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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-01-09

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, 09/01/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece protests violations by Turkish warplanes
  • US calls on Turkey to curtail Aegean exercises
  • Blair: Cyprus' EU accession course unconditional
  • Turkey balks at proposed measures to combat illegal immigration
  • Illegal Iraqi immigrants arrested
  • Interior Minister to visit China
  • V. Papandreou to pay official visit to Austria
  • Clerides says Paphos air base ready
  • SAE promotional campaign in US for 2004 Olympics
  • New metro route around Kerameikos
  • National Bank chief optimistic on drachma's future
  • Drachma movements in 1997
  • New reforms ahead for Greece's major ports
  • Athenians to pay less for household gas
  • Bourse negotiations with DANE extended
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece protests violations by Turkish warplanes

Greece yesterday lodged a demarche with Ankara for yesterday's violations of Greek national airspace and infringement of the Athens FIR by Turkish warplanes.

Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis said that Greece will also protest the Turkish provocations to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the Western European Union (WEU), the European Union and NATO.

"Infringements (of Athens FIR) and violations (of Greek air space) took place from Thrace to Rhodes," Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said, adding: "In this way, Turkey is neither furthering its own goals against Greece, nor is it helping its own cause within Europe. At the same time it is showing it does not want to normalise its relations with Greece," Mr. Reppas said.

He attributed the latest incidents to an attempt by Ankara to deflect attention from its domestic problems instead of trying to solve them.

US calls on Turkey to curtail Aegean exercises

The US administration had asked Turkey to cancel part of its aeronautical exercises in the Aegean earlier this week, including planned overflights of the Greek islets of Kalogiroi, a request that was heeded, Assistant Secretary of State Mark Grossman said yesterday.

In a televised interview with the private Greek station 'Antenna', Washington's former envoy to Ankara also stressed that the US position was that the best way to solve the Imia islets dispute, which spark off a serious Greek-Turkish stand-off in late January 1996, was referral to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Referring to recent decisions regarding Turkey, reached by European leaders at last month's Luxembourg summit, including the three conditions set for improvement of EU-Turkish relations, Mr. Grossman revealed that Washington had advised Turkey to look at the positive aspects of the decisions, as well as to work on a long-term prospect basis, which requires dealing with the problems of relations with Greece, Cyprus and the human rights situation in Turkey.

Mr. Grossman said that the US administration will work very closely with any Greek government.

Blair: Cyprus' EU accession course unconditional

British Prime Minister Tony Blair underlined that the non-participation of the Turkish Cypriot community in upcoming negotiations will not affect Cyprus' accession process toward the European Union.

"The non-participation of the Turkish Cypriots in the negotiations will not affect the timetable recently decided in Luxembourg on the course of Cyprus' accession process to the European Union," Mr. Blair told a joint press conference with EU Commission President Jacques Santer, on the occasion of the assumption of the EU presidency by Britain.

Replying to a question on how the EU reacts to Turkish threats to annex the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus if the accession process proceeds, Mr. Blair said:

"Our position is clear and it is that which was set out at the recent conference in Luxembourg. The processes for Cyprus' accession will start and this is also clear, it has been scheduled.

"This position was confirmed in Luxembourg and will be implemented. Naturally, we have stated that we would like Turkish Cypriots to be included in the delegations of Cyprus which will undertake these negotiations, believing that prospects will be far better if there is a settlement to the problem and our efforts are directed at finding a viable solution. However, I repeat that in holding the Presidency we will implement the timetable and the decisions which we took in Luxembourg concerning the accessi on of Cyprus."

Turkey balks at proposed measures to combat illegal immigration

Turkey yesterday refused to sign a communique on proposed measures to stem the wave of illegal immigration through its soil toward Europe.

The communique was issued after a meeting of the police chiefs of Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Greece and Turkey.

According to sources, Turkish police chief Mr. Bilikan disagreed with several points in the communique, particularly the one calling on the signatories to promote and implement bilateral agreements regarding the re- entry of illegal immigrants back to their country of origin.

Greek police chief, Gen. Athanasios Vassilopoulos, stressed that Greece has been calling on Turkey to sign an agreement for the repatriation of illegal immigrants emanating from Turkey, but has so far met with refusal.

Other points of the communique mention that the chiefs agreed to intensify security measures at the external borders, boost checks in border areas, and engage in a systematic exchange of information on illegal immigration. Also, to carry out joint probes into organisations engaged in illegal immigration and in the property of individuals suspect of participation in such organisations, as well as collection, filing and exchange of fingerprints of persons illegally entering a country.

The Turkish delegation reserved judgment on the communique and said it would express its opinion after examining it.

Gen. Vassilopoulos said he was not particulary pleased with the results of the meeting, as it did not focus on a political examination of the problem, it did not provide a solution to the root of the problem, which is that illegal immigrants originate in Turkey, but if the measures mentioned in the communique were applied, it would be a step forward.

He also stressed that Greece was now vindicated, as when Athens raised the same issue at various international fora two years ago, no other country paid the attention required.

Illegal Iraqi immigrants arrested

Thirteen Iraqi Kurds were found by a military patrol on the island of Hios yesterday morning after they were put ashore during the night by a Turkish fishing boat.

The boat had been observed fishing near the island the previous evening. At some point the boat neared the coast and the Kurds - eight men, one woman and four children - were put ashore. The crew then resumed fishing off the island.

Hios Prefect George Kaloudas has expressed fears of a fresh wave of illegal immigrants to the eastern Aegean islands as, although thousands of people are reportedly waiting on the Turkish coast for transport to Greek territory, the merchant marine minis try has not provided the Hios coast guard with extra manpower.

Interior Minister to visit China

Interior Minister Alekos Papadopoulos leaves for the People's Republic of China tomorrow on an official visit focusing on efforts to upgrade bilateral relations.

Mr. Papadopoulos will meet, among others, Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng, and the mayors of Beijing, Zia King-Lin, and of Shanghai, Hu Kuang-Di. He is to sign a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the fields of public administration and person nel management

V. Papandreou to pay official visit to Austria

Development Minister Vasso Papandreou leaves for a two-day official visit to Vienna on Monday for talks with Austrian National Economy Minister Johannes Farnlaitner, the president of the Federal Economic Chamber, Leopold Mandertaner, and a series of meetings with representatives of major companies as well as the Federation of Austrian Industrialists.

Talks will focus on such issues as Austria's priorities for when it assumes the European Union's presidency in the second half of 1998, its domestic market, deregulation of the electric power market and interest shown by the Austrian side for the undert aking of major public works projects in Greece.

A review will also be made of bilateral economic relations as well as an examination of prospects for closer bilateral cooperation in various sectors.

In the first nine months of 1997, Greece's exports to Austria totalled 1.337 billion Austrian shillings, a decrease of 9.7 per cent compared to the corresponding period in 1996. Imports, however, from Austria reached 2.287 billion shillings, an increase of 6.2 per cent as against the corresponding nine-month period in 1996.

Clerides says Paphos air base ready

The Paphos air base is ready and will be fully operational on Jan. 24, Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides said on state television yesterday.

The military air base will be used by aircraft of the Hellenic Air Force in the context of the joint defence doctrine agreed to between Cyprus and Greece. "The issue of the defence of Cyprus is directly linked to negotiation process for a solution of the Cyprus problem," the Cypriot president said. Mr. Clerides also referred to the prospective purchase of the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles.

SAE promotional campaign in US for 2004 Olympics

The World Council for Hellenes Abroad (SAE) for the regions of North and South America will begin an information and promotional campaign for the 2004 Olympics in the United States, according to a statement by SAE regional president Christos Tomaras.

"This move by SAE in the US will include activities whose main purpose will be to publicise the 2004 Olympiad, in order to forge all over the world the true image of the Olympic Games and Greece," Mr. Tomaras said.

SAE will prepare printed material in English and Spanish presenting the history, tradition and spirit of the Olympic Games in Greece for distribution to the press, schools, universities and sports organisations.

New metro route around Kerameikos

The public works ministry and the Attiko Metro firm yesterday decided to alter the third route of the under construction metro so as to protect the Kerameikos archaeological site.

This change will cost an additional 17 billion drachmas and new geological studies will be needed.

According to press reports, the third line will start at Syntagma Square, run along Ermou Street, pass under the Votanikos area before following Iera Odos. A new tendering is expected as the previous one is invalid.

National Bank chief optimistic on drachma's future

National Bank of Greece Governor Theodoros Karatzas appeared optimistic that pressures on the drachma would ease soon.

"The economy's basic indicators are in their best shape ever, which justifies optimism for the future," he said during a luncheon hosted in Athens by the Foreign Press Association.

He stressed that the economy does have the strength and the leeway to face the side-effects of the temporary 'defensive' rise in interest rates, which from now on, would be adjusted faster than in the past.

Regarding the value of the drachma, he said its overvaluation amounted to no more than 2 to 4 per cent, which is not a substantial impediment to the competitiveness of Greek exports.

Furthermore, Mr. Karatzas stressed that the assumption of market shares in the financial markets of neighbouring countries was an important part of the bank's Balkan strategy.

"The bank has plans for an energetic presence in currency and securities management in the Balkan countries, seeing that after the introduction of the Euro, its comparative advantage inside Greece and in the drachma market will wane," he said.

Drachma movements in 1997

The drachma was slightly stronger against most European currencies with the exception of the British pound, but its parity against the US dollar was substantially lower in 1997.

The Greek currency moved within the targets set by the Bank of Greece to show a 2.07 percent drop against the Ecu, after falls of 0.44 and 3.12 percent in 1996 and 1995 respectively.

The Ecu/drachma annual average fixing rate was 308.4 drachmas, up from 301.5 the previous year, a rise of 2.30 percent.

The DMark depreciated by 0.50 percent against the Greek currency, the French franc was 0.62 percent higher but the pound sterling shot up 13.72 percent reflecting a sharp rise in the British currency in international markets.

The Swiss franc rose 5.14 percent against the drachma, while the Italian lira fell 0.10 percent.

The US dollar increased 13.98 percent in 1997, while the Japanese yen fell 0.23 percent in the same period.

New reforms ahead for Greece's major ports

Greece's two largest ports, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, will be transformed into societe anonymes with the prospect of a future flotation, Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis told parliament yesterday.

Speaking during discussion of a new bill to reform the merchant marine in the country, Mr. Soumakis stressed that the government did not intend to proceed to a full-scale privatisation of major ports.

The Greek government has decided a characterisation of ports in national or local interest and their transfer under local authorities control.

Mr. Soumakis said that the procedure would be completed by February 28.

New Democracy party honorary president, Constantine Mitsotakis, in his speech criticised the government's policy on the merchant marine and urged the prime minister to take measures in order to boost the Greek flag's competitiveness.

Athenians to pay less for household gas

Athenians will pay 10-30 percent less for energy when they switch to natural gas from liquified gas, Development Minister Vasso Papandreou told a news conference yesterday.

The Athens area will eventually be supplied with Russian natural gas by the state-run Public Gas Enterprise from a network currently being built.

Prices for household consumers will be 130 drachmas a cubic metre from 144 drachmas. Around 7,000 homes are using liquified gas.

Bourse negotiations with DANE extended

Supervised negotiating with the Dane shipping lines has been extended until Feb. 7, according to a decision yesterday by the administrative council of the Athens Stock Exchange.

The extension was deemed necessary after developments in the company's economic and administrative issues.

The bourse also approved a request by the main sponsor for an extension of the public registration and introduction date for the company Kyriakoulis Mesogeiakai Krouazierai S.A. onto the stock exchange's parallel market until the end of February.

WEATHER

Fair weather is forecast for most parts of Greece today with local clouds in the northeast of the country starting in the afternoon. Winds northerly, light to moderate. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 9-18C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 3-15C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 286.490 Pound sterling 465.625 Cyprus pd 535.978 French franc 46.816 Swiss franc 193.891 German mark 156.766 Italian lira (100) 15.957 Yen (100) 214.897 Canadian dlr. 199.888 Australian dlr. 182.652 Irish Punt 390.451 Belgian franc 7.599 Finnish mark 51.772 Dutch guilder 139.103 Danish kr. 41.174 Swedish kr. 35.559 Norwegian kr. 38.154 Austrian sch. 22.283 Spanish peseta 1.850 Port. Escudo 1.535

(C.E.)


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