swiss franc 192.512 German mark 156.255 Italian lira (100) 15.927 Yen (100) 216.474 Canadian dlr. 195.265 Australian dlr. 183.396 Irish Punt 403.942 Belgian franc 7.575 Finnish mark 51.765 Dutch guilder 138.701 Danish kr. 40.997 Swedish kr. 35.831 Norwegian kr. 38.291 Austrian sch. 22.211 Spanish peseta 1.846 Port. Escudo 1.527

(C.E.)


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