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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-01-10

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, 10/01/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece warns speculators off the drachma
  • Burns stresses US desire for improved Greek-Turkish relations
  • Tsohatzopoulos says Greece's 10-mile airspace non-negotiable
  • Athens calls Turkish quips on minorities "ludicrous"
  • Pangalos fires back at Turkish ministry's claims
  • Central Jewish Council rejects Ankara's allegations
  • Watermarks on temporary work permits
  • Pangalos criticises Italy's Dini over Kurdish refugee issue
  • Press report on Pangalos' reply
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece warns speculators off the drachma

The government yesterday sent a clear message to foreign and domestic speculators 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 to defend the drachma, as it did in 1994 and in autumn 1997.

Mr. Papantoniou said that speculators lost a lot of money every time the government successfully defended the Greek currency, and they should finally learn a lesson.

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

Mr. Papantoniou said 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 often taken by other governments when faced with monetary turmoil.

Mr. Papantoniou noted that even the most advanced economies in the world had faced speculative attacks, including England, France and Finland.

"Greece is one of the countries that have successfully dealt with such problems twice in the past," he said. "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 in 26 years in December 1997.

Mr. Papantoniou welcomed the figure, which will bring the country near to achieving the Maastricht Treaty's inflation criteria.

He also said that the government was particularly satisfied with the collection of tax revenues, due to be published next week.

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

He said that during the previous year fiscal policy was the backbone of the economy's course towards convergence, replacing monetary policy which had prevailed for several years.

Mr. Papantoniou reiterated that the government will proceed in 1998 with the privatisation of two state banks, Macedonia-Thrace Bank and the Bank of Central Greece, as well as several major public enterprises.

Burns stresses US desire for improved Greek-Turkish relations

Newly appointed US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns yesterday reiterated Washington's interest in normalising Greek-Turkish relations as well as further strengthening bilateral Greek-US relations at all levels, especially commercial and business ties.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Burns also announced the upcoming visits to Greece of two high-ranking US officials, namely, the US Secretary of Commerce William Daley on Saturday, and the Pentagon's Joint Chief of Staffs, Gen. Raimer, in about 15 days.

Mr. Burns also confirmed that a visit by the US State Department special coordinator on the Cyprus issue, Thomas Miller, to Ankara and Athens will take place over the next 10 days.

On the question of Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Burns reminded that the US desires to contribute towards resolving problems between the two countries and consequently it maintains a neutral stance, adding that in certain cases matters are clear. He fur ther said that in these cases Washington desires to state its position in an equally clear way. Mr. Burns mentioned Turkish military flights near Thessaloniki 15 days ago, which were condemned by the US immediately, and the fact that the Kalogeri islets should not be included in the latest Turkish aeronautical exercise because, without a doubt, they are part of the Greek state. Mr. Burns added that his country supports a solution to the Imia issue through an international arbitration body, with the International Court at The Hague as probably the most appropriate. He said that it is also acceptable for Greece and Turkey to agree on mediation from some other international body, although the International Court is a good solution.

Tsohatzopoulos says Greece's 10-mile airspace non-negotiable

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

"Nothing in the Aegean is negotiable," he said, commenting on Thursday's repeated violations of Greek airspace over the eastern and central 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 acc ords.

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, Mr. 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 today on developments in Greek-Turkish relations.

Athens calls Turkish quips on minorities "ludicrous"

The Greek government yesterday 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 on Thursday which responded, in turn, to comments made by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos during a television interview. The announcement criti cised Mr. Pangalos and Athens for its treatment of minorities in Greece, including what it called the "Turkish" minority of western Thrace.

Mr. 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 II".

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

The spokesman said that Ankara was using the 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 fires back at Turkish ministry's claims

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos yesterday returned the fire drawn by the Turkish foreign ministry's response to his comments 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 t he Jews.

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 troops, sending them to death camps".

In statements to reporters after meeting with French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, Mr. 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," Mr. Pangalos said, noting that the Moslems of Greece were of a different ethnic make-up.

Mr. 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" people "completely ludicrous" as the world was aware that "if there was one place where there was no collaboration with the German authorities, that was Greece".

Central Jewish Council rejects Ankara's allegations

Greeks offered as much help as possible to persecuted Jews during the Nazi occupation, the Central Jewish Council of Greece emphasised in an announcement yesterday, responding to claims by the Turkish foreign ministry on Thursday.

The neighbouring country's foreign ministry claimed that Greek authorities during World War II "gladly handed over Jews" to German troops.

"In the bleak days of the Nazi occupation, the Christian Greeks of the cities and villages, putting their lives at risk, and the national resistance in the mountains, protected and helped as much as possible our persecuted people," the announcement stat ed.

"The Central Jewish Council of Greece, which represents the whole of Greek Jewry, has repeatedly expressed its grateful position to the Greek people and the Greek Orthodox Church for their contribution to saving Greek Jews," it added.

The Council reiterated its views to Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, whom they visited yesterday afternoon.

Greece entered WWII on Oct. 28, 1940. After its fall to axis troops in April 1941, it was occupied by German, Italian and Bulgarian forces until October 1944, while Crete was liberated in 1945.

Watermarks on temporary work permits

The labour ministry announced that temporary employment cards for illegal immigrants will be watermarked to prevent forgery.

Labour Undersecretary Christos Protopapas said as much in a reply to a Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) Deputy Petros Kounalakis regarding the procedures concerning the registration and legalisation of illegal immigrants in Greece.

According to the one-time GSEE president, this process will bring order to existing illegality, money to insurance funds and put an end to unfair competition with Greek workers.

Referring to problems appearing during the first days of the illegals' registration, Mr. Protopapas said the process will last five months, adding that during this period deportations will cease.

Pangalos criticises Italy's Dini over Kurdish refugee issue

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

At a meeting of European and Turkish police chiefs in Rome on Thursday called to focus on the problem of Kurdish illegal immigration from Turkey, Mr. Dini expressed a view that the EU should perhaps reconsider its decision in Luxembourg last month not t o 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 EU funding to Ankara.

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

"Now that the Kurds have reached Italy's shores, (Mr. 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," Mr. Pangalos said.

He added that Kurdish refugees had not just suddenly decided to leave Turkey aboard unseaworthy vessels, asking why no one was mentioning those forces persecuting them.

Press report on Pangalos' reply

Meanwhile, the Italian daily "Corriere dela Sera" yesterday published a reply by Mr. Pangalos to a letter addressed by Mr. Dini to his EU counterparts, in which the latter asked for solidarity in dealing with the Kurdish refugee issue.

"I was surprised by the fact that your letter contains no mention of the real cause of the phenomenon and its recent deterioration, chiefly, the continuous and violent repression, which has assumed the character of genocide against the Kurdish people i n Turkey and Iraq," Mr. Pangalos stated.

"This situation, which is protected by an administrative mechanism which tolerates and often collaborates with groups of smugglers, is the cause of the problem. The wave of refugees cannot be restricted if the real causes are not dealt with," he added.

WEATHER

Fair weather is forecast for most parts of Greece today with some cloud in the east and north of the country. Winds will be northerly, light to moderate, turning strong in the Aegean. Athens will see fair weather with some cloud later in the day. Temperatures are expected to range from 5C to 14C. The weather in Thessaloniki will be fair with temperatures between 9C and 13C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 284.436 Pound sterling 461.459 Cyprus pd 534.192 French franc 46.810 Swiss franc 193.346 German mark 156.706 Italian lira (100) 15.946 Yen (100) 216.653 Canadian dlr. 198.698 Australian dlr. 183.193 Irish Punt 390.848 Belgian franc 7.598 Finnish mark 51.763 Dutch guilder 139.068 Danish kr. 41.158 Swedish kr. 35.654 Norwegian kr. 38.202 Austrian sch. 22.276 Spanish peseta 1.849 Port. Escudo 1.534

(Y.B.)


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