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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-01-13

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 13/01/1998 (ANA)


  • Greece breaks up urban guerrilla group
  • Gov't condemns Turkish violations of air space
  • U.S. ambassador says comments misreported
  • Civil war minefield to be cleared
  • Briton jailed, kidnapping charges dropped
  • Bulgaria reluctantly hands over priceless manuscript
  • Greece, Poland confer on EU issues
  • Britain wants better relations between Greece, Turkey
  • Three missing after high-seas shootout
  • Greece, India agree to expand bilateral cooperation
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange


Greece breaks up urban guerrilla group

Greek anti-terrorist police arrested eight people suspected of terrorist activity following a series of night raids on ten houses in the greater Athens area.

Sources said that a person arrested following a raid on a house in Kamatero was probably the head of the urban guerrilla group "Militant Guerrilla Formation" and was also involved in the conscientious objectors movement in Greece.

The sources said a significant amount of explosive material and detonators had been found in raids of homes in Kamatero, Kypseli, Ilioupolis and Argyroupolis.

Police began closing in on the group following the discovery of a fingerprint on the remains of a bomb placed at the home of Maria Bozi, an anti-terrorist expert reporting to then public order minister Stelios Papathemelis, in February 1997.

The Militant Guerrilla Formation has claimed responsibility for a number of bombs since its appearance in 1996. It has planted bombs at the Athens Polytechnic University, the Peruvian Embassy, the showroom of Italian car manufacturer Lancia and outside the Alitalia airline company offices.

No-one has ever been injured or killed in the bomb attacks.

A statement from police officials on the outcome of the raids will be made later today.

According to informed sources, the Militant Guerrilla Formation is led by Nikos Maziotis, who was arrested as a conscientious objector in 1990 and served time in prison.

The same sources say Maziotis is a former member of the Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA), which police believe offers protection, guidance and arms to smaller groups including the Militant Guerrilla Formaiton.

Police have been watching Maziotis for some time, suspecting him of being involved in Saturday night's bomb attacks on the Kallithea taxation bureau and Finance Ministry computer centre (KEPYO).

According to unofficial reports, eight people - five men and three women - have been arrested as accomplices of Maziotis. Two arrested at a house in Kypseli and another in Ilioupoli were found to be in possession of material used to make explosive devices.

Gov't condemns Turkish violations of air space

Fourteen Turkish warplanes infringed the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR), without submitting flight plans, and violated Greek national airspace over three Aegean islands this morning, informed sources said.

The violations occurred as National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos was on the island of Lesvos on the first leg of a tour of Greek islands bordering with Turkey.

The sources said that the Turkish F-16 and F-4 jetfighters, which violated Greek national airspace over the Dodecanese islands of Rhodes, Kos and Carpathos, were intercepted by Greek Airforce F-16s and Mirage-2000s.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said later that the Greek government would take all the necessary measures to condemn the incidents and would brief representatives of European Union member-states on "the unacceptable activity of the Turkish air force".

U.S. ambassador says comments misreported

US Ambassador in Athens Nicholas Burns today denied he had linked the question of Greek sovereignty in the Aegean with the country's air space.

"I was very sorry to see some of the press reports over the weekend that said I was linking Greek sovereignty in the Aegean with the issue of air space limits. I did not say that. That is not true, we are not linking those issues. We respect Greece's sovereignty in the Aegean. Full stop. We don't link that with any other issue," said Burns, speaking after a meeting with main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis this morning.

He said the US wanted to help resolve some of the problems in the region, if Greece and Turkey wanted, and he maintained that the U.S. had moved in this spirit when the Turkish government decided to carry out a military exercise over the Kalogeri islets and the Aegean island of Andros.

Asked if the US accepted the 10 nautical mile limit for Greece's air space, he reiterated that Washington's known position had not changed.

"This has not been an active issue between the US nad Greece in the sense that Greece has had this (the 10-mile limit) since 1931. Greece and the US are NATO allies. We get along very well. I think it was frankly wrong of the newspapers to link the two issues, because I never linked them and so it's not an issue that we argue about," he said, adding:

"Our position is well-known and we have not changed that position."

"The major issue is this. Greece and Turkey must find a way to work together to reduce the tension in the region, but obviously sovereignty must be respected, that is why I thought it important to say that the Kalogeri islets are Greek," he added.

Civil war minefield to be cleared

Thousands of landmines dating from the Greek civil war fifty years ago will be cleared to make the Grammos mountain region on Greece's northern border into a tourist destination, Macedonia-Thrace Minister Philipos Petsalnikos said today.

Funds from the Third Community Support Framework and Greek national defence ministry have already been allocated for the costly and time-consuming project, which is expected to begin within the year.

"We had placed a study with a foreign company to detect and record the mines in the minefield by aerial photography but the cost of the project came to over five billion drachmas, an amount we did not have then," Petsalnikos said. "Now, with the Third Community Support Framework, we do".

The project has received the support of Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who was approached by local authorities when he visited the prefecture of Kastoria in Western Macedonia late last year.

The Grammos, Vitsi and Murgana mountains in the Pindos mountain range saw the bulk of fighting during the vicious 1947-1949 civil war between communist-backed resistance fighters and Allied-backed troops.

At the end of the war, resistance fighters fled north to Soviet-bloc countries, leaving no documentation of where mines had been placed. Thousands are estimated to be hidden deep in the forest.

Dozens of unsuspecting hunters and farmers were killed in the years immediately after the war and many more injured.

Briton jailed, kidnapping charges dropped

A 45-year-old British car mechanic was remanded in custody yesterday on charges of receiving stolen goods and for debts to social security funds.

An investigating magistrate in Serres ordered that John Mercer of South Shields, northeastern England, be remanded in custody for the two offenses but dropped charges of abduction of his three-year-old son.

Mercer was arrested on January 9 at the port of Igoumenitsa, on his return from Englans, following charges by his companion Elisavet Keskinidou of abducting their son Anastasios.

The boy was later returned to his mother, who dropped the charges.

Police said that they were investigating allegations that Mercer, who ran a used-car lot in the Serres village of Lefkona, was dismantling stolen cars and selling them as spare parts.

Bulgaria reluctantly hands over priceless manuscript

Opposition to the return of a historic manuscript stolen 12 years ago from the Mt. Athos monastic community overshadowed a ceremony at Karyes today attended by Bulgarian officials who brought the 235-year old manuscript back to Greece following a decision by Bulgarian President Peter Stoyanov.

The ceremony was delayed for three hours after the Bulgarian officials insisted on handing over the 61-page manuscript directly to the Zografos monastery's abbot, who is of Bulgarian origin.

The manuscript, a history of the Slavo-Bulgarian nation written by the monk Paisios at the community's Zografos monastery, was stolen from Mt. Athos in 1985 and turned up last year at Sofia's National History Museum.

Stoyanov decided to return the manuscript to Mt. Athos in the face of opposition from many Bulgarians. Seventy-five percent of Bulgarians polled by the Bulgarian state radio station "Horizont" expressed their opposition to the move.

Eventually, the document was handed over to a Mt. Athos official, who was then accompanied to the Zografos monastery by both Greek and Bulgarian delegations. The latter, who are guests of the monastery, are to stay until tomorrow.

Greece, Poland confer on EU issues

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou held talks today with Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Andrej Ananicz on Poland's apsirations to become a member of the European Union.

Poland is one of the countries included in the EU's first wave of enlargement, decided at the Luxembourg summit in December.

The two men decided to step up the level of contacts between the two sides on a political and technocratic level, with Greece promising to aid Poland's accession efforts with briefings on the institutional and economic EU issues.

Some 30 Greek and joint Greek-Polish enterprises are active in Poland, primarily in commerce and the fur, marble and farming goods sectors. Poland is home to a 5,000-strong Greek community while Greece is home to a sizeable Polish community.

Britain wants better relations between Greece, Turkey

British Ambassador in Athens Sir Michael Llewellyn Smith today expressed his country's desire to support every effort by NATO and the US towards de- escalating tension between Greece and Turkey, although he feared that any effort by the European Union would not be successful in view of Turkey's reaction to a decision by last month's EU summit not to include it in the next wave of candidate member states.

At a press conference to mark the beginning of Britain's six months at the helm of the European Union, the ambassador said his government's focus would centre on the accession process for 10 candidate states from central and eastern Europe and for Cyprus, Economic and Monetary Union, employment, crime-fighting and the environment.

With regard to the accession talks for Cyprus, due to begin in March, Sir Michael said the participation of Turkish Cypriots in the talks, while desirable, was not linked with the starting date for negotiations.

In response to a question on Cyprus' purchase of S-300 missiles from Russia, the ambassador, reiterating Britain's position in favour of the demilitarisation of Cyprus, expressed the view that the missiles should not be deployed on the island.

Three missing after high-seas shootout

Three Albanian drug smugglers were missing when their boat caught fire during a shootout with the Greek coast guard off the northwestern Greek port city of Igoumenitsa, police said today.

Harbour authorities told the ANA that the crew of an Albanian speedboat opened fire on two Greek coast guard patrol boats when asked to stop for a check.

They said that the three men on board the Albanian speedboat opened fire on the patrol boats with Kalashnikov machine guns, forcing the coast guard to return the fire.

As a result, the Albanian boat caught fire and the three men jumped into the sea and disappeared.

The speedboat, loaded with several sacks of narcotics, was towed to Igoumenitsa harbour, while a search is being conducted for its three-member crew.

Most of the drugs were destroyed in the fire, the harbour authorities said.

Greece, India agree to expand bilateral cooperation

Greece and India pledged to expand their bilateral relations, particularly in the economic and commercial sectors, in talks between Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos with the Indian political leadership in New Delhi, an ANA dispatch said.

In addition, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, who is accompanying Stephanopoulos on his six-day visit to India, signed a bilateral agreement for cooperation in the tourism sector with the Indian Minister of Tourism.

Stephanopoulos, the first Greek President to visit India since 1982, met this morning with his Indian counterpart Kocheril Raman Narayanan.

After laying a wreath at the Mahatma Gandhi monument, Stephanopoulos met with Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, who also holds the foreign affairs portfolio, accompanied by Pangalos and National Economy Undersecretary Alexandros Baltas. Their talks focussed on bilateral relations and the internatonal situation.

Gujral hosted a lunch in honour of Stephanopoulos, after which the Greek President met with representatives of the Indian political parties and was briefed on the political situation in India as well as next month's elections there.


Almost fair weather is forecast throughout Greece today with local clouds only in the west. Local fog in the morning. Winds light. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 6-17C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 2-13C.


Monday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 284.476 Pound sterling 459.336 Cyprus pd 534.688 French franc 46.838 Swiss franc 193.291 German mark 156.800 Italian lira (100) 15.941 Yen (100) 215.333 Canadian dlr. 198.777 Australian dlr. 182.478 Irish Punt 391.443 Belgian franc 7.600 Finnish mark 51.804 Dutch guilder 139.153 Danish kr. 41.188 Swedish kr. 35.520 Norwegian kr. 37.934 Austrian sch. 22.290 Spanish peseta 1.850 Port. Escudo 1.534


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