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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-05-26

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, 26/05/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Spanish royals begin official visit
  • Three-nation exhibition of El Greco next year
  • Annual Greek-US defence cooperation sessions to begin
  • Kinkel: Turkey not ready to join EU
  • Sarbanes calls on Ankara to respect human rights
  • PASOK's Konstantinides announces candidacy for Thessaloniki mayor
  • Registration for municipal, Euro Parliament elections by end May
  • Aegean ministry protests magazine article on islets
  • Angelopoulos makes up for past Cannes' delusion
  • Greek stocks jump on tough gov't stand in Ionian Bank tussle
  • National Bank of Greece gets OK for Dr 26.2 bln share cap rise
  • Bulgaria to invest 85 million marks to complete gas pipeline
  • Rates slip in fixed-income T-bill auction
  • Xiosbank launches new Goldman Sachs mutual funds
  • Athens-based Space Imaging Europe launches operations
  • Intracom to hold AGM on June 16
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Spanish royals begin official visit

Greece greeted Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia, a former Greek princess, with due pomp and ceremony yesterday, when they arrived in Athens to begin a five-day official visit.

The airplane carrying the Spanish royal couple touched down at Athens airport shortly after 3 p.m. President Kostis Stephanopoulos officially welcomed the royal couple outside the Presidential Mansion.

The couple received the full honours accorded to heads of state. Prime Minister Costas Simitis, his wife Daphne, main opposition leader Costas Karamanlis, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos and Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis were among the dignitaries present at the official reception for the couple at the presidential mansion.

The royal couple's visit returns then president Constantine Karamanlis' official visit to Spain in 1984.

It is the first time that Sophia has come to Greece since 1981 when she made a brief visit to attend the funeral of her mother.

The monarchy in Greece was firmly abolished by a referendum in 1974, following the restoration of democracy following the fall of a seven-year military dictatorship.

The Spanish royal couple later in the afternoon attended a te deum service at the graves of Sophia's mother and father in the Tatoi reserve north of Athens.

Three-nation exhibition of El Greco next year

An international exhibition entitled "El Greco - Identity and Transformation" - jointly organised by Greece, Spain and Italy - will open in Madrid next year before travelling to Rome and Athens.

The exhibition traces the Cretan-born painter's career, starting from his early years on the Venetian-held island, to Venice and finally to 17th century Spain.

On display will be a total of 72 El Greco works from the three organising countries, as well as from private collections and museums.

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday announced the exhibition in the presence of Spanish Undersecretary Miguel Anjel, who is accompanying the Spanish royal couple in Greece.

Annual Greek-US defence cooperation sessions to begin

Annual high-level Greek-US talks will begin in Williamsburg, Virginia tomorrow under the chairmanship of the two countries' defence undersecretaries, Dimitris Apostolakis and Jan Londal, and within the framework of the bilateral Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement (MDCA-90).

The talks will focus on the entire spectrum of issues concerning the security situation in the Balkans and the southeastern Mediterranean.

Athens will present its positions on security issues in the area, which are based on the principle of respect for existing international treaties and agreements, as well as the status quo.

Sectors of cooperation will also be sought in the framework of the Greek military's armaments programme and the funding of specific programmes will be discussed.

The joint committee's work will last until May 29.

Kinkel: Turkey not ready to join EU

German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel stated in Berlin yesterday that Turkey will not be able to join the European Union in the foreseeable future.

During the symposium, entitled "Islam and Europe", Mr. Kinkel said "it is not cultural issues that are of decisive importance," it is rather human rights, the Kurdish problem, internal economic problems and relations with Greece.

However, he stressed that Bonn aimed at strengthen its political, economic and defence relations with Turkey.

Sarbanes calls on Ankara to respect human rights

Visiting US Sen. Paul Sarbanes yesterday called on Turkish authorities to respect human rights and to take recourse to international organisations regarding their differences with other countries.

Mr. Sarbanes, during his address at the 50th anniversary of the Fulbright Foundation's establishment, also praised the initiative of US presidential envoy Richard Holbrooke for his efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem.

PASOK's Konstantinidis announces candidacy for Thessaloniki mayor

Former PASOK deputy Lefteris Konstantinidis yesterday announced his candidacy for Thessaloniki mayor, inspite of backing by the ruling party for current Kalamaria Mayor Thrasivoulos Lazaridis.

Mr. Konstantinidis repeated accusations that the party's charter was not honoured during a mayoral candidate selection process by PASOK, stressing that he will be present at an upcoming central committee meeting.

Mr. Konstantinidis said he will withdraw his candidacy if Mr. Lazaridis does the same, with the party's charter used to elect a new candidate.

Registration for municipal, Euro Parliament elections by end May

European Union citizens resident in Greece for at least the past two years may submit applications to register to vote in municipal elections in October as well as for European Parliament elections due in June 1999, according to a statement from the inter ior ministry yesterday.

Those interested in registering must approach their prefectural administration in their place of residence to submit application forms. They must have with them proof of identification, and two recent photographs. Applications end on May 29.

The ministry statement said that EU citizens registered for 1994 European Parliament elections must also renew their applications by May 29.

Aegean ministry protests magazine article on islets

The Aegean ministry yesterday released a letter in answer to a recent magazine article focusing on EU-funded environmental programmes on several eastern Aegean islets vis-a-vis Turkey's dispute of the islets' Greek sovereignty.

The response, signed by Aegean Minister Elizabeth Papazoi, and addressed to the managing editor of "Time" magazine, states that "the article totally ignored the facts supplied in a very detailed manner to the writers." The Time article claimed that Greece requested EU funding so as to show activity on the islets and thus better secure them against Turkish claims.

The letter also states that historical truth is altered in the article to erroneously depict the two-year-old Turkish claims on various Aegean islets as dating further back. The letter also clarifies that treaties delineating sea borders between Greece and Turkey date back to 1923, while Turkish claims over Greek islets are very recent and unjust.

Angelopoulos makes up for past Cannes' delusion

By winning the Cannes Film Festival's Golden Palm on Sunday for his film "Eternity and a Day", director Theo Angelopoulos took revenge for being passed over for the top prize in 1995.

"I'm really very touched. Prizes are wonderful, they flatter. But the greatest prize was at the screening last night," said the balding, diminutive director who won a standing ovation for his poetic tale of a dying man's final days when it was shown on Saturday.

His previous work, "Ulysses' Gaze", had been a favourite for the Palm - the best film award - in 1995, but the jury instead chose Yugoslav director Emir Kusturica's highly acclaimed "Underground", giving Mr. Angelopoulos the runner-up prize.

With little dialogue and melancholy scenes of icy landscape, "Eternity and a Day" deals with the familiar but enigmatic themes of his previous films: exile, frontiers, the sea and fog.

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos sent a telegram yesterday morning congratulating Mr. Angelopoulos on his award.

Greek stocks jump on tough gov't stand in Ionian Bank tussle

Greek equities surged to an all-time high yesterday on relief at a weekend show of strength by the government over the privatisation of Ionian Bank, despite fierce union opposition, analysts said.

The general index ended 2.43 percent higher at 2,669.76 points. The previous record high on the Athens bourse was 2,634.54 points on May 5.

Turnover jumped to 184.8 billion drachmas, fuelled by 117 billion drachmas from the transfer of 2.5 million shares in National Bank of Greece to domestic and foreign institutional investors.

The stock was originally sold through book building. On Sunday, riot police raided Ionian Bank's computer centre, ending an occupation by strikers that had paralysed on-line and ATM operations for around ten days.

The government has repeatedly said it will sell a majority stake in Ionian despite an indefinite strike being staged by Ionian's workers and solidarity strikes by other unions.

The unions want the government to merge Ionian with Commercial Bank of Greece, its parent. Both banks are listed.

Beyond euphoria over the government's tough line in privatising Ionian Bank and the stand it has taken against unions, the market is also discounting the sale of Bank of Central Greece and Cretabank.

In addition, it expects May's consumer price inflation to keep within government targets following a temporary rise stemming from a 13.8 percent devaluation of the drachma on March 14 in order to aid entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechan ism.

Sector indices were mostly higher. Banks rose 2.43 percent, Insurance ended 3.43 percent up, Investment increased 4.22 percent, Leasing up 0.40 percent, Industrials increased 2.89 percent, Construction soared 5.68 percent and Holding rose 3.82 percent.

Miscellaneous bucked the trend, dropping 2.0 percent. Advancers outpaced laggards at 212 to 46 of 267 shares traded.

The Athens general share index has gained 80.43 percent since the beginning of the year.

According to the World Bank, the Greek bourse ranked top in returns between January 1 and March 20 this year, showing dollar returns of 59.5 percent. It was followed by the Portuguese stock exchange with returns of 47.6 percent. hindered.

National Bank of Greece gets OK for Dr 26.2 bln share cap rise

State-owned National Bank of Greece,the country's largest commercial bank, yesterday gained the approval of shareholders for a share capital rise of 26.2 billion drachmas from a capitalisation of reserves.

The rise will be effected through the issue and distribution of two free common registered shares for ten existing ones.

Around 4.5 million new shares will be issued at a nominal price of 5,800 drachmas each.

The holders of the new stock will be listed National Bank's existing shareholders, and trade begins today. After the rise, the bank's share capital will total 157,165 million drachmas, divided into 27,097,558 registered shares at 5,800 drachmas each.

Bulgaria to invest 85 million marks to complete gas pipeline

Bulgaria's state owned Bulgargaz is to invest the equivalent of around 85 million German marks to complete construction of a pipeline that will carry Russian natural gas to Greece.

The move was sanctioned by the Bulgarian cabinet.

Still awaiting construction is a 110-kilometre section of the pipeline in the Bulgarian provinces.

The company's investment programme also allows for completion of a 10- kilometre gap in a pipeline for Russian gas to Turkey.

At the end of April, Sofia and Russia's Gazprom signed agreements on the transit pipeline under the terms of which Bulgaria was to complete the gas transport network to third countries.

Rates slip in fixed-income T-bill auction

Interest rates slipped in a tender for 60 billion drachmas of three-year fixed-income bonds carried out through primary dealers, the finance ministry said yesterday.

The average weighted rate was 9.65 percent, slightly down on the annual coupon at 9.7 percent.

It was also lower against the rate that emerged from the ministry's last auction of three-year fixed income bonds, held in October last year, which was 10 percent.

The spread in rates in yesterday's auction was 0.104 of a percentage point.

Bids outpaced total bonds on offer with banks offering 238 billion drachmas.

The ministry accepted bids for 63 billion drachmas worth of bonds, slightly above the original target.

Primary dealers received no extra commission.

Xiosbank launches new Goldman Sachs mutual funds

Private Xiosbank yesterday launched two new mutual funds on the Greek market, belonging to Goldman Sachs of the US.

The two funds, called Communacopia Portfolio and US Equity Portfolio, are being handled by listed Xiosbank, which has a permanent arrangement with Goldman Sachs.

So far, Xiosbank has offered the following mutual funds for the US firm on the domestic market: Global Equity Portfolio, European Small Cap Portfolio, Japan Portfolio, Asia Portfolio and World Bond Portfolio.

Since October, when the two firms inaugurated cooperation, Xiosbank's customers have invested 11 billion drachmas in Goldman Sachs mutual funds.

Athens-based Space Imaging Europe launches operations

Athens-based Space Imaging Europe SA yesterday announced its creation and strategic business relationship with Space Imaging Incorporated of Colorado in the US.

Under an exclusivity deal, Space Imaging Europe (SIE) will market remote sensing information collected from a satellite receiving station based in Greece.

The exclusive rights of SIE extend over an area of more than 16 million square kilometres, covering more than 50 countries.

SIE is a privately owned firm of Greek-led financiers who aim to supply European and international markets with remote sensing and geographical information based on high resolution data that Space Imaging Incorporated's Ikonos satellites will generate.

SIE, which was incorporated a few months ago, has progressed rapidly in drafting its organisational structure, strategic marketing plan, early market penetration strategies and distribution network development policies.

Recruitment has already begun and staff will total 80 employees by the end of the year.

Intracom to hold AGM on June 16

Intracom, a telecoms and information technology manufacturer listed on the Athens bourse, has called its annual general shareholders' meeting for June 16. Management is to propose the issue of three new bonus shares for 10 old taken from a capitalisation of reserves.

It will also propose a shareholders' dividend of 40 drachmas per share from 1997 profits. The firm is active in the Balkans and has contracts with NATO. It also is the main supplier of listed, state-owned Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation.

WEATHER

Unstable weather is forecast throughout Greece today. Winds variable, moderate to strong. Rainfall and local storms with spells of sunshine in the Ioanian and northeastern Aegean regions. Possibility of rain in Athens with temperatures between 15-25C. Rain in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 15-20C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying)

U.S. dollar 298.423 British pound 486.477 Japanese yen(100) 217.694 French franc 50.521 German mark 169.384 Italian lira (100) 17.175 Irish Punt 426.362 Belgian franc 8.207 Finnish mark 55.711 Dutch guilder 150.228 Danish kr. 44.455 Austrian sch. 24.071 Spanish peseta 1.992 Swedish kr. 38.720 Norwegian kr. 40.116 Swiss franc 203.102 Port. Escudo 1.653 Aus. dollar 186.987 Can. dollar 205.979 Cyprus pound 573.773

(C.E.)


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