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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 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

  • Gov't warns speculators off drachma
  • Athens rejects Turkish minority mistreatment claims
  • Greek, French FMs meet on Turkey-EU
  • Pangalos responds to Dini statements
  • Turkish violations will not force change in air space
  • Defence Minister on possible Greek-Israeli exercise
  • Arab envoys counsel Greece against exercises
  • Greece, Georgia sign defence agreements
  • Cypriot FM in town
  • 69 illegal immigrants arrested
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Gov't warns speculators off drachma

Greece today sent foreign and domestic speculators buffeting the domestic money market a clear message that they would lose their battle against the drachma.

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Bank of Greece Governor Lucas Papademos that the government would win the battle for the drachma, as it did in 1994 and in autumn 1997.

Papantoniou stressed that speculators lose a lot of money every time the government successfully defends the Greek currency and said he hoped that this time they would finally learn a lesson.

He rejected rumours of a speedier slide of the drachma by reiterating that the stability of the drachma's parity was the cornerstone of the government's economic policy.

Papantoniou was firm that the government would take all necessary measures to defend the national currency.

He said the government would use mainly monetary weapons in its effort to fend off speculators, measures usually taken by most governments when faced with monetary problems. He noted that even the most advanced economies of the world faced speculative attacks.

"Greece," he said, "is one of the countries that have successfully dealt with such problems twice in the past... We will deal with these problems successfully this time also."

During the meeting held at the prime minister's office, the three men reviewed the course of the Greek economy in 1997 and its prospects for 1998.

The climate of the meeting was encouraged by news that inflation dropped to its lowest levels in 26 years. Papantoniou welcomed the news as "bringing the country within breathing distance from achieving the Maastricht treaty's inflation criteria."

Inflation was at a 25-year low in December 1997, dropping to 4.7% from the November figure of 5.1%, National Statistics Service General Secretary N. Karavitis announced today.

The figure for December 1996 was 7.3%.

Karavitis, predicting that the rate of inflation would continue to fall during January, said the government's goal of 2.5% for December 1998 was "most realistic".

Papantoniou predicted that tax revenues would show a 25 percent rise in December 1997, a development significantly reducing the country's budget deficit.

Athens rejects Turkish minority mistreatment claims

The Greek government today rejected as "ludicrous" insinuations by Ankara over the apparent treatment by the Greek government of the Moslem minority in Thrace.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas was responding to an announcement by the Turkish foreign ministry yesterday which responded, in turn, to comments made by Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos during a television interview.

The announcement criticised Pangalos and Greece for its treatment of minorities in Greece, including what it called the "Turkish" minority of Western Thrace.

Reppas also described as "historically ignorant" the claims by the "artfully neutral" Turkey "against a country that waged battles for the protection of human rights during World War Two".

"The claims are not even admissible, because they have absolutely no relation whatsoever to reality," Reppas said.

The spokesman said that Ankara was using the Thrace issue as a "necessary supplement to its policy of tension against Greece".

Greece, he added, "respects human rights and continuously takes measures to improve them".

Pangalos's comments on the Kurdish problem and his comment that the indifference shown by the world to the Kurds' plight was tantamount to the indifference shown to Hitler when he began his campaign against the Jews drew the fire of the Turkish foreign ministry yesterday.

Ankara claimed that Turkey had "always been a sanctuary" for refugees and that Greece had "willingly offered up tens of thousands of Jews living in Greece to Hitler's soldiers, sending them to death camps".

In statements to reporters after meeting with French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said it was "unacceptable" for Turkey to be appropriating the "care" for the Moslem population of Greece.

"Turkey is not the best defender of human rights in the world," Pangalos said, noting that the Moslems of Greece were of different ethnic make- up.

Pangalos clarified that his comments in reference to the Kurdish problem - that it was a political problem with "an element of genocide" - had been made both by Greece and other countries.

"Turkey must prove that it has taken measures to politically deal with the Kurdish problem," he said. "I call on all my counterparts to take a position on the genocide of the Kurds."

He called Ankara's accusations of "handing over" refugees "completely ludicrous" as the world was aware that "if there was one place where there was no collaboration with the German authorities, that is Greece".

Pangalos said he would be meeting with the members of the Central Jewish Council later in the day and that, presumably, they had requested the meeting to express their indignation at the Turkish foreign ministry's announcement.

Greek, French FMs meet on Turkey-EU

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine had talks with Greek counterpart Theodoros Pangalos today on issues including European Union enlargement and Turkey's reaction to the decision by the EU in Luxembourg last month not to include it in the next group of candidate countries.

Vedrine arrived in Athens yesterday from Ankara where he had talks with the Turkish leadership. He met earlier today with President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

After his meeting with Pangalos, Vedrine was asked to comment on France's displeasure with the decision in Luxembourg.

"(At the recent summit) there was discussion of very complicated issues including a proposal by France to hold a European Conference (for prospective candidate members)," he said.

"This original idea was adopted following our discussions and the ideas submitted by others," he added, noting that this did not mean that the conclusions reached in Luxembourg did not have the support of all members.

"After all, when a a compromise is made in order to reach a decision, it is natural that (this decision) cannot completely reflect the views of one sole state. However, there is solidarity with regard to the conclusions," he noted.

He stressed that France's position was that it was in the interest of both Turkey and Europe for Ankara to participate in the European Conference.

Vedrine said he was not aware of Turkey's current position on the issue, noting however that "Turkey's reaction up until now has been negative".

Questioned as to Ankara's stance on the Cyprus issue, the French minister said:

"I simply observed that in Ankara there is a great deal of dissatisfaction over the Luxembourg decisions ... these contain some positive elements for Turkey ... which I pointed out."

Asked to comment on yesterday's violations of Greek air space by Turkish jetfighters, Vedrine expressed his country's regret over the tension in the region and the hope that the real problems could be resolved through talks.

Meanwhile with regard to the problem of Kurdish illegal immigrants from Turkey, the French minister called for close cooperation within the European Union and the Schengen accord, as well as with Turkey, which he urged to exercise tighter control of its borders.

Pangalos responds to Dini statements

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, asked to comment today on statements by Italian counterpart Lamberto Dini yesterday regarding Turkey's relationship with the European Union, criticised the Italian minister and said he wondered whether Dini was asking for ransom to be paid to Turkey.

At a meeting of European and Turkish police chiefs in Rome yesterday on the problem of Kurdish illegal immigrants from Turkey, Dini expressed the view that the EU should perhaps reconsider its decision in Luxembourg last month not to include Turkey in the next wave of candidate countries.

He later told the Italian parliament that Turkey should be given incentives (to deal with the Kurdish issue), including the release of an EU funding package.

Pangalos said he found it difficult to follow Dini's reasoning. Pangalos also recalled Dini's opposition when Pangalos had raised the Kurdish issue two years ago.

"Now that the Kurds have reached Italy's shores, (Dini) is calling for help and we are offering that help, but the problem has to be dealt with at its source, once and for all," said Pangalos.

He added that Kurdish refugees had not just suddenly decided to leave Turkey aboard unseaworthy craft and he wondered why no one was mentioning those who were persecuting them.

Turkish violations will not force change in air space

Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos declared today that Turkey's violations of Greece's air space would not bring about a reversal of Greece's fundamental position that the limits of national air space stood at 10 miles.

"Nothing in the Aegean is negotiable," he said, commenting on yesterday's repeated violations of Greek air space in the Aegean.

"Turkey has to understand that its provocations destabilise peace and cooperation in the region," he said, adding that Turkey had no right to "play with fire".

He also contended that Turkey was answerable to Europe for the mass exodus of Kurds from its territory, saying that European nations were justified in demanding that Turkey seek a political solution to the problem.

The minister reiterated that while Greece supported Turkey's future place in Europe, Turkey seemed incapable of adapting to the fundamental principles that all European states abided by, such as respect for the status quo, international treaties and accords.

Meanwhile, asked whether Greece should once again say "thank you" to the US for persuading Turkey not to include the area over Greece's Kalogeri islets in its latest military exercise, the minister replied:

"If the US feels the need to assume initiatives, that is the concern of those to whom those initiatives are directed."

Asked whether he believed there could be a clash in the Aegean, Tsohatzopoulos reiterated that this depended on Turkey's behaviour which entailed dangers for security, stability and cooperation in the region.

At the same time he noted that the Turkish government and its military leadership were seeking to create a climate of tension out of Greece's response that it would not allow its sovereign rights to be violated.

"We will respond in a cool, determined and steadfast way to Turkey's efforts to violate our sovereign rights," he said.

The minister is to brief all Greek Eurodeputies tomorrow on developments in Greek-Turkish relations.

Defence Minister on possible Greek-Israeli exercise

Greece's Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos today commented on the holding of a joint search and rescue drill held between Israel, Turkey and the U.S. earlier this week, and on the likelihood of a similar drill between Greece and Israel.

"This exercise appeared to aim at creating a new correlation of forces in the region," Tsohatzopoulos said in response to press questions. "Reliant Mermaid" (the name of the joint Turkey-Israel-U.S. exercise) gave the impression that it is turning into a contemporary Circe (an enchantress in Homer's Odyssey who turned men into swine)," he added.

"You cannot hide the practices of countries such as Turkey which continues to conduct cleansing operations in Northern Iraq, to maintain 40,000 troops in occupied Cyprus, to violate national air space in Greece, to question Greece's sovereign rights and to endanger the peace of the region, under the mantle of 'humanitarian' exercises."

"The people of the region have objected, as they have a right to stability, peace and cooperation. Whoever claims to truly be conducting humanitarian exercises should not be content only with saying that they are not directed towards anyone but link word with tangible deeds in this direction," he said.

"The when, how and with whom Greece will conduct its exercises is its own right and in this particular case the basic principles must be made clear."

The search and rescue operation drew criticism from Syria, Iran, Iraq and Egypt.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman today denied as "unfounded" reports of an Israel-Turkey axis or pact against other countries in the region.

The statement, released by the Israeli Embassy in Athens, said that the cooperation between Israel and Turkey "is one that is common among friendly countries. It includes a variety of areas, including the area of security".

"There is no foundation for claims that the two countries have established a pact or created an axis aimed against other parties in the area," the statement said.

The Israeli Embassy said that "insinuations about the creation of axes or pacts in relation to Israel's activity are obviously being fed by factors that would like to a threat perception that is divorced from real facts".

The Embassy said that since the establishment of the State of Israel 50 years ago, "Israel has never been involved in any pact or axis, be it official or unofficial, and this continues to be true today".

Referring to a recent joint air and sea exercise by Israel, Turkey and the U.S. in the southeastern Mediterranean, Greek government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said Wednesday in reply to press questions that "countries may participate in manoeuvres, but we consider that the policy of axes does not contribute to the consolidation of enduring stability, peace and good neighbourly relations in the wider region".

Arab envoys counsel Greece against exercises

Twelve Arab ambassadors in Athens have urged Greece not to participate in a joint military exercise with Israel, according to informed sources. The 12 met today in camera with parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.

According to diplomatic sources, Greece is considering participating in an exercise similar to "Reliant Mermaid".

It was reported that at today's meeting the Arab ambassadors expressed the view that the exercise in question had created a number of problems.

Lebanese Ambassador Elias Fouad Ghosn said that Egypt, which has signed peace accords with Israel, was the first to condemn the joint exercise.

The envoys also reminded the committee of the fact that several Islamic conferences had rejected Turkish draft resolutions against Greece.

With regard to the Middle East peace process, the ambassadors maintained that Israel should lift its reservations regarding the Oslo agreement.

Meanwhile, also at the meeting, Iraqi Ambassador Issam Khalil referred to the international trade embargo against his country and its effects on the Iraqi people.

Greece, Georgia sign defence agreements

Greece's Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his visiting Georgian counterpart V. Nadibaize today signed military and defence agreements between the two countries providing for joint training exercises and the transfer of a Greek naval vessel to the Georgian fleet.

Nadibaize arrived in Athens today on a three-day official visit to Greece. He is also due to be received by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.

Tsohatzopoulos said both Greece and Georgia belonged to the same geopolitical region and were affected by the fluidity in the region and subject to the consequences of destabilising behaviour on their borders.

"Greece and Georgia aspire to peace, security and cooperation and through the Euro-Atlantic Council and the (NATO) Partnership for Peace programme express their common views on their efforts for stabilising international security," he said.

Bolstering cooperation between the two countries creates the prospects of weakening the effects of destabilising behaviour in our region, he said.

Nadibaize said the agreements signed today were the continuation of the "exceptional" military and political cooperation between the two countries.

Cypriot FM in town

The visit to Athens by Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides is not connected to forthcoming Cypriot elections, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said today.

"The Cypriot elections are the exclusive domain of the Cypriot people and the Greek government respects the sovereign rights of the people of Cyprus, " he said. He added the Greek government would work closely with any Cypriot government chosen by the Cypriot people.

Kasoulides left Nicosia for Athens earlier today. He is due to meet with Greek government officials and with Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos tonight.

An ANA dispatch from Nicosia said Kasoulides's visit to Athens, and later to Lisbon, aimed at discussing the latest developments in the Cyprus problem, in light of the recent EU summit decision at Luxembourg to stick to its schedule for accession talks with Cyprus.

Asked if Kasoulides would be discussing some sort of formular for participation of Turkish Cypriots in European Union accession talks, Reppas said that Greece agreed with Nicosia's position on the participation and representation of Turkish Cypriots in the talks and added that he hoped there would be a way found for representatives of the Turkish Cypriots to participate.

69 illegal immigrants arrested

Coast Guard officials in Symi said today that they had picked up 69 illegal immigrants from the isolated Nanou area.

The 69 - 39 Iraqis and 30 Afghanis, including eight women and eight children - told authorities that had been put ashore on the island, close to Turkey's Asia Minor coast, by a Turkish boat for a fee of $2000 each.

They were spotted by fishing boats in the region, who alerted the Coast Guard.

Following the arrests, Coast Guard chief Pericles Oufantzopoulos has increased the number of patrols and ordered all patrol boats to be on the alert for illegal immigrant smugglers in the Aegean Sea and particularly in the Dodecanese.

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

(M.P.)


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