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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-01-29

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, 29/01/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece plays down significance of Turkish exercises
  • US Ambassador: support for Greek initiative for Kosovo
  • Europarliament president visiting Greece
  • Turkish ship remains grounded off Kos
  • Ukrainian airliner impounded pending compensation
  • US Sixth Fleet flagship in Thessaloniki
  • Brazilian woman arrested with cocaine
  • Foreigners arrested for burglaries
  • Simitis rejects criticism over Olympics committee composition
  • Interbank rates drop on Bank of Greece intervention
  • Government determined to restructure public enterprises
  • Greek tourism industry cautiously optimistic on 1998 outlook
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece plays down significance of Turkish exercises

The Greek government today downplayed the significance of new military exercises in the Aegean announced by Turkey, saying that Ankara had also announced exercises for January which eventually had not taken place.

Replying to reporters' questions, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas added that Greece's Civil Aviation Authority would issue the relevant Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) for those cases in which the Turkish exercises conformed to "the situation prevailing in the region" and were in accordance with the rules of international law.

Otherwise, the spokesman implied, NOTAMs will not be issued and the respective areas will be declared dangerous for civil aviation.

US Ambassador: support for Greek initiative for Kosovo

US Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns said today that Washington supported all initiatives by Athens aimed at defusing tension in Serbia's troubled province of Kosovo.

Burns was speaking in Thessaloniki where he had talks this morning with Macedonia-Thrace Minister Phillipos Petsalnikos.

Greece earlier this month offered to host a meeting between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Albanian Premier Fatos Nano and the leader of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova, to help resolve the Kosovo problem.

Commenting on the Greek initiative, Burns said the Greek government had great experience in the region "and we work with Greece to limit tension in Kosovo and constructively with the Belgrade government to persuade it to defuse the tension".

"We therefore support every Greek initiative which could help in this major problem," Burns said.

The US envoy praised Greece's role in the Balkans, underlining that Athens' "presence in Albania at a political and economic level was positive, as was (its participation) in economic developments in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".

Asked to comment on Turkey's continuing provocations in the Aegean, Burns said the US was the friend of both Greece and Turkey and expressed the hope that the two countries would be able to resolve their problems.

Burns also had talks this morning with Thessaloniki Mayor Constantine Kosmopoulos.

Underlining the growing importance of Thessaloniki in the greater region, Burns said he intended to upgrade the US consulate in the northern Greek port city.

Europarliament president visiting Greece

European Parliament president Jose Maria Gil-Robles arrives here this afternoon on a three-day official visit for talks with the Greek government leadership on relations between the Europarliament and the EU member states' national parliaments and relations between EU and Turkey, particularly Greek-Turkish relations.

Soon after his arrival at 4:30 this afternoon, Gil-Robles will hold talks with his host, Greek parliament president Apostolos Kaklamanis and immediately after with foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos.

On Friday morning he will meet with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, followed by main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis.

After taking part in a special sitting of the Greek Parliament's committee on European Affairs, Gil-Robles will be received at noon by President Costis Stephanopoulos.

Gil-Robles will give a press conference at 12:30 at the Europarliament office in Athens at 8 Amalias Avenue, after which he will attend the awards ceremony of the European Studies 1997 Prizes of the Greek University Association of European Studies followed by a working lunch at the foreign ministry hosted by alternate foreign minister George papandreou.

On Friday afternoon Gil-Robles will hold separate talks with Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos and Governor of the Bank of Greece Loucas Papademos.

He will have separate meetings later in the evening with Communist Party of Greece secretary general Aleka Papariga, Coalition of the Left and Progress leader Nikos Constantopoulos, Democratic Social Movement leader Dimitris Tsovolas, and Political Spring leader Antonis Samaras, and depart Athens on Saturday morning.

Turkish ship remains grounded off Kos

A Turkish freighter remained grounded off the island of Kos for the second day today as its captain refused assistance from Greek coast guard vessels to refloat it, the Merchant Marine ministry said.

The "Barbaros Oktay" with a general cargo ran aground in the shallows 150 metres off the cape of Ammoglossa, of Kos while on its way to Haifa, Israel.

A Ministry spokesman told the ANA that Greek warships, coast guard vessels and three tugboats were on stand-by near the ship awaiting orders to refloat it.

''The Turkish capital said the vessel was not taking on water and that he was trying to refloat the ship on its own,'' a Ministry spokesman said, ''but so far negotiations to have the ship refloated by a Greek tugboat have been fruitless, as the Turkish captain refuses any assistance.''

Meanwhile, another Turkish cargo ship, the 200-ton ''Hassan Bei'', which caught fire off the island of Evia and was adrift on Wednesday, was being towed to the Turkish port of Izmir by a Greek tug.

The Hassan Bei's captain, ''initially refused to be towed by a Greek tug, saying he would ask assistance from Turkey since the vessel was in international waters, but he requested Greek assistance when gale-force winds swept the ship into Greek waters near the island of Andros''.

Ukrainian airliner impounded pending compensation

A Ukrainian airliner impounded by the Greek authorities after a court order asking its owners to pay compensation to relatives of a victim killed along with 69 other persons in a crash last month remained grounded at Thessaloniki airport for the second day today and chances for its immediate departure appeared slim.

The seizure of the Boeing 737, belonging to Ukrainia's Aerosweet airlines, was ordered by a First Instance Court, moments after it landed at the northern Greek city's Macedonia airport stranding 46 passengers who were sceduled to fly to Odessa.

According to airport authorities, the confiscation petition was submitted by a lawyer representing the family of a young Greek teacher, Triada Karafiloudi, who was killed when a Russian-made Yacovlev-42 airplane crashed into the Peoria mountain range in northern Greece on December 17, killing all passengers and crew on board.

''The relatives are asking for the confiscation of Aerosweet's assets in Greece, claiming that the company is resonsible for the death of the passengers and crew,'' and airport spokesman told the ANA.

The Boeing was temporarily prohibited from leaving until February 19, when the petition of Karafiloudi's family is heard.

The airliner's passengers spent the night at a Thessaloniki hotel "hoping that the issue will be settled soon,'' the spokesman said, adding that Aerosweet's lawyers ''have lodged a petition asking for revocation of the court's confiscation order''.

US Sixth Fleet flagship in Thessaloniki

USS "La Salle", flagship for the Commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, Vice Admiral Charles Abbot, arrives in Thessaloniki on Saturday for a five-day port of call, the first by the flagship to the northern Greek capital's port city.

During the flagship's visit, the Sixth Fleet Commander will pay courtesy calls on government officials and host a reception on board the La Salle, while its crew will be taking part in civic, social and sports activities in Thessaloniki.

USS La Salle assumed the role of Sixth Fleet flagship in November 1994 with a primary mission of providing flagship support and facilities to the Commander, Sixth Fleet. Outfitted with state-of-the-art communication and command and control equipment, the La Salle can direct any operation or exercise involving sea, air, land and amphibious forces, increasing the Sixth Fleet's capability to respond to crisis and contingency operations.

Since its commissioning in 1964, USS La Salle has deployed continuously in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas, and has engaged in operations in the Middle East, including participation in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

The 170-metre-long ship carries a complement of 420 enlisted men and 25 officers. It is commanded by Capt. Bruce W. Clingan.

Brazilian woman arrested with cocaine

A 22-year-old Brazilian woman was arrested today at Athens international airport for trying to smuggle nearly 3 kilos of cocaine into the country.

The woman was identified as Luisa Bekman-Fontes (phonetic spelling), who arrived in Athens on a VASP airline flight from Sao Paolo, Brazil.

The 2.9 kilos of cocaine was wrapped in insulating tape and concealed in a secret compartment - specially made from silicone - in her suitcase.

According to the police, the woman took delivery of the cocaine one day before leaving Brazil from a Nigerian drug dealer. They believe Bekman- Fontes is a member of an international drug ring which has in the past smuggled large quantities of narcotics not only into Greece but also into other countries of Europe.

In cooperation with Interpol, the police are conducting an investigation to identify the woman's accomplices both in Greece and abroad.

Foreigners arrested for burglaries

Police have arrested seven Romanians and charged them with a number of burglaries of apartments and stores in the Attica area.

So far, the Romanians have been charged with seven burglaries, but police are continuing their investigation as they believe the arrested have committed other offences.

The seven were identified (phonetic spellings) as Christian Dovlek, 30, Patricia Kopa, 28, Ion Postonigu, 48, Christian Simeon, 24, Julian Balu, 26, Konstantin Buzor, 19 and Ion Stavig, 24.

In an unrelated case, the police arrested Italian national Antonio Romano who, together with three compatriots who are being sought, are alleged to have committed a number of burglaries and robberies in Attica during the past year that they were living in Greece illegally.

A search of the apartment in which the four were staying revealed three sawn-off shotguns, a 22-mm. pistol, ammunition for automatic weapons, hoods, forged passports, five bullet-proof vests and a small quantity of explosive material.

Romano's three alleged accomplices were identified (phonetic spellings) as Antonio Lakava, Giussepe Timacio and Ivan Delerpa.

Simitis rejects criticism over Olympics committee composition

Prime Minijster Costas Simitis yesterday dismissed as "ridiculous claims" reports that he had received pressures from ministers regarding the composition of the 2004 Olympic Games organising committee.

Replying to a question by main opposition New Democracy deputy Dora Bakoyianni, the prime minister said: "I selected persons who will be able to act in a broader perspective, and not party representatives as proposed by ND, or people who have expressed the intention to work professionally for the organisation of the Olympic Games." The premier also stressed that the organisation of the Games is a national effort which does not only concern the parliamentary majority, it concerns the whole of the Gre ek people and cannot come under any expediency.

"The composition of the Olympic Games organising committee must not be restricted to a specific political and social area or activity, it must be meritocratic and fully transparent, supported by all people," he said.

Interbank rates drop on Bank of Greece intervention

The Bank of Greece, the country's central bank,yesterday intervened in the domestic money market, draining liquidity in an effort to defend the national currency.

The central bank drained 220 billion drachmas at rates of 19 percent pushing interbank rates substantially lower.

The overnight rate fell to 11 percent while short-term interest rates fell to 17.5 percent from 19.5 percent on Tuesday.

Bankers reported capital inflows totalling 100 million Ecus at the drachma's fixing after outflows totalling 400 million Ecus in the previous two days.

The Greek currency was 0.13 percent and 0.18 percent up against the Ecu and the DMark respectively, although it fell substantially against the US dollar following a sharp recovery of the greenback in international markets.

Government determined to restructure public enterprises

The Greek government will proceed with a restructuring of all loss-making public enterprises regardless of the political cost, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters yesterday.

Reiterating the government's determination to restructure the country's public sector, Mr. Reppas said that the government could not stay indifferent to a sad reality.

The government, he said, would take measures in order to improve public enterprises' balance sheets or ensure they return back to profitability.

Greek tourism industry cautiously optimistic on 1998 outlook

Tourist arrivals and stayovers will be slightly higher in 1998 but foreign currency revenues will remain stable, the Greek Union of Tourism Enterprises (SETE) said yesterday.

The union's chairman Spyros Kokotos told a news conference that Greece's tourism industry was less optimistic on 1998's outlook than the government.

He said that a rise in tourist arrivals should be attributed to stable hotel prices at 1994 levels.

Mr. Kokotos urged both the government and the industry to stay alert and not rely on a slight improvement in statistics.

The chairman of Greek tourism enterprises criticised the government's new development law for not fully acknowledging the needs of a developing tourism policy. He called the new measures insufficient.

SETE proposed higher spending in promoting Greek tourism abroad stressing that Greece spended less in advertising compared to other competitors, like Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt, Portugal and Spain.

WEATHER

Cloudiness, brief showers and sleet in the mountainous regions is forecast for Greece today. Winds northerly, northwesterly, light to moderate, turning strong in the southeastern Aegean Sea. Partly cloudy in Athens with spells of sunshine and temeperatures between 2-9C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 0-7C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 284.158 Pound sterling 464.335 Cyprus pd 535.680 French franc 46.932 Swiss franc 193.842 German mark 157.257 Italian lira (100) 15.942 Yen (100) 226.474 Canadian dlr. 194.511 Australian dlr. 192.349 Irish Punt 393.943 Belgian franc 7.622 Finnish mark 51.951 Dutch guilder 139.535 Danish kr. 41.285 Swedish kr. 35.442 Norwegian kr. 37.920 Austrian sch. 22.361 Spanish peseta 1.856 Port. Escudo 1.537

(Y.B.)


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