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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-09-29

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, 29/09/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis congratulates Schroeder for German election victory
  • Gov't signs restructuring plan for state railway
  • Drachma's ERM-2 entry allows room for anti-inflationary policy
  • Petrol tanker truck owners' strike causes shortage in Thessaloniki
  • Bourse okays IPO by Lambrakis media group
  • Greek stocks end lower in scant trade
  • Selonda Fisheries seeks to join bourse's main market
  • Karamanlis: PASOK-backed local gov't candidates 'party proxies'
  • Plans for nuclear plant in Turkey denounced by environmentalist
  • Protagonist in bloody hostage incident buried, questions remain
  • Two-day conference on "EU after the Amsterdam Treaty"
  • Aegean, Cyprus map exhibition
  • No NATO action in Kosovo without UN Security Council decision
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis congratulates Schroeder for German election victory

Prime Minister Costas Simitis spoke with German chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder shortly after midnight on Sunday, while he sent the German political leader a congratulatory telegram expressing his pleasure at the latter's election victory, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said on Monday. In his cable, Mr. Simitis said the two governments could work together on social policy in Europe to combat unemployment and in laying the foundations for a European common foreign policy, Mr. Reppas added.

He said Mr. Simitis sent similar messages to the victorious SPD party leader Oskar Lafontaine and Greens party leader Joschka Fischer.

The Greek government spokesman said Mr. Simitis and Mr. Schroeder had agreed to meet at the earliest convenient date, adding it was too early to discuss the specifics of Greek-German cooperation but that there was a convergence on policy programmes and there was already a base of creative cooperation between the two countries.

He expressed his conviction that Bonn's foreign policy would continue to contribute to the European Union's progress and to the creation of conditions for cooperation in Europe as a whole.

Mr. Reppas also said the government had the greatest regard for outgoing Chancellor Helmut Kohl, whose presence at Germany's helm was decisive for the country's reunification and for the efforts to unify Europe.

Gov't signs restructuring plan for state railway

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday signed a restructuring plan for Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE), the second loss-making public utility to undergo an overhaul.

The management contract, also signed by Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis and OSE's board, aims to restore profitability through a management overhaul, modernisation, and rationalisation including a write-off of debts estimated at 600 billion drachmas.

Industrial relations will also be reformed, including the use of transfers to better utilise staff. Regular funding is to be ensured for the organisation's investment programme.

Mr. Mantelis said that OSE's priority was to modernise its network with emphasis on the Athens-Thessaloniki line, reducing the trip's duration from five hours and fifty minutes to four hours and twenty minutes in 2001.

He said rail fares would rise in line with market conditions in the next few years, and freight transport would be improved by seeking joint ventures with foreign companies.

Hellenic Post Offices was the first state firm to sign a restructuring arrangement, and Athens Urban Transport Organisation will be the next.

Drachma's ERM-2 entry allows room for anti-inflationary policy

The drachma's entry in a new European Union exchange rate mechanism with a 15 percent fluctuation band will allow enough margin for the government to implement its anti-inflationary policy, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said ye sterday.

The move to allow entry into ERM 2 for countries still outside economic and monetary union was endorsed by EU economy and finance ministers who met in Vienna at the weekend.

The ministers said countries should remain in a state of alert over the global crisis in financial markets with Japan and Brazil as the latest trouble spots.

Mr. Papantoniou said that the government had not yet decided if and when it would lower consumer taxes on vehicles, cigarettes and alcohol in a bid to help inflation to fall.

He said any decision to cut the taxes in 1999 would depend on the course of inflation, and on the budget. No other decisions would be taken this year on lowering indirect taxes.

The government already has decided to lower consumer taxes on petrol and on heating oil aimed at easing inflation.

Mr. Papantoniou also said that the government had strong reservations about an EU plan to impose an energy tax.

The tax would undermine the government's anti-inflationary policy, and a transition period had been requested if the tax was imposed.

Petrol tanker truck owners' strike causes shortage in Thessaloniki

Handwritten signs saying "No more gasoline" went up in hundreds of filling stations in the northern capital of Thessaloniki yesterday as a strike by tanker truck owners in northern Greece entered its second week.

A spokesman for filling stations said that supplies had dried up, putting an end to long queues of cars over the past few days outside the few filling stations that still had gas to sell.

The petrol truck owners are protesting the deregulation of their profession, which will allow major oil companies to extend their activities to distribution.

The stoppage does not affect public transport and airport operations.

Bourse okays IPO by Lambrakis media group

The Athens Stock Exchange has endorsed an application for entry into its main market by the Lambrakis Journalism Organisation, a major publishing and media group.

The bourse's decision on Friday allows the firm to hold an initial public offer (IPO) and raise its share capital.

The Lambrakis Group will sell 5,250,000 new common shares, of which five million will be placed on public offer.

The remaining 250,000 shares are destined for a private placement.

Funds from the IPO will be used mainly to fund the group's investment programme and pay off part of its short-term loans.

The group's pre-tax profit in 1997 was 4.012 billion drachmas on turnover of 42 billion drachmas.

Greek stocks end lower in scant trade

Greek equities finished slightly lower on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday ahead of a second tender to privatise Hellenic Duty Free Shops this week following the first abortive sale attempt.

The general index ended 0.06 percent lower at 2,152.35 points, after an early 1.30 percent jump. Trading was thin with turnover at 28.5 billion drachmas on 7,797,000 shares traded.

Sector indices were mixed. Banks fell 0.14 percent, Insurance eased 0.05 percent, Investment dropped 0.02 percent, Leasing was 0.21 percent off, Industrials fell 0.67 percent, Construction rose 0.02 percent, Miscellaneous ended 1.0 percent higher and Holding increased 1.27 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 0.47 percent off. The FTSE/ASE 20 blue chip index fell 0.06 percent to 1,297.45 points.

National Bank of Greece ended at 39,600 drachmas, Ergobank at 23,920, Alpha Credit Bank at 22,120, Ionian Bank at 10,295, Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6,710, Delta Dairy at 3,100, Intracom at 11,120, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,495 and Titan Cement at 17,795 drachmas.

Selonda Fisheries seeks to join bourse's main market

Selonda Fisheries, which is listed on the Athens Stock Exchange's parallel market for smaller cap stocks, has gained the bourse's approval to raise its share capital and seek entry into the main market.

The bourse's decision on Friday allows Selonda to offer 903,440 new common shares in a rights issue.

The funds will be used mainly to finance the company's investment programme for its hatcheries, pay off part of its short-term loans, fund buyouts of other firms in the sector, and finance participation in joint ventures.

Karamanlis: PASOK-backed local gov't candidates 'party proxies'

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis, addressing a joint session of ND's Parliamentary group and central committee yesterday, said that "the candidates supported by PASOK are merely ''party proxies' of the current government."

He added that they will "not fight for what their districts deserve to acquire".

Mr. Karamanlis said the government is worried about the outcome of the elections, adding that "European Community resources have been spent to promote the "so called government's work".

The ND leader referred to his party's candidates and the criteria used for their nomination, saying that in many cases nominees were not selected based on narrow partisan criteria but on their ability to assist local communities and, if elected, they would be the natural allies of the government that ND is going to form if elected.

Plans for nuclear plant in Turkey denounced by environmentalist

A Canadian environmentalist yesterday sounded the alarm for Greece and other countries in the region, warning that an accident at a projected nuclear plant on the southeastern Turkish coast could be catastrophic for Greece.

Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) is one of the companies bidding for the contract to build a nuclear power plant at Akkuyu, in the southern Turkish province of Mersin, north of Cyprus.

"Greeks have to act quickly and raise their voices to the Canadian government and to governments of other countries trying to sell (nuclear) reactors to Turkey. The nuclear plant at Akkuyu must be cancelled," environmental activist David Martin said at a news conference.

Other speakers also underlined the possibility of Turkey continuing its nuclear energy programme by developing nuclear weapons, as was the case with India and Pakistan.

Also of tremendous concern is the fact that the planned site of the plant is located extremely close to an active seismic fault.

The director of Turkey's Dokuz Eylul University's geophysics faculty, Attila Ulug, told a conference in Istanbul earlier this year that Ankara's effort to proceed with construction of a nuclear plant on the southern Asia Minor coast without a seismological study was "absolutely irresponsible and criminal". The warning from the high-ranking Turkish professor came just days after a devastating earthquake struck the southeastern region of Turkey.

Protagonist in bloody hostage incident buried, questions remain

A Greek-Romanian fugitive elevated into Greece's "most wanted criminal" over the past month after two televised hostage dramas and accompanying police ineptitude was buried yesterday afternoon, 48 hours after his mysterious death at the Korydallos prison infirmary.

Matei Sorin's burial brought his personal cycle of armed robberies, drug abuse and repeated prison escapes to an end, five days after a hand grenade explosion violently ended a standoff in central Athens - a blast that left a 25-year-old hostage fighting for her life in a local hospital and most of Greek police's leadership injured from the grenade's shrapnel.

A team of four coroners ruled on Sunday that Sorin died by choking on his own gastric fluids, pointing to the fact that he was under heavy sedation and bound continuously in a supine position. The 26-year-old repeat felon had sustained injuries to the head and chest.

On the day he died, he was scheduled to give a statement to a prosecutor assigned the inquiry into the details of the raid, which left a total of 12 people injured.

Referring to the conditions under which Matei Sorin died at Korydallos, Justice Minister Evangelos Yiannopoulos said yesterday that his ministry will "do its duty in shedding light on the case".

"Regardless of one's feelings about a cruel criminal, the state's functions should be exactly the same as in the case of citizens", said Mr. Yiannopoulos, adding that citizens should enjoy the state's protection and services, whatever they may be.

Meanwhile, hopes to save the life of Amalia Ginaki, 25, the hostage who was severely injured in the grenade incident, are reportedly fading.

Two-day conference on "EU after the Amsterdam Treaty"

Prime Minister Costas Simitis will open sessions of a two-day conference in Athens on Thursday focusing on the topic of "The European Union after the Amsterdam Treaty".

The conference, set at the foreign ministry's amphitheatre, is organised by the Tsatsos Foundation in collaboration with PASOK's Eurodeputies group.

The main topics to be discussed at the conference will be "Europe as a political vision" and necessary institutional changes, as well as "EMU and employment after the Amsterdam Treaty" and "joint European Union policy and the European citizen."

Aegean, Cyprus map exhibition

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos inaugurated yesterday an exhibition with 14th to 18th century maps of the Aegean and Cyprus.

The exhibition will last until Oct. 5 and includes 140 rare maps of the era.

The maps highlight the unique Hellenic identity of the Aegean through the centuries.

No NATO action in Kosovo without UN Security Council decision

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos stressed yesterday that there can be no military action by NATO in the Serbian province of Kosovo unless there is a previous UN Security Council decision, as well as a new political decision by NATO member-sta tes.

Speaking at a event organised by the Institute of Strategic and Development Studies - Andreas Papandreou (ISTAME) last night, the Greek defence minister called on the international community to take into account Greece's particular historical and geogra phic position in the Balkans.

Greece "cannot take part in a military action against neighbouring peoples, " Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said.

He further reiterated that Athens was in favour of a political solution to the Kosovo crisis, while he stressed that a non-autonomous Albanian ethnic community in Kosovo was inconceivable.

WEATHER

Rain and storms will be the main characterists of today's weather in Greece, particularly in the west, south and east of the country. Winds variable, moderate to strong. Rain and storms in Athens with temperatures between 18- 25C. Possibility of rain or storms in Thessaloniki from the afternoon, with temperatures from 16-22C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 288.116 British pound 490.425 Japanese yen (100) 211.802 French franc 51.054 German mark 171.180 Italian lira (100) 17.334 Irish Punt 428.544 Belgian franc 8.298 Finnish mark 56.197 Dutch guilder 151.900 Danish kr. 45.047 Austrian sch. 24.347 Spanish peseta 2.017 Swedish kr. 36.498 Norwegian kr. 38.728 Swiss franc 207.085 Port. Escudo 1.670 Aus. dollar 169.181 Can. dollar 190.662 Cyprus pound 577.344

(C.E.)


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