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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-05-12

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, 12/05/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • WEU operational capabilities, Kosovo dominate ministerial talks
  • Drachma firm against major currencies, reflecting confidence
  • Trade delegation to visit Uzbekistan in June
  • Avramopoulos makes it official, he'll run for Athens mayor again
  • Left-wing parties from Greece,Cyprus and Turkey condemn status quo
  • Archbishop Christodoulos chairs first Synod, 'time for work'
  • Civil Aviation Authority defends Greek airspace, airport safety
  • Greek firm snares prize at International Plovdiv Fair
  • Protest cites abuse of Orthodox priest by Albanian police
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

WEU operational capabilities, Kosovo dominate ministerial talks

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos yesterday expressed strong doubts that an idea for intervention in Kosovo had been put forward within the NATO alliance.

"It is a matter of interpretation. I would be very guarded on whether such an idea was being examined by NATO," he told reporters after the first day of the Western European Union (WEU) foreign and defence ministers' session on the Dodecanese island of Rhodes.

Fifty-six foreign and defence ministers from 28 European countries participate in the two-day WEU summit, with the participation of NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana.

The WEU comprises 10 European Union member states also belonging to NATO, which are full members, and 3 associate states and 15 observer nations from the wider region.

Mr. Pangalos told reporters that reinforcement of the WEU's operational capabilities as well as the possibility of independent action by the organisation were at the centre of talks.

Earlier, Mr. Solana said that NATO had not adopted any decision regarding the Kosovo crisis, but all options would be considered at a diplomatic level in Brussels tomorrow.

"All options are under consideration, including a French proposal for control of military flights over Kosovo's border with Albania," he stated on the sidelines of the conference.

"NATO's main concern is the safeguarding of the security of the borders of Albania and of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)," he added.

Mr. Pangalos also denied that the idea of a NATO intervention had been discussed at the session, urging that "reason should prevail in handling such a matter."

"If Yugoslavia invited us, we would examine such a request, as we did in the case of Albania, otherwise, it would be like invading Yugoslavia, and this would anything but contribute to efforts for pacifying the region," he added.

"There are ways in which the WEU can contribute, responding to Albania's request for safeguarding its borders," he said, explaining that Albania was concerned over the possibility of the Kosovo crisis creating problems of border security".

Mr. Pangalos referred to a proposal submitted by his Belgian counterpart Eric Derycke for the setting up of a group of "wise men" to examine WEU's role in the new European security architecture.

He said that certain countries had expressed reservations but given that it had been submitted, it should be taken into account.

"Greece is not against this idea, because we believe that it can offer something while not causing any harm," he explained. He said the results of the session were satisfactory, and that an agreement had already been reached on the text of conclusions to be issued today.

The Greek minister specified that the ministers had agreed that ratification of the Treaty of Armsterdam, which established the new European identity in defence and the prospect of gradual progress towards merging WEU and the EU, should be promoted.

"WEU must be in continuous contact with NATO during this course, strengthening at the same time its own operational capabilities," he added.

He explained that the Greek WEU presidency had done its best, and to the degree that a measure of consensus existed, to promote this prospect.

Drachma firm against major currencies, reflecting confidence

The drachma rose against major foreign currencies in domestic markets yesterday, reflecting confidence in the economy by institutional investors abroad.

The phenomenon, which has lasted for weeks, signals the fact that investors see healthy prospects for the country's entry into the European Union's economic and monetary union, the analysts said.

At yesterday's central bank daily fix, the drachma was at 308.85 to the US dollar; 342.72 to the Ecu; and 174.04 to the mark.

When the drachma's parity was adjusted to enable entry into the EU's exchange rate mechanism on March 14, the national currency was at 327 to the dollar and 357 to the Ecu.

The drachma has since appreciated by 5.6 percent to the dollar, and 4.0 percent to the Ecu.

The government has said it hopes to join EMU by January 1, 2001, and take part in the launch of the euro, the EU's single currency, in physical form a year later.

Trade delegation to visit Uzbekistan in June

The Hellenic Foreign Trade Board (OPE) is arranging a visit by a Greek trade delegation to Uzbekistan at the end of June led by its president, Yiannis Tzen.

Working with OPE in organising the trip is Uzbekistan's general consulate in Athens, overseen by the country's prime minister, OPE said in a statement yesterday.

Taking part in the trade mission are Greek companies in foodstuffs, telecoms, construction, pharmaceuticals, packaging and oil. The deadline for applications to take part in the delegation is May 20. Uzbekistan has said that key areas for bilateral cooperation are joint ventures,the transfer of knowhow, and investments in sectors represented by the firms already booked to take part in the mission.

Avramopoulos makes it official, he'll run for Athens mayor again

Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos yesterday announced his long-awaited re- election bid for the Athens mayor's post in the upcoming October municipal elections.

"For four full years I served at this post with stability and reliability, having you (Athens' citizens) as the only source of courage and Athens' best interests as my guide," Mr. Avramopoulos, a former career diplomat, said in his widely televised address.

Presenting an account of his tenure in office so far, the mayor placed emphasis on the fact that his work was "far from partisan or racked with personal expediences", assuring that he will continue along the same lines "as mayor of all Athenians."

Mr. Avramopoulos added that he found it untimely to now engage in pre- election discussions, while he also called on other mayoral hopefuls to prove their intent to honour the city by avoiding an early start of election campaigning, which he said will burden city streets with additional pollution, such as leaflets, posters, noise, etc.

He also reiterated his earlier call to other hopefuls not to engage in out- dated campaign methods, but to instead hold a "civilised and mutually respectable campaign."

"In this way, we will contribute to a political strengthening of democracy, an upgrading of quality as well as protecting the city we serve," he concluded.

The mayor's statement was been seen by many political analysts as an intent to outlast the four-year term in the mayoral position if re-elected, indirectly answering rivals' charges that Mr. Avramopoulos has short-term political ambitions in other arenas.

Left-wing parties from Greece,Cyprus and Turkey condemn status quo

Six left-wing parties from Greece, Cyprus and Turkey condemned the present status quo on the island republic, stressing that the current situation is not and cannot be a solution to the protracted Cyprus problem.

"The continuation of the impasse in the Cyprus problem, the absence of communication between the two communities and the lack of dialogue and progress in intercommunal talks contribute to the consolidation of the (present) status quo, which is not and cannot be a solution to the Cyprus problem," the parties said in a common statement, issued after a meeting in Istanbul on May 8-9.

Delegates from Cyprus' left-wing AKEL party, the Turkish Cypriot Republican Party and "New Cyprus", Greece's Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) party, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Turkish Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP) parties participated in the meeting.

Archbishop Christodoulos chairs first Synod, 'time for work'

New Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece yesterday chaired his first meeting of the Holy Synod, the 12-member ruling body of the Orthodox Church of Greece.

Opening the meeting, Christodoulos said there may have been disagreements and differences of opinion prior to the election, following the death of Archbishop Serapheim, "but now these are in the past and we shall go forward united".

"The talk is over, it is now time for work," the archbishop said.

One of the issues discussed at yesterday's meeting was the frequency with which the 12-member body meets. According to the charter, it should convene eight times a month, which has not been the case.

It was decided that the body would from now on meet every first and third week of the month.

The plenary of 77 metropolitans will continue to meet every October 1, but in cases of matters of particular urgency or importance, it was decided that it should meet extraordinarily.

The prelates also decided to propose to the Ecumenical Patriarch that Christodoulos visit Phanari from June 12 to 15.

Christodoulos, who was enthroned on Saturday, will meet with Prime Minister Costas Simitis today for talks on relations between the Church and the state.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the two men would exchange views on the relationship between the Church and state.

"The government hopes that there will be understanding and harmonious cooperation with the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church," Mr. Reppas said.

Civil Aviation Authority defends Greek airspace, airport safety

Civil Aviation Authority Director Dionysis Kalofonos yesterday stressed that Greece's airspace and international airports are ranked among the safest in the world.

He was speaking in the wake of reports appearing in several foreign publications containing pilots' allegations that airspace entry and exit problems exist in Greece.

Mr. Kalofonos attributed the reports to various circles attempting to attack Greek tourism, adding that over the past two years, and at the same time of the year, such rumours are disseminated.

He added that groups of pilots will soon be invited by the agency from abroad for a display of the approach and departure system already in operation.

In an unrelated development, Olympic Airways announced yesterday that it is closely following instructions by airline manufacturers for the maintenance of aircraft and monitors all planes consistently with its technical support unit.

The latest announcement by Boeing, according to OA administration, concerns aircraft having exceeded 50,000 flight hours.

Olympic's aircraft, including 18 Boeing 737s, have only 35,000 flight hours. For this reason, it was added, Boeing's directive does not concern OA.

Greek firm snares prize at International Plovdiv Fair

Greece's Danko Company won one of the Plovdiv International Fair's prizes for quality of kitchen appliances and food products on Friday.

Germany's Braun and Poland's Veris were also among the prize winners.

Germany had the biggest number of participants with 67. Next came Italy with 62 and Greece with 41 entrants. Central, Eastern European, US and Argentine companies were also among the participants.

Protest cites abuse of Orthodox priest by Albanian police

A strongly worded protest has been addressed by the Holy Metropolis of Gjirokaster and by Orthodox faithful in Premeti to Albanian President Rexhep Mejdani, Prime Minister Fatos Nano and Culture Minister Edi Rama over the unacceptable behaviour shown by several local policemen towards a priest at the Koimiseos Theotokou Church.

Last Saturday, and while a work group from the technical service of the Orthodox Autocephalus Chur-ch of Albania had started work to fence-off the Cathedral's land, a truck of masked and armed police officers began to drag Father Vassilios Themolaris from his beard towards the police office, an announcement by the Holy Metropolis of Gjirokaster stated.

Police authorities did not explain the reasons for this act. They continued verbally abusing the priest at police headquarters.

"The Orthodox faithful in the region also state that they have been reviled for some time by elements with atheist sentiments," it was added.

WEATHER

Overcast weather is forecast throughout the country today with the possibility of rain in mainland Greece in the afternoon. Winds northerly, moderate, turning strong in the Aegean Sea. Possibility of rain in Athens with temperatures between 14-24C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 13-22C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 306.379 British pound 501.416 Japanese yen(100) 231.057 French franc 51.463 German mark 172.648 Italian lira (100) 17.501 Irish Punt 434.893 Belgian franc 8.367 Finnish mark 56.810 Dutch guilder 153.195 Danish kr. 45.315 Austrian sch. 24.534 Spanish peseta 2.032 Swedish kr. 40.238 Norwegian kr. 41.247 Swiss franc 206.594 Port. Escudo 1.685 Aus. dollar 194.273 Can. dollar 213.062 Cyprus pound 586.113

(L.G.)


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