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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-08-25

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, 25/08/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Foreign minister: Athens' role on S-300 deployment 'advisory'
  • Cautious optimism on Kosovo crisis
  • Surprise bids for Ionian bank unveiled, decision expected today
  • Athens' support for political solution in Kosovo reiterated
  • Greek forces on alert against terrorist attack on US targets
  • Parliament excavations yield plethora of archaeological finds
  • Seychelles' FM in Athens for talks
  • Greek stocks end sharply lower hit by turbulence abroad
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Foreign minister: Athens' role on S-300 deployment 'advisory'

Foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos yesterday described as "advisory" Greece's role in Nicosia's plans to deploy Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles on the Mediterranean island.

He said the issue was one which solely concerned the Republic of Cyprus, while Greece's "advisory" role was limited to intervening only if and when Athens was asked to do so.

Noting that Turkey had become involved in the S-300 issue "with threats and irrational demands", Mr. Pangalos said that as far as Greece was concerned the issue was never a substantial one in the overall Cyprus problem.

"The substance is for intercommunal talks to restart so that the political problem can be resolved and the negotiations for Cyprus' entry into the European Union can begin - two issues which are far more important than this technical matter," Mr. Pangal os said.

He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of talks with his Seychelles counterpart Jeremy Bonnelame.

Mr. Pangalos reiterated past statements by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, who had underlined that the deployment of the anti-aircraft missiles was not an end in itself, but rather an effort to restore a better balance of power in the region.

The FM said Greece had presented specific proposals to Washington as part of efforts for a Cyprus solution and once again called on the US administration to implement the concept of "US legality" with regard to Turkish arms in the Turkish-occupied north ern part of Cyprus. "The issue is actually quite simple. The US should persuade Turkey to withdraw its US-made arms from Cyprus. It's a matter of political will, provided, of course, that this exists," Mr. Pangalos said, adding that it was up to t he US to request from Turkey that it withdraw its military forces from Cyprus, which occupy the island's northern part since 1974.

He also backed in no uncertain terms the right of any country to buy weapons systems for its protection and said cooperation between Athens and Nicosia in defence matters allows the sovereign government of the Republic of Cyprus to make its own decision s.

Mr. Pangalos noted that the issue will be discussed at Thursday's meeting in Athens between Premier Costas Simitis and Cyprus President Clerides.

Cautious optimism on Kosovo crisis

Foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos said yesterday he was "cautiously optimistic" that latest developments in the strife-torn Yugoslav province of Kosovo could lead to a defusion of the crisis.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Pangalos said the acceptance of the international community's two proposals on scaling down tension marked some progress.

Mr. Pangalos noted that had these proposals, which he had put forward some time earlier, already been accepted, many lives would have been saved.

"Let's hope that on the basis of the acceptance of these two proposals there will be a third decisive step, for the holding of some meeting between representatives of residents of Kosovo with the Yugoslav leadership, " Mr. Pangalos said.

Surprise bids for Ionian bank unveiled, decision expected today

Three bids, with the two highest placed by foreign concerns, were unsealed yesterday in the highly publicised tender for a 51 percent stake in state- controlled Ionian Bank.

Commercial Bank, the majority shareholder of Ionian Bank, in an announcement, identified the three bidders as the Jan Morton Heger law firm with a bid of 340 billion drachmas (approximately US$1.125 billion); Exchange Finance Overseas (Holdings) Ltd with 303 billion drachmas (approximately $1 billion), and the Latsis group's EFG Eurobank with ErgoBank, with a bid of 135.6 billion drachmas.

Commercial Bank's board of directors convened in the afternoon to examine the bids but decided soon afterwards to postpone reaching a decision, saying they would reconvene as soon as possible after studying the bids in cooperation with the Bank of Greece.

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said that although the top two bids were satisfactory, an examination had to be made into the credibility of the origin of the funds and the bidders' identity.

Mr. Papantoniou added that the Commercial Bank's board would continue the overall assessment of the bids all through the night and tomorrow morning, and would announce its decision by this afternoon.

He expressed confidence, however, that the outcome would be positive. Asked to comment on the Latsis group's 135-billion-drachma offer, he said it was not far off the bank's stock value.

In the event that the tender is declared unproductive, it will be repeated in a reasonable time period, the minister said. Government sources, meanwhile, placed the time period as "within the year."

Athens' support for political solution in Kosovo reiterated

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday reiterated that Athens' support for minorities' human rights must in no way lead to a change of borders.

The Greek minister made the statement during a meeting with the new Yugoslav ambassador to Athens, Dragomir Vucicevic.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos also noted that Greece supports a political solution for the Kosovo crisis, while he added that dialogue must begin immediately. He said a precondition for an immediate and successful dialogue is the end of operations in the area.

Mr. Vucicevic underlined that recent press criticism in Belgrade aimed at the Greek defence minister under no circumstances reflects the attitude of his government, which appreciates Athens' stance and the efforts by the Greek defence minster for a peac eful solution to the Kosovo crisis.

The ambassador was on a courtesy visit to the minister and also discussed a request by the Yugoslav defence minister to meet with Mr. Tsohatzopoulos during the former's upcoming visit to Athens.

Greek forces on alert against terrorist attack on US targets

The government yesterday confirmed press reports that Greece's security forces have heightened security at potential US targets in the country.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas described as "top alert" the measures taken to prevent any attacks by terrorists in reprisal for recent US missile attacks on targets in Sudan and Afghanistan.

"The security forces are ready to make every effort to thwart any attempts at terrorist acts," Mr. Reppas said.

Mr. Reppas also confirmed that Athens was in contact with the French security authorities about the arrest of a Turk believed to be a member of the extremist "Grey Wolves" group, who admitted during questioning that he was in Greece in 1997.

The spokesman said it was clear from statements by Turkish officials that the arrested man was directly involved in political developments in the neighbouring country.

Asked to comment on the US attacks in Sudan and Afghanistan, Mr. Reppas said Greece condemned "phenomena of terrorist violence" and was in favour of cooperation among all to combat such phenomena.

"We are in favour of the integrity and inviolability of borders and we believe that in international life the rules of international law should prevail," he added.

Mr. Reppas said the Greek government was awaiting information from Washington regarding the decision to attack the targets in Sudan and Afghanistan.

Parliament excavations yield plethora of archaeological finds

The culture ministry's archaeology department yesterday announced that a two-acre dig around and under Parliament revealed a large as well as interesting piece of the Greek capital's ancient history.

The 18-month-long excavations have uncovered 272 walls built between the late classical to Ottoman periods, with 2,200 different ceramic building materials recorded. Furthermore, excavations unearthed 145 gravesites belonging to the sub-Mycaenean, class ical, Hellenistic and Roman periods. The five archaeologists and 65 workers also discovered 13 grain storage pits, 77 ducts, 12 wells, nine water cisterns and 11 firing ovens. The December 1996 to June 1998 excavations rewarded archaeologists with an unde rstanding of the specific area in Athens since the Mycaenean era.

Seychelles` FM in Athens for talks

Athens yesterday underlined the very friendly relations existing between the peoples of Greece and the Seychelles since the time of Cyprus' struggle for independence, following talks in the Greek capital between the Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and his Seychelles counterpart Jeremy Bonnelame.

Speaking to reporters after talks with Mr. Bonnelame, Mr. Pangalos recalled that Archbishop Makarios had been in exile in the Seychelles and that the people of the island chain had received him very well.

"Since that time, a very close relationship has developed between the two peoples," Mr. Pangalos said.

Mr. Pangalos briefed Mr. Bonnelame on the situation in the region and developments in the European Union, with which the Seychelles is associated within the framework of the Lome Convention.

On Sept. 30, negotiations begin on the revision of the convention and Mr. Bonnelame briefed Mr. Pangalos on his country's positions.

Mr. Bonnelame, who invited Mr. Pangalos to visit his country, said the Seychelles was in favour of a Cyprus settlement within the framework of UN resolutions and was in favour of the recommencement of intercommunal talks on the divided island.

Stressing the need for closer cooperation in the private sector, Mr. Bonnelame called on Greek business people to invest in the Seychelles.

On his part, Mr. Pangalos noted that the Seychelles had consistently supported all UN resolutions on the Cyprus problem and thanked Mr. Bonnelame for his country's support for Greece's bid to become a non- permanent member of the UN Security Council.

On current relations between Greece and the Seychelles, Mr. Pangalos said there was bilateral cooperation in the economic, shipping and tourism sectors.

He said he had agreed with Mr. Bonnelame that efforts should be made to further develop cooperation in the sectors of exports, education, tourism professions, coastal defence and health, noting that a large number of doctors from the Seychelles had been trained in Greece.

Greek stocks end sharply lower hit by turbulence abroad

Greek equities ended sharply lower on the first trading session of the week on the Athens Stock Exchange hit by tremors in international markets.

The general index ended 2.50 percent lower at 2,572.92 points with turnover at 46.9 billion drachmas.

Commercial Bank and Ionian Bank shares bucked the general decline to end higher with the market discounting a positive outcome in a plan to sell Ionian Bank through.

Sector indices lost ground. Banks fell 2.54 percent, Insurance dropped 1.45 percent, Leasing ended 3.09 percent off, Investment fell 2.02 percent, Construction ended 2.32 percent down, Industrials fell 2.65 percent, Miscellaneous ended 2.23 percent and Holding dropped 2.85 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 2.07 percent lower, while FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 2.77 percent off at 1,570.01.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 199 to 41 with anoher 9 issues unchanged.

WEATHER

Sunny weather will prevail throughout the country today. Cloud in northern Greece from the afternoon with the possibility of storms in the mountainous regions. Winds will be northerly, light to moderate.

Temperatures in Athens will range between 23-37C, while in Thessaloniki from 22-34C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 300.774 British pound 492.786 Japanese yen (100) 208.439 French franc 49.937 German mark 167.380 Italian lira (100) 16.979 Irish Punt 419.418 Belgian franc 8.122 Finnish mark 55.018 Dutch guilder 148.537 Danish kr. 43.983 Austrian sch. 23.791 Spanish peseta 1.974 Swedish kr. 36.831 Norwegian kr. 38.543 Swiss franc 200.801 Port. Escudo 1.636 Aus. dollar 174.518 Can. dollar 195.146 Cyprus pound 570.400

(L.G.)


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