Greek security police said today that the elusive terrorist group "November 17" is behind a midnight rocket attack on a downtown branch of the American Citibank which caused damage but no injuries.
The rocket did not explode. Police said it was fired by remote control five minutes before midnight on Tuesday from a BMV private car parked outside the bank on Drossopoulou street in the downtown district of Kypseli.
Police said that the 2.36 inches rocket failed to explode and only smashed the bank's glass window pane damaging three nearby cars. They told ANA that it was similar to a rocket stolen from a central Greek army camp in Larisa usually used by the "November 17" urban guerrilla group.
So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, "but it certainly bears the hallmarks of the November 17 group," a police spokesman told ANA.
The group, which made its debut in 1975 has claimed responsibility for the killing 20 Greeks and foreigners.
Senior police said later that the absence of any claim of responsibility on the part of any organisation was raising fears of more attacks.
Police close to the investigation said it was a November 17 tactic to carry out a number of attacks and claim responsibility for the series later.
They clarified that the attack caused only minor damage because the rocket did not explode due to the fact that it was designed to explode on impact when fired over a distance of 700 metres. They said they suspected that the organisers of the attack were aware that the rocket would not explode when fired at such a close range, reducing the likelihood of any injuries of passersby.
The two aspects of the attack concerning police were that the attack was carried out a short distance from the local police station and that the rocket was placed on the roof of a car parked just 2.5 metres from the bank. The car belonged to a man living locally, who had parked the car just 40 minutes before the rocket was detonated.
The government strongly condemned yesterday's rocket attack, saying it was not only directed against the specific target but also harmed the country's interests and undermined social stability.
"The government steadfastly condemns such actions and is stepping up its efforts to combat them," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.
"We condemn terrorist and criminal actions, even though in Greece such phenomena are on a smaller scale. Our country is not one in which terrorism flourishes," Reppas said.
In a related development, police arrested a 35-year-old man, identified as Zacharias Vivilakis, whose fingerprint was found on an uneploded timebomb left outside an American Express branch in the northern suburb of Marousi last December.
Police, who searched his house in the Galatsi suburb found a shotgun, a Smith and Weson Magnum 357 gun, another 9 mm. handgun, 12 detonators, and brochures with instructions on how to make homemade explosive devices.
Vivilakis, who police said was convicted in the past for participating in nightclub protection was charged by a public prosecutor with illegal possession of arms and explosives and manufacturing explosive devices.
His brother, Michalis Vivilakis is serving a life term for murder.
Greek economy on the right track: Papantoniou
The Greek economy is finally on the right track and party political interests should not try to block progress, National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou said today, opening the first session of the "2nd Economist Roundtable with the Greek Government".
"There is a strong inclination towards progress in the Greek economy and that is something that various political parties should take note of," Papantoniou said.
The recent inclusion of the drachma in the European Union's Exchange Rate Mechanism, he noted, was the latest indication that the economy was on the right path after years of mistakes.
"Greece is on the road to convergence and its macro-economic indicators deservedly position it as one of the rising stars of the developed markets."
Papantoniou outlined the government's plans for structural reforms to the economy, particularly in the public sector, that aim to step up its privatisation programme.
"The government aims at there being a climate of consensus so that workers can actively contribute to the restructuring of companies such as Olympic Airways and other state companies," he said.
Papantoniou said changes to the social security system would be announced by the government by the end of the year, assuming there was progress in talks on the changes with social partners. These changes will include defining the retirement age and would be included in a timetable of reforms which would begin in 2000.
He stressed the need for the normal operation of markets in Greece, particularly the job market, which he said was particularly problematic.
"We will not succeed at achieving a satisfactory level of competition if we do not liberate the powers of the economy, which are entangled in obsolete practices (and) we will not be able to protect our economy from external upheavals and the repercussions of a crisis on international markets will be particularly catastrophic if mechanisms to achieve equilibrium are not flexible."
He noted that the Bank of Greece's foreign exchange reserves rose by some four billion dollars after the drachma was devalued due to a massive injection of capital.
The stock exchange was still riding a wave of confidence that had brought it an increase of almost 40 percent and interest rates had fallen by 2.5 percentage points.
Olympic Airways needs labour peace to recover
All Olympic Airways flights scheduled for the Greek Easter holiday next week will be carried out as scheduled, the national carrier's managing director Theodoros Tsakiridis said today.
Speaking to Greek radio, Tsakiridis said workers who had accepted the new general regulations would be required to stop all labour action as of Friday.
"If Olympic is to meet the financial demands of the workers then they will have to contribute to the company's development," he said. "I believe that they will meet this request".
Tsakiridis also said that the internal structure of the company would be reviewed "from base zero" upwards with new personnel being hired and present posts evaluated. There will also be an evaluation of all current routes and the cancellation of some on the basis of their lack of profitability, Tsakiridis said.
He said the carrier would be taking delivery of new aircraft as of September and that a "strategic investor" would not be able to contribute "financially" to the company which when restructured and modernised would be listed on the stock exchange.
Former president Karamanlis making progress
Former president and the founder of conservative opposition New Democracy party Constantine Karamanlis was showing a gradual improvement, doctors said, after the 91-year-old elder statesman was admitted to hospital yesterday suffering from a respiratory ailment.
Karamanlis was being treated with antibiotics, his personal doctor Evangelos Belonias told reporters this morning.
Belonias said that Karamanlis's condition did not warrant his being admitted to intensive care and that "if everything goes well we will not need to do anything more".
He admitted that doctors treating the former president were concerned about the effect the patient's age could have on his recovery but added that Karamanlis was in good spirits.
Karamanlis was visited this morning by New Democracy vice-president Ioannis Varvitsiotis and former deputy and European Commissioner Ioannis Paleokrassas as well as by family members.
Former prime minister George Rallis, former New Democracy president Miltiades Evert and veteran leftist Leonidas Kyrkos were also amongst those who visited the hospital to receive a briefing on the former president and prime minister's health.
Two ferries collide near Aegina
The passenger and car ferries "Hellas" and "Aias" collided this morning outside the port of Aegina for as yet unknown reasons causing minor damage but no injuries.
The Hellas, headed for Piraeus, was carrying 34 passengers at the time and the Aias, sailing to Methana and Poros, 10.
The Aegina port authority has prohibited both ships from sailing until they have been inspected and their passengers took other ferries.
Two Turks convicted of migrant smuggling
A Rhodes court sentenced three Turks to eight years and four months imprisonment and fined them each 2,300,000 drachmas for illegally ferrying 19 Iraqis to the rocky islet of Nimos, near Symi on Sunday.
Sentencing Kaya Sukru, Cog Aycan and Ahmet Seyit yesterday, the court gave them the right to pay off their jail terms at 1,500 drachmas per day.
It also sentenced Turk Ali Garpa to 15 years and eight months imprisonment, payable at 1,500 drachmas per day, and fined him 4,500,000 drachmas for illegally transporting 41 Iraqis to the same area on the same day.