Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-11-19
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 19/11/1998 (ANA)
- 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
- 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
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
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
" 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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'
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
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.
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.
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-
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