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

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 19/12/1997 (ANA)


  • Massive operation for missing airliner resumes
  • Plane recording turned over to Supreme Court prosecutor
  • U.S., NATO help enlisted in plane search
  • Olympic flame lit for Winter Games
  • Athens hosts second Middle East peace process meeting
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange


Massive operation for missing 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.

Plane recording turned over to Supreme Court prosecutor

Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis today turned over the taped recording of the dialogue between the pilot of the Yakovlev and the Thessaloniki airport control tower to an Areios Paghos (Greek Supreme Court) prosecutor, in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) procedures.

Mantelis attributed the accident to disorientation of the pilot of the Ukrainian plane, in reply to reporters' questions outside the Supreme Court building after he handed the tape to Supreme Court judge Panayotis Dimopoulos.

He said the landing system used at Thessaloniki's Macedonia airport was the same one used by all airplanes. The minister added, however, that if the airport had had the LRS landing radar system it would have had an "additional tool" to facilitate its job.

"But," he stressed, "this does not mean that this was the cause of the accident".

Dimopoulos ordered the Thessaloniki prosecutors' office to launch a preliminary investigation into the conditions and causes of the accident, and also into whether all the necessary safety measures set out under international regulations and practice had been taken at Macedonia Airport.

U.S., NATO help enlisted in plane search

Macedonia-Thrace Minister Philippos Petsalnikos said that the United States and NATO had agreed to a Greek request to participate in the search with high-technology aircraft.

Petsalnikos said that a total of 6,500 troops were currently taking part in the search, not including firemen, police and local people.

He added that assistance would also be requested from mountaineering clubs all over Greece.

U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns later accepted a request for U.S. assistance in the search extended by Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou during a meeting.

A fully-equipped U.S. aircraft is expected to fly to the presumed crash area within the next few hours.

Olympic flame lit for Winter Games

The Olympic flame was lit today by the sun's rays in Ancient Olympia, home of the first Olympic Games 2,800 years ago, to embark on a six-week journey to the Japanese city of Nagano for the Winter Games.

A white-robed high priestess touched the Olympic torch to the flame at the temple dedicated to Hera, mother of the Olympian gods, in a re-enactment of the ancient ritual that marked the beginning of a truce among the warring states of antiquity for the duration of the noblest of contests.

The priestess, portrayed by an actress, handed the lit torch to Greek skier Vassilis Dimitriadis, the first runner in the relay.

The torch is due to arrive in the town of Kalavryta at 6:00 this afternoon, where it will spend the night. The next stage of the relay will take the torch to the Helmos ski centre tomorrow, where a flame will be lit symbolically, and then on to Athens' Panathenian Stadium, venue of the first modern Olympic Games, tomorrow evening, to light another flame to shine the way to the Winter Games.

The torch leaves Athens on Monday for the long flight to Japan, where the relay will be taken up on January 6 for a month-long journey involving some 1,200 runners.

British landmine victim Chris Moon, Japanese Olympic skiing champions Takanori Kono, Masashi Abe and Reiichi Mikata, and distance runners Hiromi Suzuki and Masako Chiba will be the final torch runners at the opening ceremonies of February's Winter Games.

The organisers of the Nagano Games said last week they picked the two long- distance runners to be a "bridge between the Nagano Games and the Sydney summer Olympics".

One of the two would hand the torch to former Olympic figure skating medallist Midori Ito, who will light the cauldron at the Olympic Stadium in Nagano on February 7.

Lambis Nikolaou, president of the Greek Olympic Committee, said the Olympic flame would carry with it, on its journey to Nagano for the 18th Winter Games, "a message of joy, friendship and brotherly bonds among people...A message of the symmetrical development of body and spirit, combined with the cultivation of the virtues of the soul...a message of individual distinction through respect for team spirit and collective achievement".

Mayor of Ancient Olympia, George Devves, appealed "to all countries, to all peoples and each and every person to, together, intensify their efforts towards international detente and world peace" in the spirit of the Olympic "ekecheiria" (truce) of antiquity.

"2,800 years ago, on these grounds where the ancients worshipped Zeus and Hera, the king of the people of Elia, Hephitus, dedicated a bronze disk whereupon the sacred ekecheiria was engraved and recorded, the most exalted, the most respected and the most sacred act throughout the centuries. The act whereby wars ceased, so that Greeks could pursue virtue, honour and glory, competing in brotherly spirit in the Stadium," Devves said.

Athens hosts second Middle 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.


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.


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


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