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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-01-02

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, 02/01/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Search continues for 3 missing Iraqis
  • Greece denies Turkish harassment charge
  • President to make official visit to India
  • New OA board chairman resigns
  • Optimism stressed in New Year messages
  • Athens greets the New Year
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Search continues for 3 missing Iraqis

Three Iraqi illegal immigrants of Kurdish origin were reported missing and presumed drowned in the Evros river marking the Greek-Turkish border in northern Greece, police in Alexandroupolis told the Athens News Agency today.

The missing two women and a small boy were among a group of 28 immigrants who were being transported by a Turkish boat-runner to the region of Didimoticho late New Year's eve, police said.

"Their boat overturned, and the three were swept away by the river's rapids, " a police spokesman told ANA.

The Turkish boat-runner had disembarked the 28 on an islet in the middle of the river, from where he had strung a rope across to the coast on the Greek side to provide a hold and keep the boat from being overturned by the rushing waters, the police spokesman said.

The immigrants were then ferried across the river in groups of five. The two women and the boy were among the second group, with another child and a man. Police said the man, who was manning the boat, managed to save one of his children, but his wife, his other child and another woman were carried away by the raging waters and disappeared.

A Greek military patrol in the area heard the calls for help and rushed to their assistance, but the three had already vanished downstream.

A massive rescue operation was launched by the army and local fishermen, who picked up the rest of the immigrants stranded on the tiny islet and were in serious danger as the water level was rising rapidly.

Eleven of the immigrants who appeared to be in bad shape were taken to Didimoticho hospital for precautionary reasons, and then to the local security police station where they joined the rest of the group.

The search and rescue operation for the missing three continued late into the evening and was resumed at dawn today, the spokesman said.

Greece denies Turkish harassment charge

The Greek National Defence Ministry today flatly denied a Turkish press report that Greek warships had "challenged" two Turkish cargo vessels in the international waters in the Aegean Sea early on Thursday.

Defence Ministry sources told the ANA that a Greek navy gunboat had been carrying out a "routine patrol in the area following a tip that a ship was planning to land 2,000 illegal immigrants on the Greek shores in the region".

The sources rejected Turkish press reports that two Greek warships tried to carry out checks on merchant ships nine miles off the Straits of Dardanelles, flashing lights at them and asking them to identify their ports of origin and destination.

Greece has recently been flooded by hundreds of illegal immigrants ferried across from the Turkish shores. In a New Year's eve incident, two Iraqi women and a boy were missing after being swept away by rushing waters in the Evros river. They were among a group of 28 Iraqi Kurds being ferried across by a Turkish boat-runner.

President to make official visit to India

President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos will pay an official visit to India on January 12 to 18 at the invitation of his Indian counterpart Kocheril Raman Narayanan, it was announced today.

He will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and National Economy Undersecretary Alecos Baltas.

New OA board chairman resigns

Emmanuel Fthenakis today submitted his resignation as chairman of the board of the national carrier Olympic Airways.

In a letter of resignation addressed to Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis, Fthenakis cited, inter alia, his bitterness that the New Democracy MPs on the relevant parliamentary committee that approved his nomination had not voted for him, according to reliable sources

Fthenakis was first appointed to the board in 1993 under the then New Democracy government of prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis. He was approved for a second term recently by the relevent Parliamentary committee.

In the committee, the ruling PASOK representatives voted in favour of Fthenakis, the New Democracy MPs abstained, the Coalition of Left and Progress cast blank ballots and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) representatives voted against him.

"...Nothing has changed in Greece," Fthenakis was quoted by the sources as writing in his letter.

Ministry sources said the new chairman of the board would be selected between 10-20 January.

Optimism stressed in New Year messages

Significant steps of progress in the economy and international relations, despite continuing tension with Turkey, allow for optimism that further possibilities for creativity still lie ahead, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said in his New Year's message.

"Thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of all, significant steps were made in the direction of a stronger Greece last year. Greater stability was achieved in the economy. Inflation was reduced to levels uknown for decades, and the same is the case with the public deficit. The rate of growth was one of the highest in Europe," he said.

"The standard of living of most people improved. We apply modern policies against unemployment. Step-by-step, we are building a substantial web of social protection. We shall persist with this policy," he added.

He cautioned, however, that a lot of work still had to be done.

"We still have a considerable distance to cover to acquire an economy as strong as those of other European countries. An economy so competitive that will not be influenced by the upheavals of the international market," he said.

"Our relations with neighbouring Turkey are going through a period of tension. Turkey is trying to gain ground which it lost in the European Union. As far as we are concerned, we shall steadily follow a policy of peace. We refuse the escalation of tension.

Solutions are available if international treaties and law are applied. At the same time we shall continue our efforts for a strong deterrent force," he continued.

"Our role in the Balkans is becoming increasingly important. The (November) summit on Crete confirmed this. Delegates of countries with chronic conflicts and disputes agreed on closer cooperation. The arrangements we achieved in the European Union will secure the financing of our developmental efforts for years to come. In the Luxembourg summit, the Greek positions on relations with Turkey and Cypriot accession negotiations were accepted.

"The year that passed showed that we can be optimistic. The assignment of the Olympic Games of 2004 to Athens was proof that we can succeed in international competition," the prime minister concluded.

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos in his New Year's Day address said that there were solutions to the country's problems that could be resolved with careful actions, unanimity and well prepared military forces with a high moral are adequate preconditions for Greece to achieve the defence of its national integrity and to secure peace.

"To our Cypriot brethren I am sending cordial greetings, best wishes and the reasurance of GreeceYs continual support toward their great national problem, which is our problem as well," said the president.

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis sent a message of hope and optimism to the nation yesterday, during his New Year's Day address.

Mr. Karamanlis said that Greece has enormous potential and a bright future. He added that all these possibilities can and must be utilised, but the state and the political forces of the country must be equal to the challenge.

Athens greets the New Year

Season's lights, tallest Christmas tree in Europe, a crowd of thousands, great popular atrists, Athens' municipal music band, fire works, and thousands of multi-coloured baloons conspired to create the best New Year's bash Athenians have seen, according to the people who visited Syntagma Square for the festivities.

The crowd and television viewers both in Greece and abroad had the chance to enjoy an endless parade of popular singers, who 'escaped', for a few minutes each from the clubs where they work, to appear and inspire. One of the highlights of the evening was the countdown to the New Year. All lights were turned off one minute before twelve and those gathered counted down the last minute of 1997. Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos called out to all including Greeks abroad watching the festivities via satelit e to "celebrate ...tonight with us." He added that this celebration belongs to the homeless and the socially disenfranchised.

WEATHER

Fine weather with local cloudiness in the west and south is forecast for Greece today. Winds light to moderate in the Ionian Sea. Athens sunny with few clouds and temperatures between 4-15C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 1-11.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 280.349 Pound sterling 464.970 Cyprus pd 535.204 French franc 46.816 Swiss franc 192.825 German mark 156.627 Italian lira (100) 15.943 Yen (100) 215.998 Canadian dlr. 195.940 Australian dlr. 183.252 Irish Punt 400.451 Belgian franc 7.593 Finnish mark 51.713 Dutch guilder 138.984 Danish kr. 41.105 Swedish kr. 35.496 Norwegian kr. 38.297 Austrian sch. 22.259 Spanish peseta 1.851 Port. Escudo 1.530

(M.P.)


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