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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-11-19

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, 19/11/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Athens rejects Turkish cliams as Ocalan issue escalates
  • Greek progress seen towards EMU entry - the Economist
  • Greek stocks sprint ahead, led by banks
  • Gov't to draw up blacklist of engineering contractors
  • Prinos oil group management, workers still in deadlock
  • Greek-Bulgarian fibre optics link ready within six months
  • Olympic Airways restructuring before part-sale
  • Wind parks to be built on Crete
  • Greek-Uzbeki military cooperation agreement signed
  • Gov't: No decision on new European Commissioner
  • Pharmaceuticals sent to Cuba
  • Ozone layer
  • JETRO aims to promote Greek exports to Japan
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Athens rejects Turkish cliams as Ocalan issue escalates

Greece yesterday harshly criticised Turkey of flagrant human rights violations, at the same time once again rejecting Ankara's often repeated claims that Athens supported the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkey's accusations against Greece resurfaced on Tuesday and yesterday, after its failure so far to secure the extradition of PKK's leader Abdullah Ocalan from Italy. Mr. Ocalan was arrested at Rome's Fiumicino airport on Nov. 12 after arriving from Moscow on a false passport, and demanded political asylum.

In Rome, Italian Prime Minister Massimo D' Alema angrily dismissed threats addressed earlier by Turkish Premier Mesut Yilmaz, saying that Italy "will not be subjected to unjustifiable intimidation".

The Ocalan and the Kurdish issues "are not an Italian-Turkish problem, but a problem concerning the whole of Europe. We expect from European countries an attitude of solidarity," Mr. D'Alema told a press conference yesterday.

In Athens, a foreign ministry statement rejected Turkish accusations that it was supporting the PKK and reiterated that human rights in Turkey were flagrantly violated, while Ankara was in a state of "complete confusion."

"Ankara, in a state of complete confusion, evidently because the Ocalan case has again brought to the forefront the tragic dimension of the problem of the flagrant violation of human rights in Turkey, went ahead with an unprovoked attack against Greece yesterday by hurling threats and unfounded accusations," the statement read.

"The Greek government has no desire to become entangled in a futile exchange of announcements with the Turkish side, which has an unenviable track record not only in the area of the violation of fundamental human rights but also in the blatant breach of the rules and principles of international law.

" The Greek government has condemned terrorism from wherever it may originate and has categorically stated to the Turkish side at the highest level that it has not provided any support whatsoever to the PKK. Consequently, the Turkish claims are rejected as unfounded and groundless," the statement continued.

"Ankara did not limit itself, however, to an attack against Greece alone, but also went ahead with formulating accusations and threats against Cyprus. Greece merely observes that the country which invaded Cyprus, infringing every principle and every con cept of international law and is continuing to occupy, despite the reaction of the international community and UN resolutions, a large part of the Republic of Cyprus, has no legitimacy in invoking international treaties and international commitments.

Government spokesman Yiannis Nikolaou said that Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis yesterday strongly protested to the Turkish ambassador in Athens regarding the Turkish accusations.

Ankara on Tuesday said Athens and Nicosia were "playing with fire", following Cyprus' statement that Mr. Ocalan not be turned over to Turkey due to its less than stellar performance in the human rights field.

Greek progress seen towards EMU entry - the Economist

Greece has made great progress towards entry into European economic and monetary union (EMU) by its target date of January 1, 2001, but consumer price inflation needs to fall further, the Economist financial magazine said.

The government deficit fell from 7.5 percent of gross domestic product in 1996 to 4.0 percent in 1997, it said in its latest issue.

Despite high interest rates on the government debt (109 percent of GDP), the 1998 deficit should fall to close to 3.0 percent, and, as interest rates fall, it will drop comfortably under 3.0 percent of GDP in 1999. Ten- year interest rates on government debt are also falling and likely to be well below the Maastricht threshold by end-1999.

The inflation criterion for convergence with other EU states is the only one that could still trip up the government, the Economist said.

Inflation has remained stubbornly above 5.0 percent, but it should fall gradually in 1999, and, with the help of cuts in indirect taxes, should just squeeze under the EMU barrier.

However, there are dangers that tension with Turkey over Cyprus, or an escalation of the Kosovo conflict, could lead to a collapse in financial markets' confidence in Greece.

"But if luck and Prime Minister Costas Simitis' nerve hold, Greece will be ready to enter euroland, creating a feeling of local pride that will grow as Greece prepares for the Olympics, to be held in Athens in 2004," the Economist said.

Greek stocks sprint ahead, led by banks

Greek equities ended sharply up on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday, fuelled by early buying interest in banks a day after the US Federal Reserve Bank cut short-term interest rates by 25 basis points.

The rate cut has sparked hopes of a similar decline in European and domestic markets.

The general index ended 2.12 percent higher at 2,352.60 points in active trade of 55.1 billion drachmas. Volume was 12,363,000 shares.

Sector indices scored gains.

Banks rose 2.56 percent, Leasing was 0.23 percent up, Insurance increased 1.79 percent, Investments ended 2.43 percent higher, Industrials ended 1.57 percent up, Miscellaneous rose 2.40 percent, Holding increased 1.86 percent, but Construction bucked the trend to end 0.42 percent off.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 1.21 percent higher.

National Bank of Greece ended at 46,050 drachmas, Ergobank at 26,800, Alpha Credit Bank at 25,160, Ionian Bank at 11,955, Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6,625, Delta Dairy at 3,910, Intracom at 13,120, Titan Cement at 18,770, Hellenic Petro leum at 2,365 and Minoan Lines at 6,390 drachmas.

Gov't to draw up blacklist of engineering contractors

The government is to create a blacklist of contractors who breach rules on the construction of public works, Environment, Public Works and Town Planning Minister Costas Laliotis said yesterday.

The ministry has so far ordered 18 engineering contractors to foot a 7.0 billion drachma bill to remedy substandard workmanship, also including fines, Mr. Laliotis told a news conference.

The offenders include Olympic Metro, which is building a new underground network for Athens. The firm will have to fork out 3.0 billion drachmas to redo works that failed to meet project specifications. The minister indicated that the reason for poor workmanship was generally a desire to make more profits, and not a lack of technical knowhow.

Contractors were not used to being inspected, he added.

Spot checks on projects funded under the European Union's second Community Support Framework (CSF) in 1994-1998 had risen to 130 from 81 checks under the first CSF in 1989-1993.

Exacerbating the problem, contractors had been slow in carrying out improvements ordered by the ministry, even in projects that had been in public use for four years, including the Athens-Corinth motorway and Athens Yliki highway, Mr. Laliotis said.

He also charged the main opposition party with a poor record of quality in public works during its previous term in government.

Under the system of inspections, contractors are ordered to carry out remedial work at their own expense, and the work is then checked. If they refuse, they receive the bill in any case.

A record of violations is kept and taken into account if the firms guilty of breaches later bid in tenders for public works.

Prinos oil group management, workers still in deadlock

North Aegean Petroleum Co. (NAPC), which is exploiting offshore oil deposits at Prinos in northern Greece, yesterday refused to call off redundancies and pay cuts it has ordered due to rising losses.

The consortium last weekend announced that it would halt output on November 23 if it was unable to cut operational costs by around 30 percent, a week later than originally planned.

Workers have rejected outright the plan for 180 lay-offs among 400 staff and a 30 percent wage cut for remaining staff.

The plan also involves changing industrial relations at NAPC's installations and hiring sub-contractors.

At a meeting held at the labour ministry in a bid to defuse the stand-off, the two sides failed to reach agreement.

But Deputy Labour Minister Chistos Protopapas, who proposed the meeting, said he was strongly opposed to mass redundancies.

He asked NAPC for a two-week grace period so that he could hold separate talks with management and workers in a bid to achieve consensus, and therefore the continuation of operations.

In addition, the development ministry's secretary general proposed that NAPC could embark on a new seismic shoot at the Athos site with the government footing 50 percent of the bill, instead of 25 percent, its usual contribution for exploration.

Union leader Athanassios Lamokas told reporters after the meeting: "In no event will workers agree to pay cuts and redundancies for colleagues."

NAPC has installations off the island of Thassos and near the mainland town of Kavala.

Greek-Bulgarian fibre optics link ready within six months

A fibre optics telecommunications system linking Greece to Bulgaria becomes operative within six months after completion of the latest step in the project, officials said yesterday.

Authorities on Tuesday launched a new stretch of the cable in Bulgaria that is finally to link Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, to the northern city of Thessaloniki.

Undertaking the project is Intracom of Greece, a high-technology communications specialist that is listed on the Athens bourse, and is also active in the Balkans.

Intracom expects to complete the cable within six months against the one- year deadline contained in the original deal with BTK, Bulgaria's state telecom, which is funding the project.

The cable on the Greek side has already been completed.

Olympic Airways restructuring before part-sale

National carrier Olympic Airways is working to establish its position in the international market and any predictions on the company's future are premature, Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mandelis said yesterday.

He was commenting on media reports that British Airways and Germany's Lufthansa were interested in an alliance with Olympic Airways.

Mr. Mandelis said that Olympic should first regain its position in the market, and then the government would consider either a flotation or a partial sale of the airline.

Wind parks to be built on Crete

The Public Power Corporation yesterday signed a contract worth 3.5 billion drachmas with the NEG Micon-ATE Gnomon Group for the construction of wind parks in Xerolimni, Crete.

The contract, which follows an international tender, calls for the construction of two wind parks containing 17 600KW wind generators for a power total of 10.2 MW.

The project will contribute to energy demand in the island of Crete, particularly in the summer months, and at the same time improve the environment in the island by reducing the use of fossil fuel power stations.

The project is expected to be completed in 13 months.

Greek-Uzbeki military cooperation agreement signed

Greece and Uzbekistan yesterday signed a military cooperation agreement during talks here between National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his Uzbek counterpart, Khik-matulla Tursunof.

The accord is the first of its type to be signed between Greece and a country of former Soviet Central Asia which has traditionally enjoyed good ties with Ankara.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos also had talks yesterday with Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, while today he will meet with Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov and the Uzbek Parliament Speaker Erkin Khalilov. Speaking to reporters accompanying him, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos prai-sed Uzbekistan's role as "an island of stability in a volatile part of the world".

During talks with the Greek side, Uzbek officials made it clear that Tashkent wanted to consolidate its indpendent course, without Russia being replaced by another power in the role of "big brother".

The military cooperation agreement has three main axes: activities within the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace programme, cooperation as part of a collective policy of Eurasian security - as is being shaped by the Euroatlantic Council - and thirdly, purely bilateral relations. The accord provides for the training of Uzbek officers at Greek military academies and joint participation in Partnership for Peace exercises.

Also of interest to the former Soviet republic is the issue of resolving problems of inter-operability between western and eastern weapons systems, a sector in which Greece has acquired experience due to Russian-manufactured armaments it acquired or intends to buy.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos' visit will be followed by talks in Tashkent between National Economy Undersecretary Alekos Baltas and the granting by Athens of credits totalling 50 million dollars.

President Kostis Stephanopoulos, meanwhile, will pay an official visit to Uzbekistan next March. In addition, a Greek embassy is expected to open soon in Tashkent. Up to now, Greece has been represented in Uzbekistan by its embassy in Moscow.

Gov't: No decision on new European Commissioner

Prime Minister Costas Simitis has not yet decided who will succeed Greece's European Commissioner, Christos Papoutsis, government spokesman Yiannis Nikolaou said yesterday.

The spokesman was replying to reporters' questions concerning press reports claiming that Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou was the frontrunner for the post.

Pharmaceuticals sent to Cuba

Parliament has sent three crates of pharmaceuticals to Cuba to deal with a shortage of medicines on the island nation.

The assistance was handed over to Cuban authorities by a Greek inter-party parliamentary delegation currently visiting the country. The delegation is on a visit to Cuba and Mexico on the invitation of the countries' parliaments.

In Athens yesterday, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis had talks with his Cuban counterpart Isabelle Alliende on Cuba's role in regional integration in Latin America and the Caribbean, Havana's progress in human rights issues and efforts to combat narcotics trafficking.

At a bilateral level, the two sides ascertained the existence of very friendly relations, as reflected by the two countries' cooperation in international organisations.

Mr. Kranidiotis told Ms Alliende that Greece intended to support Cuba's participation in the European Union -Latin America - Caribbean summit meeting scheduled for June 1999 in Rio de Janeiro.

Ozone layer

Nobel prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen yesterday sternly cautioned against he increased size of an ozone layer hole.

Prof. Crutzen, currently on Crete to participate in a scientific conference, said that if major industries adhered to agreements they have signed, the hole in the ozone layer will shrink.

JETRO aims to promote Greek exports to Japan

The Japanese External Trade Organisation (JETRO) yesterday announced in Athens that it has invited a Japanese expert on imports to visit Greece next February, within the framework of organisation's policy to increase Greek exports toward Japan.

WEATHER

Unstable weather will prevail throughout Greece today with rain and storms forecast in the afternoon and evening. Snow in the mountainous regions of central and northern Greece. Winds variable, moderate to strong, turning gale force in the Ionian Sea. Rain in the evening in Athens with temperatures between 7-15C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 2- 9C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 277.849 British pound 465.030 Japanese yen (100) 229.678 French franc 49.747 German mark 166.899 Italian lira (100) 16.848 Irish Punt 414.656 Belgian franc 8.085 Finnish mark 54.866 Dutch guilder 147.907 Danish kr. 43.864 Austrian sch. 23.725 Spanish peseta 1.960 Swedish kr. 34.706 Norwegian kr. 37.446 Swiss franc 202.542 Port. Escudo 1.626 Aus. dollar 176.774 Can. dollar 178.818 Cyprus pound 564.686

(C.E.)


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