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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-07-06

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 06/07/1998 (ANA)


  • Devastating forest fires throughout Greece under control
  • Kaklamanis begins official visit to China
  • Greece proposes hosting high-level Israeli-Palestinian meeting
  • Four arrested for transporting illegal immigrants
  • Greek Defence minister arrives in New York
  • Simitis says Greece will soon be able to join EMU
  • Greek diplomat killed in car crash
  • Turkish patrol boat enters Greek waters
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange


Devastating forest fires throughout Greece under control

Firefighters and army personnel yesterday managed to place under control most of the fires that raged throughout the country since Saturday afternoon.

Out of more than 180 forest fires which broke out over the weekend, 161 are under control.

A 67-year-old woman and an 80-year-old man lost their lives in the fires. Forty houses were burnt and hundreds of forested acres of land were reduced to ashes.

The unusually hot weather, combined with the strong winds around the country during the weekend, contributed to the destruction, while the fires reached populated areas of the Athens metropolitan area, even in the Perama municipality, a Piraeus suburb.

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday said that the increased forest fires were due to the heatwave and the strong winds, while he noted that the state mechanism reacted immediately.

The prime minister, who was speaking in Lamia at the end of a two-day visit to the prefecture of Fthiotida, reminded local authorities and the public that they too were responsible for safety and fire prevention measures.

Interior Minister Alekos Papadopoulos did not rule out the possibility that some of the forest fires may be the result of arson.

An inter-ministerial meeting said that all those hit by the fires will be compensated, as in the cases of floods and earthquakes.

The ministers were also quoted as saying that a number of local authorities lacked firefighting equipment, and that garbage landfills had been found in wooded areas, posing a fire hazard.

Tens of homes and thousands of acres of pinewoods and farmland have been destroyed in the fires.

One point of view was that fires were being used to strip land of trees in the hope that reforestation will not be ordered, or carried out, allowing developers or landowners to embark on construction, banned while the land is wooded.

Taking part in the effort were 5,000 firefighters, 1,200 military personnel, and 52 planes and helicopters.

Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis, during his visit to a forest fire in Avlona, Attica, yesterday accused the government for lack of coordination.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) accused the government of arming the hands of arsonists, while it claims that the "crime" was premeditated.

The Coalition for the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) made mention of the state's unpreparedness and lack of coordination, while Political Spring (POLAN) leader Antonis Samaras characterised the premier's stance as provokingly unusual.

Kaklamanis begins official visit to China

Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis began an official visit to China yesterday for talks with the Chinese leadership on bilateral relations.

Mr. Kaklamanis' initial meeting was with his Chinese counterpart Li Peng, and he stressed Greece's will for the promotion of Greek-Chinese relations on a more permanent basis.

Mr. Kaklamanis informed Mr. Peng on recent developments over the Cyprus issue,Greek-Turkish relations and Turkish provocations against Greece.

Mr. Peng stated that "China's long-standing position on international relations issues, is that they must be resolved with peaceful means."

He added that "in this framework, a peaceful solution of the Cyprus problem must be sought in accordance with the rules of International Law, regarding the independence and territorial integrity of countries, which must be respected by all."

The two men expressed their satisfaction over the progress made in Greek- Chinese relations and stated the decision for the further promotion of cooperation between the two countries in all sectors.

Mr. Kaklamanis invited Mr. Peng to visit Greece. Earlier in the day Mr. Kaklamanis visited the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China.

Greece proposes hosting high-level Israeli-Palestinian meeting

Greece proposed yesterday to host a high- level meeting of Israeli and Palestinian officials - even a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat - in efforts for a breakthrough in the Middle East peace process.

The proposal was made by Greek Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis at the close of a four-day meeting of Palestinian and Israeli officials and personalities on the eastern Aegean island of Rhodes. The meeting, which had an informal character and was the third of its kind, was organised by the Greek foreign ministry.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr. Kranidiotis said that Greece, by organising such meetings, had not the ambition of imposing the resumption of the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, but to contribute to the creation of a climate of mut ual understanding and cooperation and to "reinforce the policy of pressions for the advance of the peace process".

The participants' decisions included the proposal for the creation of a 10- member consultant committee which would also observe decisions and the implementation of the agreements struck during relevant meetings.

This committee should include eight parliamentarians - four form each side - including a representative from the United Nations and Greece.

European Union Middle East envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos, who attended the meeting, said that there were high-level debates and decisions, adding that the EU, "contrary to what many people think in Israel, has not abadonded its efforts for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East."

A parallel international journalists' meeting on the Middle East, which also ended yesterday, adopted a resolution requesting UNESCO to contribute towards the creation of an "Israeli-Palestinian Press Home," open to all professional journalists without discrimination. This Home, the resolution added, should be created in a region accessible to both sides.

Four arrested for transporting illegal immigrants

Police on Saturday arrested four Greeks in the north of the country for allegedly picking up tens of illegal immigrants near the Turkish border in order to transport them to Athens for a fee.

The immigrants - 23 Pakistanis, 22 Bangladeshis and one Indian - were riding in a truck near the town of Alexandroupolis when a police squad specialising in illegal border entries stopped the vehicle and arrested its driver, Harilaos Agapidis, 24, an office worker from Thessaloniki.

After a car chase, they arrested Agapidis' three alleged accomplices in two automobiles whose job was to alert Agapidis of any police surveillance on the road.

The immigrants told police in Alexandroupolis during questioning that they had paid a man in Turkey called Ali 92,000 dollars to cross the border into Greece.

Greek Defence minister arrives in New York

National Defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos arrived in New York yesterday from St. Louis, Missouri.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, who is on an official visit to the Unites States, will travel this afternoon to Washington for two days of talks with his U.S. counterpart William Cohen and other government officials.

This morning, he will attend a Greek-American Business Council meeting and will also address a Council of International Affairs conference on "Security Policy in the Balkans, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea".

Simitis says Greece will soon be able to join EMU

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Saturday that Greece would soon be able to join the European Union's economic and monetary union, rebuffing critics who claim the economy is still lagging.

"We're on the right path, and very near to European unification. Maybe some think I am exaggerating but this is not so as we are proceeding more rapidly, at a faster pace," Mr. Simitis said in a speech in Lamia.

The government aims to take Greece into economic and monetary union by January 1, 2001.

The drachma joined the EU's exchange rate mechanism on March 14 to help pave the way for EMU entry.

Charging the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party, Mr. Simitis accused it of "lack of proposals in Parliament".

He also underlined the "need for Greece to remain within the single European agricultural policy".

Referring to economic growth, the premier said that it demanded "new attitudes, new relations, actions".

"I want to be the prime minister of fair taxation, a taxation in the service of social justice. Growth without social justice is out of the government's logic," Mr. Simitis said.

Greek diplomat killed in car crash

A Greek diplomat was killed in a car crash yesterday on the Athens to Patras motorway.

The diplomat was George Dikeakos, 35, the secretary of the Greek embassy in Tirana, Albania.

Dikeakos was a passenger in a car driven by a friend, Ioannis Daias, 37, a resident of Tirana, who was seriously injured in the crash.

The vehicle collided with two other cars near Diakofto.

Turkish patrol boat enters Greek waters

A Turkish patrol boat briefly entered Greek territorial waters off the uninhabited Imia islets but left on sighting a Hellenic Navy vessel, sources said on Saturday.

In the incident, which occurred on Saturday morning, the Turkish boat was sailing from north to south. It changed course on sighting the Navy's "Panagopoulos" and sailed eastwards, leaving Greek waters, the sources said.

The Greek vessel did not need to intervene, they said.


Mostly sunny weather is forecast throughout Greece today with scattered cloud appearing in the north by evening. Winds northerly, moderate to strong. Athens, sunny with few clouds and temperatures between 22C-33C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 19C-30C.


Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 301.667 British pound 498.758 Japanese yen (100) 217.000 French franc 49.622 German mark 166.368 Italian lira (100) 16.886 Irish Punt 419.021 Belgian franc 8.067 Finnish mark 54.739 Dutch guilder 147.575 Danish kr. 43.670 Austrian sch. 23.641 Spanish peseta 1.961 Swedish kr. 37.506 Norwegian kr. 38.980 Swiss franc 197.482 Port. Escudo 1.629 Aus. dollar 187.096 Can. dollar 206.019 Cyprus pound 568.416


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