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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-08-17

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 17/08/1998 (ANA)


  • Assumption, Armed Forces Day celebrated
  • Defence Minister speaks on security issues
  • US State Dept. envoy for Cyprus issue in Ankara today
  • Mass escape from juvenile prison
  • Giant pet python pays unexpected visit on neighbour
  • Fourth World Congress of Thacians begins
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange


Assumption, Armed Forces Day celebrated

Celebrations over the weekend for the Assumption of the Virgin Mary as well as Armed Forces' Day were held at the Monastery of Panagia Soumela in northern Greece on Saturday in the presence of most of Greece's political leadership, headed by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.

Dignitaries attended a morning service officiated by the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, followed by a procession of the well- known holy icon of the Virgin Mary worshipped at the monastery, with the participation of thousands of pilgr ims from throughout the country and abroad.

The Byzantine-era icon had been worshipped for centuries by the vibrant ethnic Greek community of Pontos along the southeastern Black Sea coastal region, in what is now Turkey. It was rescued and brought to Greece in 1930 by refugees, before being place d in a monastery of the same name as the one in Pontos.

After the service, Mr. Stephanopoulos stressed the importance of the contribution of Pontian Hellenism to the nation as well as the armed forces' contribution for its defence.

"All Greeks want to demonstrate our respect and appreciation to the armed forces of the country and wish health, strength and high morale towards the enlisted (men and women) who defend the dignity, honour and integrity of the nation", Mr. Stephanopoulos said.

On his part, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, representing the premier, said that the armed forces "guarantee stability, security, integrity and the peaceful role of Greece in the region, so that Greeks can address the major problems of th e era.

"Greece is a force of security, peace and cooperation in the region. At the same time, through the strength of the armed forces, it guarantees support to the Cypriot Hellenism", he said.

Meanwhile, main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis said that Saturday was a day of multiple symbolisms, a day of national pride for the armed forces.

"It is a day of national remembrance, and we do not forget what Pontian Hellenism has been through and what it has contributed", he added.

Defence Minister speaks on security issues

"The Hellenic Armed Forces play a decisive role in the progress of the country, particularly in times of peace, since the majority of nations wish to see the numerous crises in the region solved peacefully," national defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said Saturday during a reception marking Armed Forces Day at the Agios Andreas officers' resort east of Athens.

He further accused Turkey of attempting to overturn the status quo, saying Ankara's claims of "feeling threatened" by the reinforcement of Cyprus' defence were ludicrous.

Commenting on a recent statement by outgoing Turkish military chief Gen. Ismail Hakki Karadayi that Greece was seeking political benefits from a brief confrontation with Turkey, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that it was "beyond all limits of seriousness".

The reception was attended by President Stephanopoulos, Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, political party leaders, Archbishop Christodoulos, foreign diplomats as well as the entire armed forces leadership, headed by National Defence General Sta ff Chief Gen. Athanasios Tzoganis.

The Greek defence minister added that the government has a stable policy and that Greece will not be drawn by Turkey's dead-end policy on the Cyprus issue and will continue to follow policies of cooperation and peace in the region.

Regarding the crisis in Kosovo, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos reiterated Athens' position for a peaceful solution to the problem and stressed that NATO should utilise its capabilities under the auspices of the UN Security Council to apply pressure to both sides a nd thus contribute to the solution of the crisis.

Finally, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos criticised Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for recent military operations in Kosovo, adding however, that it was a mistake on the part of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to take on the Serbian forces. He also stressed that there was no possibility of independence, only wide autonomy within the boundaries of Serbia.

US State Dept. envoy for Cyprus issue in Ankara today

Special US State Department coordinator for the Cyprus issue, Thomas Miller, will arrive in Ankara today.

Mr. Miller is expected to propose a set of ideas aimed at easing artificial tensions on the island republic in light of the upcoming deployment of Russian-built S-300 anti-aircraft missiles in Cyprus, according to reports.

After his contacts in Ankara, the US diplomat will visit Nicosia and Athens.

Mass escape from juvenile prison

Police have mounted a manhunt for 26 juvenile inmates who escaped on Saturday from an Avlona prison.

Forty-one prisoners, all Albanian nationals except one, scaled a low prison fence during exercise time and escaped without being noticed, according to reports.

The mass escape was discovered a few minutes later, with police and riot squads rushing to Avlona, about 40 kilometres north of Athens.

Fifteen of the escapees were recaptured. Two of them were arrested in the nothern suburb of Kifissia after a brief shoot-out, in which one of the inmates was injured. Earlier, the two had stolen a van.

The Avlona facility houses 250 juvenile inmates.

The chief of police has ordered a judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the jailbreak.

Police and justice ministry officials believe the breakout had been well- planned and carried out with outside help.

Meanwhile, Avlona residents told police they had seen a large number of vehicles headed in the direction of the prison shortly before the breakout, while three locals also had reported that their cars had been stolen.

The juvenile prisoners were being incarcerated for mainly drug peddling and theft sentences, while one was serving time for manslaughter.

Giant pet python pays unexpected visit on neighbour

A 38-year-old Athens man woke up on Saturday only to find a 3.5-metre python slithering on his kitchen.

Antonis Antoniou, a merchant seaman, discovered the more than 10-kilogram pet snake in the kitchen of his ground floor residence. It had apparently climbed down through a ventilator shaft from the apartment above, whose occupiers were on a short absence.

Authorities later employed the services of a snake trainer to end its short spell of freedom.

Fourth World Congress of Thacians begins

The Fourth World Congress of Thacians opened in Nea Orestiada, Evros prefecture, on Saturday, bringing together Thrace natives from around the world.

Addressing delegates in yesterday's session, Macedonia-Thrace Minister Philippos Petsalnikos underlined the region's advantage as a crossroads.

He stressed that Thrace and the wider region of northern Greece are now the starting point of access, communication and cooperation with the peoples of the Balkans, eastern Europe, the Black Sea and southeastern Mediterranean.

Among business speakers, the president of the Mechaniki construction firm, Prodromos Emfietzoglou, pointed to Thrace's ability to connect east and west, north and south.

"After many years of isolation and marginalisation, Thrace is now, a few years before the new century, taking up its previous role," he said, adding that a large number of projects were either underway or being designed, including interstate road networ ks as well as power, natural gas and telecommunications networks.

Democritos University Vice-Rector Philippos Tsalidis touched on the new role that the regionYs top educational institution is called upon to play through the creation of new faculties, such as eastern and Balkan studies programmes, arts and languages.

"The Greek state is obliged to decide, and this will be a purely political decision, to further develop the university by creating new departments and research institutes," he concluded.

The congress continues today.


Fine weather is forecast throughout the country today with some cloud expected in northern inland areas later in the day. Northerly winds, light to moderate reaching strong to very strong in the eastern Aegean Sea. Athens will be fine with the temperature ranging from 23 to 36 degrees Celcius. Thessaloniki fine with local cloud developing in the afternoon and temperatures 20 to 33C.


Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 297.183 British pound 483.302 Japanese yen (100) 205.185 French franc 49.600 German mark 166.205 Italian lira (100) 16.850 Irish Punt 417.037 Belgian franc 8.064 Finnish mark 54.659 Dutch guilder 147.471 Danish kr. 43.698 Austrian sch. 23.620 Spanish peseta 1.961 Swedish kr. 36.692 Norwegian kr. 39.115 Swiss franc 199.491 Port. Escudo 1.626 Aus. dollar 177.925 Can. dollar 196.218 Cyprus pound 565.440


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