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

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, 07/07/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece, Russia call for dialogue to reduce Cyprus military buildup
  • Gov't plan to merge three insurance funds
  • Simitis in Lisbon for 'Greek Day' at World Expo '98
  • Athens' support for NATO efforts to decrease Aegean tension
  • Chess master Kasparov announces internet site at Athens conference
  • Gov't denies inefficiency during weekend forest fire frenzy
  • Coastguard gets powerful new boats, cars
  • Greece tenders 10-year fixed-rate bonds at average 7.85 pct
  • Greek stocks rise spurred by banks
  • Foreign investors snap up Greek Ecu bonds
  • Xiosbank to seek ISO quality assurance
  • Container trade in port of Piraeus jumps 51 pct in first half
  • Government claims opposition overhired in power corporation
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece, Russia call for dialogue to reduce Cyprus military buildup

Greece and Russia yesterday agreed to undertake initiatives for the promotion of a military dialogue on Cyprus with a view to the island's ultimate demilitarisation, a foreign ministry statement read after successive meetings in Athens between Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis with Russian envoy for Cyprus Vladimir Tchizhov.

Messrs Kranidiotis and Tchizhov examined the prospects opening up after the adoption by the UN Security Council on June 29 of Resolutions 1178 and 1179, regarding the renewal of the mandate for UN forces on the island republic, as well as the continuati on for provision of the Secretary General's good offices towards a solution of the political problem, the statement said.

"The two sides agreed that the two texts provide a good basis for the assumption of initiatives to promote a military dialogue and a reduction of the presence of military forces on the island, aiming at its ultimate demilitarisation," it added.

Mr.Tchizhov reiterated his country's positions for the need to strengthen contacts between the two communities at the citizens' level, something that could contribute to a de-escalation of tension.

Gov't plan to merge three insurance funds

Labour and Social Insurances Minister Miltiades Papaioannou yesterday presented social partners with a plan on the merger of self-employed workers' insurance funds, namely, TEBE, the Merchants' Fund (TAE) and the Motorists' Fund (TSA).

People insured with TEBE, TAE, TSA and possibly hoteliers will join the Insurance Organisation of the Self-Employed (OAEE), scheduled to be created.

This plan, after a new round of talks,together with the remaining issues in the so-called "small insurance package", will be brought before the Cabinet at the end of July and Parliament in August.

The merger of funds for the self-employed concerns 850,000 insured individuals and 220,000 pensioners.

Mr. Papaioannou said that the minimum pensions of the new body will be shaped at TEBE level. This option leads to pension increases for TSA, which are very low at present, while the minister said there will be no freeze in TAE pension increases over the next few years, which are higher than those of TEBE at present. Pensions are expected to be lumped into the same fund gradually over the next four years, considered a transitional period for the full implementation of OAEE.

Simitis in Lisbon for `Greek Day` at World Expo '98

Prime Minister Costas Simitis arrived in Lisbon yesterday afternoon to attend events organised by "EXPO '98" in Greece's honour and during events entitled "Oceans and Seas."

Mr. Simitis is accompanied by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Aegean Minister Elizabeth Papazoi, Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis and National Economy Undersecretary Alekos Baltas.

Immediately after arriving in Lisbon, Mr. Simitis held talks with Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, focusing on European issues, "Agenda 2000", European unification and enlargement.

Issues such as the Cyprus issue and Greek-Turkish relations were also discussed. Neither side made statements afterwards, while Mr. Simitis is due to meet his Portuguese counterpart today.

Today is "Greek Day" at "EXPO '98", with two events scheduled, namely, a concert by the Orchestra of Colours under the theme "Songs of the Sea" and dance performances by the Greek Women's Lyceum.

In a message to organisers of "EXPO '98", Mr. Simitis stressed that Greece's participation at the World Expo in Lisbon constitutes a considerable opportunity to promo-te its modern relations with the sea, its upgraded international pre-sence and its economic strengthening.

"Greece and Portugal, countries which are both located on the fringes of Europe, the first open to the Mediterranean and the second to the Atlantic, always had excellent relations based on common traditions and values. Of course, it is not by chance that both countries are partners and allies in the European Union and NATO," it added.

Athens' support for NATO efforts to decrease Aegean tension

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday expressed Athens' strong support for NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana's efforts to promote measures decreasing tension between Greece and Turkey.

He also reiterated Greece's support for the immediate implementation of confidence-building measures (CBMs) between the two countries, as anticipated by the 1988 Papoulias-Yilmaz communique.

The Greek defence minister is on an official tour of the United States, which includes a scheduled meeting with his US counterpart, William Cohen, in Washington.

Speaking at an event organised in his honour by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations and focusing on the issue of "Security Policy in the Balkans and Mediterranean", Mr. Tsohatzopoulos stressed that Turkey's revisionist policy has disputed international treaties governing the status quo of borders in the region, adding that Ankara has made overt territorial claims over more than 100 Greek islands and islets in the Aegean.

He further spoke of the threat of the use of force and the effort at "coercive diplomacy", underlining as an example the recent attempted recognition of a US Air Force C-130 transport plane by Turkish fighters while the former was carrying out a normal flight within the limits of the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR).

The Greek minister invoked a recent statement by special US presidential envoy to Cyprus and Washington's ambassador-designate to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, who stated that Turkey is exclusively responsible for the lack of progress in the US effort to resolve the Cyprus issue. Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said this lack of progress leaves no other margin but to strengthen the defence capacity of the Republic of Cyprus, since the feeling of security is just as much a right for Greek Cypriots as it is for Americans and Europeans.

He also outlined the framework for the creation of a new security structure and the need for NATO to develop into a security organisation "with a Euro- Atlantic range", as well the "strategic partners", such as Russia and Ukraine.

Chess master Kasparov announces internet site at Athens conference

World famous chess master Garry Kasparov yesterday here yesterday that he will create an internet site for chess lovers around the world.

The launch date will be some time in October and the address will be www.clubkasparov.org aiming to draw all those who love chess and want to play the game on the internet.

Mr. Kasprov, also announced during a press conference that "there is no other game that can be played real-time on the internet." He added that "the club will be open to all and aim to satisfy the curiosity of all people in chess," so he will provide an swers and instructions to all who ask. It should be noted that the chess master lost to IBM's "Deep Blue" computer last year and has since asked for a rematch, in efforts to prove that a machine cannot defeat man, at least in chess.

Gov't denies inefficiency during weekend forest fire frenzy

The government yesterday dismissed claims that the state had failed to effectively battle almost 180 forest fires over the weekend, saying it had done its best in the face of the large number of fires and adverse weather conditions.

A 67-year-old woman and an 80-year-old man lost their lives in the fires which destroyed 40 residences, while thousands of acres of forest and farmland were reduced to ashes. Five thousand firefighters, 1,200 troops and 52 planes and helicopters fought the fires across the country.

The unusually hot weather, combined with the strong winds around the country during the weekend contributed to the destruction. At one stage, the fires reached several of Athens' outlying residential areas, including the municipality of Perama, a working class suburb of Piraeus.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that it was impossible to lay the blame on the state apparatus for the fires until an investigation was completed but indicated that some of the fires may have been the work of arsonists.

Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas said opposition party reactions attributing responsibility to the government for lack of coordination, mistakes and serious ommissions in dealing with the fires, were politically and economically mot ivated.

He said that even before the transfer of responsibilities to the fire brigade, forestry service staff did not participate in putting fires out, assuming only supervisory duties.

Coastguard gets powerful new boats, car

The Greek Coast Guard yesterday took delivery of three new state-of-the-art CB90 HCG patrol boats worth a total of 828 million drachmas.

The 16.1-meter-long boats can reach speeds of over 46 knots. They are equipped with special shore landing systems which allow them to approach and disembark personnel on sandy beaches.

Also delivered yesterday, at a ceremony attended by Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis and the secretary-general of the Greek Naval Staff Athanasios Tsouroplis, were 32 jeeps - 23 Nissan Terrano II and nine Pajeros.

Greece tenders 10-year fixed-rate bonds at average 7.85 pct

The finance ministry yesterday tendered 10-year fixed-income bonds totalling 200 billion drachmas.

Bankers said that the average weighed rate fell to 7.85 percent from the 8.6 percent coupon.

Commercial banks taking part in the tender offered bids totalling 698.4 billion drachmas, more than 3.5 times the government's target.

The latest tender was the first under new rules in which the state offers securities without paying commercial banks a premium.

Greek stocks rise spurred by banks

Greek equities ended higher in the first trading session of the week yesterday led by strong buying interest in banks.

Also fuelling sentiment was a sharp rise in the share price of state-owned Hellenic Petroleum, which recently joined the bourse.

The stock ended at the eight percent upper daily volatility limit on 7.9 million shares traded, finishing at 3,024 drachmas.

The general index ended 0.99 percent higher at 2,531.84 points with most sector indices scoring gains.

Banks rose 2.16 percent, Insurance ended 0.58 percent up, Investment increased 1.23 percent, Leasing jumped 8.0 percent, Construction rose 0.07 percent, Miscellaneous ended 1.16 percent higher but Industrials and Holding bucked the trend, falling 0.99 p ercent and 0.29 percent respectively.

The parallel market index for small cap companies rose 0.65 percent. The FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 1.31 percent higher at 1,529.61.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 147 to 101 with another 13 issues unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 44,105 drachmas, Ergobank at 28,700, Alpha Credit Bank at 26,200, Ionian Bank at 16,500, Delta Dairy at 3,975, Titan Cement at 21,550, Intracom at 12,105, Hellenic Petroleum at 3,024 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 8,900 drachmas.

Foreign investors snap up Greek Ecu bonds

Foreign investors are snapping up Greek Ecu-denominated bonds, Belgium's Echos financial newspaper said yesterday.

Existing demand firmed after European Central Bank governor Wim Duisenberg recently made favourable comments on the Greek economy, the newspaper said. Mr. Duisenberg said that Greece's participation in European economic and monetary union (EMU) by 2001 was a feasible target.

He also welcomed declining inflation despite a 13.8 per cent devaluation of the drachma on March 14 to ease entry into the EU's exchange rate mechanism, itself a stepping stone to EMU entry.

A report by Fimagen, a subsidiary of Belgium's biggest bank, Generale de Banque, recommends investments in Greek bonds of up to three years.

Xiosbank to seek ISO quality assurance

Xiosbank is the first domestic bank to seek quality assurance certification under ISO 9002 for its consumer loan operations.

Xiosbank opted to launch quality assurance with consumer loans because of its strength in the sector, the bank said in a statement yesterday.

The bank's consumer loan portfolio totals 541,432 contracts worth 105.4 billion drachmas.

Xiosbank is private, and listed on the Athens Stock Exchange.

Container trade in port of Piraeus jumps 51 pct in first half

Movement through the port of Piraeus' container terminal soared 51 percent in the first half of 1998 against the same period of last year.

Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) said in a statement that the bulk of the rise was due to a contract it signed with MSC and Norasia.

Both firms were moving many more containers than the number agreed under the terms of the deal, the statement said.

According to OLP's estimates, container movement in 1998 is seen at 850,000- 950,000 teu against 680,000 in 1997.

Government claims opposition overhired in power corporation

The government yesterday claimed that a former New Democracy (ND) government had in the past recruited 11 thousand employees to work in the Public Power Corporation (DEI), needlessly swelling the workforce. Both ND and PASOK governments have repeatedly accused each other of making unnecessary appointments in state enterprises and ministries in order to help secure votes or return favours. Senior posts have traditionally been political appointments.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters that the New Democracy government in power in 1990-1993 had hired a total of 11,281 staff for DEI.

Of the total, 8,390 were hired between January 1, 1993 and October 31, 1993, and another 2,891 between July 1991 and December 1992.

But succeeding PASOK governments had only recruited 2,346 people in a period spanning January 1, 1994 to April 1998, Mr. Reppas said.

DEI's workforce grew from 21,635 employees in December 1974 to 27,566 in December 1981 and 29,751 in December 1990, peaking at 36,670 in December 1993.

Mr. Reppas said the total workforce had since fallen slightly to stand at 33,930 in April 1998.

WEATHER

Sunny weather is forecast throughout Greece today with scattered cloud appearing in the northwest. Winds variable, light to moderate, turning strong in the southeastern Aegean Sea. Athens sunny with temperatures between 22-34C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 20-31C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 300.001 British pound 493.044 Japanese yen (100) 213.310 French franc 49.483 German mark 165.813 Italian lira (100) 16.848 Irish Punt 417.632 Belgian franc 8.044 Finnish mark 54.570 Dutch guilder 147.173 Danish kr. 43.551 Austrian sch. 23.592 Spanish peseta 1.956 Swedish kr. 37.339 Norwegian kr. 39.085 Swiss franc 197.011 Port. Escudo 1.620 Aus. dollar 184.507 Can. dollar 204.054 Cyprus pound 564.627

(C.E.)


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