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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-01-11

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, 11/01/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece warns speculators off the drachma
  • Burns says US wants better Greek-Turkish relations
  • Tsohatzopoulos says Greece's 10-mile airspace non-negotiable
  • Greece counters US statement over airspace limit
  • Jews reject Turkish claims of WW II betrayal by Greeks
  • Watermarks on temporary work permits
  • Briton expected to be charged with son's abduction
  • Car ferries turned away from Leros, Kalymnos in blockade
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece warns speculators off the drachma

The government has sent a clear message to foreign and domestic speculators that they will 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 on Friday 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 says US wants better Greek-Turkish relations

Newly appointed US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns has 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 on Friday, 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 further 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 has said that Turkey's violations of Greece's airspace will 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 on Friday, 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.

Greece counters US statement over airspace limit

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, commenting on statements by US Ambassador in Athens Nicholas Burns with regard to the limits of Greece's airspace, said on Saturday that the sole criterion for a country's behaviour was that imposed by the national interest.

Burns on Friday reiterated the US' position that the limits of each country's airspace should correspond to those of its territorial waters, meaning that the US recognises the six-mile limit for Greece's airspace.

"No one's view is a criterion for the behaviour of a country," said the Minister, emphasising that Greece's airspace, as clearly set out in the 1931 presidential decree and valid for decades, stood at the 10-mile limit.

"If some people, for their own purposes and using their own criteria, want some other limit for Greece, that is their opinion," he reiterated.

The Defence Minister was speaking after briefing 22 of Greece's 25 Eurodeputies on the minstry's defence programmes and on initiatives being taken to promote security and stability in the region, as well as specific issues involving neighbouring countries.

Jews reject Turkish claims of WW II betrayal by Greeks

Jewish groups in Greece have rejected accusations made by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that Greeks collaborated with Nazi occupation forces in the persecution of Jews during World War II.

Ankara made the accusation in reaction to a statement by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, who referred to the plight of Kurds in Turkey as a genocide and called on the European Union to take a firm stand.

The Turkish statement referred to Mr. Pangalos as a "descendant of Greek fascism" and said that "Greek fascists under the leadership of the likes of Pangalos sent thousands of Greek Jews to the death camps".

The statement was dismissed by the government spokesman yesterday as containing "pathetic insults and unjustified provocations".

Jewish groups in Greece moved swiftly to refute Ankara's accusations. The Central Jewish Council, the main body representing the Jewish community in Greece, said in a statement on Friday that Jews had repeatedly expressed their graditude to the Greek nation for the assistance it afforded during the dark years of WWII, "often risking their own lives".

Thessaloniki's Jewish Community president Andreas Sefihah said that Jews were grateful to Greeks for their assistance against Nazi persecution, citing resistance by officials as well as the help of simple people.

The Jewish leader sited his own personal experience of WWII, in which his whole family was saved by the decisive intervention of compassionate Greeks and declared his surprise at the Turkish statement, saying that it was "at least inaccurate".

Thessaloniki became a major Jewish culture centre in the Middle Ages with a 50,000-strong community. In WW II, most of city's Jews were transported to Nazi concentration camps in Germany and Poland where they perished.

Watermarks on temporary work permits

The labour ministry has 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.

Briton expected to be charged with son's abduction

A public prosecutor on Monday is expected to press charges against a Briton residing in northern Greece for allegedly abducting his son, and car theft.

The British car mechanic, identified as John Mercer (phonetic spelling from Greek), 45, is being held by police in the northern town of Serres for questioning over the kidnapping of his son, Anastasios, in summer 1996.

Mercer is believed to have taken the child without the permission of its mother, identified as Elisavet Keskinidou, the owner of a hairdressing salon in Serres.

Police sources quoted him as saying: "I wanted to bring up my son as I knew how, and give him British nationality."

The child, who was travelling with Mercer, has been returned to his mother.

Mercer was arrested at the port of Igoumenitsa, northwestern Greece after customs officials identified him from a police photograph and details on an arrest warrant issued by a Serres investigating magistrate.

Accompanied by a woman he said was his wife, Mercer was later taken to Serres police, the sources said.

Mercer is also due to be charged with stealing cars, which he allegedly took apart in a yard he ran in the Serres village of Mitrousi, and sold as spare parts.

Expected to handle the case on Monday is Serres public prosecutor Eleftherios Mihailidis.

Car ferries turned away from Leros, Kalymnos in blockade

Car ferries were turned away from Kalymnos and Leros on Sunday after fishermen and sponge divers blockaded the two islands' ports to protest against new tax measures by the socialist government.

Sixty fishermen launched a blockade on Leros on Sunday in the wake of the shutdown on Kalymnos, which continued despite talks on Saturday to try to resolve the dispute.

The ships denied access were the Ialysos, Rodanthi, Leros and Dimitroula, which ply the Piraeus-Dodecanese Island route.

The blockades followed talks in Athens with Finance Undersecretary George Drys over the tax measures but Kalymnos' fishermen and sponge divers began their action despite an agreement to resume talks at the end of the month.

The fishermen and sponge divers want to be reinstated in the farming sector in order to avoid keeping credit and debit balances.

According to the Mayor of Kalymnos, Drys told protesters' representatives that the shift in status was banned under a European Union directive.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather is forecast for most parts of Greece today with some cloud. 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 6C to 14C. The weather in Thessaloniki will be fair with temperatures between 1C and 12C.

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

(C.S.)


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