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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-12-11

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, 11/12/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis underlines unemployment problem at EU summit
  • Pangalos to visit FYROM on December 22
  • Tsohatzopoulos opens conference on weapons research, technology
  • Amnesty International protests executions in US
  • Russia's Zyuganov: S-300s pose no threat to any third country
  • Albanian horsemen raid mink farm
  • Sex, arrests and videotapes
  • DEPA: Greece not obligated to receive Russian gas in '98
  • PMs of Greece, FYROM to address Balkan economy conference in '99
  • Foreign currency shipping inflows rise 2.3 pct Jan-June
  • Stocks end flat, seen consolidating above 2,500 pts
  • Contract for customs service's computerisation with Bull, Intrasoft
  • Hellenic Bank branch opens in Athens
  • Commission to take recourse over dangerous substance directive
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis underlines unemployment problem at EU summit

Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed on Friday at the European Union summit in Vienna that unemployment was the biggest problem facing both Europe and Greece, according to an ANA despatch from the Austrian capital.

National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, who is accompanying the premier, told reporters that Simitis was the first to speak at this morning's first session of the two-day summit.

He said Simitis had asked that a strong message should emerge from the summit underlining that the EU was determined to implement policies aimed at resolving the problem of unemployment.

According to Papantoniou, Simitis referred in particular to the major problem of unemployment in Greece and the particularities of the Greek labour market which is substantially different from those of its EU partners.

These particularities include the movement of the rural population to urban centres, the low percentage of participation of women in the labour market - despite a sharp increase in recent years, and the high number of immigrants living in Greece for economic reasons which, as a percentage of the country's total work force, is comparable to the percentage of foreign workers in Germany in the 1950s and 1960s.

Simitis noted that in addition to the sum of 250 billion drachmas allocated from EU funds, Greece will in 1999 be spending a further 500 billion drachmas to combat unemployment.

The premier expressed Greece's full support for the signing of an Employment Pact to supplement the Stability Pact.

Simitis told the summit that by the end of 1998, Greece will have satisfied all the criteria for participation in EMU apart from inflation, the target for which will have been attained by the end of 1999, so that the country will be ready for full accession on January 1, 2001.

Pangalos to visit FYROM on December 22

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos will visit the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on December 22, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas announced on Friday in Vienna.

The spokesman said Skopje had expressed interest in beginning bilateral contacts between the new government and Athens and despite initial difficulties regarding the fixing of a date, it had been agreed that Pangalos pay a one-day visit to FYROM on December 22.

Reppas is accompanying Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Pangalos and National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou at the European Union summit in the Austrian capital.

Tsohatzopoulos opens conference on weapons research, technology

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday opened the third symposium on western European armaments research and technology, taking place in Athens.

He stressed to delegates at the two-day event the need for a common European defence industry, noting that European defence could not be founded only on private defence industries but needed the participation of the countries, too.

Referring to the coproduction of the Eurofire jetfighter by four countries, he said it was by no coincidence that the Eurofighter was becoming a "European prospect" as more countries would join the original four, intimating Greece's interest.

Amnesty International protests executions in US

The Greek section of the human rights organisation Amnesty International (AI) yesterday staged a symbolic protest outside the US embassy in Athens to denounce the ongoing execution of convicted murderers in several of that country's 50 states.

During the protest, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of UN Human Rights Day, the president of AI's Greek section, Kostis Papaioannou, handed a letter of protest to an embassy employee which was addressed to US ambassador Nicholas Burns.

The protesters, dressed in black, hung an effigy of the Statue of Liberty to underline their charge that human rights are being "executed" in the United States.

Similar protests were meanwhile being held in other countries around the world to press for the abolition of the death penalty in the US.

According to AI, which in October launched a one-year campaign for penal reform in the United States, nearly 500 people have been executed in the US since the death penalty began to be re-enforced in 1977.

A US federal judge on Wednesday ordered a stay of execution for Canadian national Stan Faulder, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection yesterday, citing concerns about whether he received a fair trial.

Russia's Zyuganov: S-300s pose no threat to any third country

Russia's Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said yesterday that the contract between Moscow and Nicosia for the purchase and deployment on Cyprus of Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles must be implemented because the defensive weapons system posed no threat to any third country.

Mr. Zyuganov was speaking at a news conference during a two-day visit to Greece, which began yesterday at the invitation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

Nicosia's plans to purchase and install the S-300 missiles on the island republic in an effort to bolster its defenses has drawn criticism from Washington and European countries, which claim the deployment will merely serve to increase tension.

Turkey has openly threatened to prevent the deployment.

Noting the "very good" relations between Cyprus and Russia, Mr. Zyuganov underlined Nicosia's right to choose the weapons systems which ensure its defence.

He expressed the hope that "our countries will withstand the pressure exerted by the US" in order for the contract to be executed.

Commenting on Russia's policy vis-a-vis arms sales, Mr. Zyuganov said his country had lost all the major markets which it had gained in the Soviet era.

In a clear reference to the US, Mr. Zyuganov said that if only one major arms seller is allowed to dominate the world market, the prices of weapons will be too high for many countries.

Albanian horsemen raid mink farm

It could have been a scene from a period-piece Balkan epic, as two Albanian robbers on horseback descended on an isolated Greek mink farm near Kastoria, horses winnying and guns blazing.

But the attack on the mink farm actually took place just before dawn on Friday near the border with Albania.

The robbers, armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, tied up two Albanian workers at the farm and loaded 1,800 unprocessed mink furs worth 3 million drachmas onto a mule before galloping off.

Although horses and mules have often been used as pack animals to smuggle drugs and weapons from Albania into Greece on rough mountain paths, it is the first time they have been used in a robbery.

Sex, arrests and videotapes

The police have arrested a man and a woman who turned a detached house in Athens into a brothel where hidden video cameras recorded the sex games of customers with two young Greek prostitutes.

The two persons arrested, both Greek, were identified as Christos Moutafidis, 21 and Stavroula Spanea, 36.

The police confiscated 10 video cassettes recording the encounters between the prostitutes and the unsuspecting customers, as well as nine video recorders and six television sets.

DEPA: Greece not obligated to receive Russian gas in '98

Greece has not entered any conventional obligation to receive 1.5 million cubic metres of natural gas in 1998, Public Gas Corp. (DEPA) managing director Savvas Papaphilippou said yesterday, stressing that Russian gas currently being received was not meeting envisaged specifications.

He said that despite the cleaning of the gas pipeline in Bulgaria, the problem with the quality of the natural gas delivered remained.

A protocol on the issue is to be signed with a reprsentative of the Bulgarian company today.

PMs of Greece, FYROM to address Balkan economy conference in '99

Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Ljubco Georgievski, will speak at a Balkan economy conference to be held in Thessaloniki in May 1999.

Association of Northern Greek Industries (SBBE) president Vassilis Takas told a news conference yesterday that the association's annual conference would focus on conditions in the Balkans a decade after the opening of markets.

Mr. Georgievski is to speak on May 10, the first day of the conference, and Mr. Simitis on May 11.

Trade between Greece and FYROM is expected to exceed US$250 million in 1998.

Greece is the largest foreign investor in the neighbouring country at 50 million dollars.

Stormy ties between Athens and Skopje have improved in recent years.

Greece opposes the use of the name "Macedonia" by the landlocked republic, arguing it conceals expansionist designs against its northern province of Macedonia.

Under an interim agreement in September 1995, Greece and FYROM agreed to hold talks under UN auspices on finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue.

Foreign currency shipping inflows rise 2.3 pct Jan-June

Foreign currency inflows from shipping in January-June rose 2.3 percent to 1,056.9 million dollars from 1,033.5 million dollars a year earlier, the merchant marine ministry said yesterday.

In April-June inflows from shipping were 561.9 million dollars from 529.5 million dollars in the same period of 1997, up 6.1 percent, the ministry said in a statement.

Stocks end flat, seen consolidating above 2,500 pts

Equities finished slightly lower on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday, again showing signs of consolidating above previously stubborn resistance at 2,500 points despite volatility during trade.

The general index ended 0.19 percent lower at 2,536.88 points. Trade was moderate with turnover sharply down at 66.5 billion drachmas from 86.6 billion drachmas a day earlier. Volume was 15,558,000 shares.

Fuelling trade was heavy demand for state-run National Bank of Greece, which had announced sharp rate cuts on Wednesday after the central bank lowered three key rates. Yesterday it announced that it would seek shareholders' approval for a stock split.

Other commercial banks followed suit in the race to cut rates, including listed Ergobank, Xiosbank and Commercial Bank of Greece.

The FTSE/ASE-20 blue chip index nosed up 0.04 percent to finish at 1,571.85 points.

Outperforming the general index was the parallel market for smaller cap stocks, which closed 1.10 percent higher.

Sector indices finished mixed.

Banks rose 1.31 percent, Leasing dropped 0.47 percent, Insurance jumped 2.35 percent, Investment crept up 0.18 percent, Construction edged up 0.13 percent, Industrials slumped 1.33 percent, Miscellaneous increased 0.11 percent, and Holding dropped 1.36 percent.

Of 272 shares traded advances led declines at 122 to 120 with 30 unchanged.

Contract for customs service's computerisation with Bull, Intrasoft

The government yesterday signed a contract for upgrading the computerisation of Greece's customs services with the Bull and the Athens-based Intrasoft companies, which will provide the hardware and software products, respectively. The project is expected to be completed in about a year's time.

Customs officials said after a signing ceremony that the new system will enhance effectiveness by minimising tariff evasion and instituting better control of substances harmful to public health.

Finance Deputy Minister George Drys added that the tax bureau's "Taxis" system was already in operation in 100 taxation bureaus, and promised that it would cover the entire number by the end of 1999.

Hellenic Bank branch opens in Athens

Interior Minister Alekos Papadopoulos inaugurated the first branch office of the Cyprus-based Hellenic Bank in Athens yesterday.

Speaking at a ceremony, the president of Hellenic Bank Ltd., Panos Galanos, expressed optimism over the bank's successful course in Greece, underlining that the common language and culture and the unbreakable historical and cultural ties between Greece and Cyprus will contribute in this direction.

Commission to take recourse over dangerous substance directive

The European Commission announced that it has started the process of lodging a recourse, through an avis, against Greece, Belgium and Portugal for failing to implement two EU directives concerning dangerous substances.

The first is the European Commission's Directive 54 (1996) which has amended the Council of Ministers' directive 548 of 1957 and refers to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous chemical substances.

The second is the European Parliament's and Council of Ministers' Directive 56 of 1996 which also amends directive 548 of 1967.

Directive 548 is one of the first directives on the environment and is aimed at a rapprochement between national legislations on new chemical substances and to secure a high level of protection for human health and the environment.

The European Commission also sent an avis against Germany for failing to implement Directive 56 of 1996.

WEATHER

Cloudy with possibility of light snowfall on Friday in northern Greece. Few clouds with sporadic rainfall in the rest of the country and light snow in mountainous areas of central Greece. Winds variable, moderate to strong. Athens partly cloudy with possible showers and temperatures ranging from 5C to 12C. Thessaloniki also partly cloudy with temperatures ranging from 0C to 8C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 276.361 British pound 459.236 Japanese yen (100) 234.826 French franc 49.608 German mark 166.358 Italian lira (100) 16.794 Irish Punt 413.168 Belgian franc 8.065 Finnish mark 54.705 Dutch guilder 147.525 Danish kr. 43.680 Austrian sch. 23.633 Spanish peseta 1.954 Swedish kr. 34.313 Norwegian kr. 36.670 Swiss franc 204.416 Port. Escudo 1.621 Aus. dollar 171.418 Can. dollar 179.790

(S.S.)


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