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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-06

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, 06/02/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Cabinet meets on restructuring entire agricultural, rural policy
  • Agriculture Minister replies to farmers' demands
  • Inflation drops in January to 3.7 from 3.9%
  • Athens blasts Ankara over blatant Lausanne Treaty violations
  • British Euro-MP calls for Marbles' repatriation
  • High-grade steel innovation unveiled at Patra Univ
  • USIS previews its fully computerised Information Resource Center
  • Group reports US aid for Cyprus, none for Greece and Turkey
  • Ionian denies FT report over inflated assets
  • Stock market up
  • Bond auction
  • Allianz-Piraeus Bank venture
  • Gener-PPC agreement
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Cabinet meets on restructuring entire agricultural, rural policy

The Cabinet convened for three hours on Friday and decided on several institutional interventions within the framework of an integrated policy of restructuring rural Greece. Speaking at a press conference, Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis said the country is faced with several major challenges and policies of supranational agencies, which will determine agricultural policy worldwide until 2010.

In this context, the government decided to ratify a new law on cooperatives. The law will be submitted in Parliament in March and its implementation will be completed by the end of 1999. It will anticipate incentives for cooperative mergers.

Agriculture Minister replies to farmers' demands

Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis on Saturday sent a letter of reply to the Pan-Thessaly Farmers' Coordinating Committtee outlining the government's positions on farmers' damands.

In the letter, Anomeritis leaves open the possibility of some demands being accepted while rejecting others.

The minister said the cabinet had decided at a meeting on Friday to introduce some arrangement to facilitate the settlement of farmers' debts.

The national economy ministry, he added, would on Wednesday decide on the technical and accounting details which would be "within a banking framework".

Farmers are demanding lower debt repayment rates.

The minister said a legislative provision was being drafted providing for the prescription of offences committed by farmers in past protests.

Farmers have warned of a repeat of protest action in 1997, when the country's road and rail network was paralysed by tractor blockades, unless their demands are met.

Inflation drops in January to 3.7 from 3.9%

Year-on-year inflation marked a new drop in January, falling to 3.7 per cent from 3.9 per cent in December 1998, the National Statistics Service (ESYE) said on Friday.

According to the ESYE, inflation will continue to fall in February also.

The January inflation figure was shaped by price drops in clothing and footwear (9.2 per cent), durable goods (2.9), services (1.4) and housing (0.3).

Increases were recorded in the categories of foodstuffs and non-alcoholic beverages (1.8), alcoholic drinkgs and tobacco (0.7) and hotels, cafes and restaurants (1.1 per cent).

Athens blasts Ankara over blatant Lausanne Treaty violations

Greece on Friday called on Turkey to focus its attention on implementation of its international obligations with respect to the rights of its minorities, which include the Greek minority of Istanbul and the northeastern Aegean islands of Imvros and Tenedos.

The call, contained in a foreign ministry statement, came in response to a Turkish protest on Jan. 29, against the sentencing by a Greek court of a Muslim citizen on the grounds of usurping authority.

The Turkish protest said that by sentencing Mehmet Amin Aga for claiming he was the legal Mufti (a Muslim religious leader) of the northeastern town of Xanthi, the Greek court violated the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which settled borders and the obligations of the two countries towards their minorities.

It further called on Athens "to respect the human rights of the Turkish (sic) minority of Western Thrace."

The Greek foreign ministry, in its response, accused Turkey of attempting to transform a criminal case into an issue of human rights.

"The Turkish foreign ministry ought to be sparing in issuing statements designed to create impressions, and particularly careful when calling on all those 'in favour of law and human rights' to react against court rulings. The Turkish government also ought to be more careful when firing baseless accusations of violations of the Treaty of Lausanne. This is because Turkey is responsible for a host of blatant violations of the provisions of the treaty in question, particularly provisions 37-44 which concer n the protection of minorities on its territory," the Greek foreign ministry statement said.

British Euro-MP calls for Marbles' repatriation

A British Euro-MP on Friday called for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece and urged the British government to make every effort in that direction.

"If the British culture secretary takes a walk on the Acropolis on a day like today, he would easily understand why here is the natural setting for the Parthenon Marbles," British labour Euro-MP Alfred Lomas said, adding:

"A popular government cannot but be aware that the return of the Marbles to their place of origin is certainly an action that it owes to the people of England."

Mr. Lomas arrived in Athens on Thursday at the invitation of his Greek counterparts.

The exquisite friezes, dating back to the 5th century BC, were removed from the Parthenon by the British diplomat Lord Elgin with permission from the local Ottoman occupation authorities in the early 19th century.

Mr. Lomas played a key role in lobbying for a petition signed on Jan. 15 by 339 Eurodeputies for the return of the Parthenon friezes.

High-grade steel innovation unveiled at Patra Univ

The chemical engineering faculty of Patra University on Friday announced a major innovation enabling the production for industrial use - particularly car manufacturing - of super-high grade steel.

The important breakthrough came within the framework of a European Union programme and the collaboration of Greek and German industries.

According to the results of tests, the purity of the steel produced with the new method (6-8 millionths oxygen content) is much higher than the average purity of high-grade steel produced in Japan (10 millionths) and Europe (15 millionths).

According to its creators, Prof. Dimitris Papamantellos, head of the metallography department of the chemical engineering faculty, and chemical engineer Vassilis Gotsis, the steel is a high-technology product with a high value added, which can successfu lly compete with high-grade steel manufactured abroad.

With EU backing already secured, the product will soon be awarded a European patent.

The enhanced steel can be used to produce stronger gear-boxes and ball- bearings for automobiles, even tyres, which are now reinforced with steel strands.

The first industrial application of the Greek product will begin at pilot installations of the Hellenic Steel plant in Aspropyrgos with EU funding.

USIS previews its fully computerised Information Resource Center

The US Information Service (USIS) in Athens boosted information access regarding practically every facet of the United States squarely into the 21st Century on Friday, detailing the various computerised and on-line services available at its fourth-floor on Massalias street premises.

Through the use of modern information-handling technology, IRC's staff has access to a massive volume of information, much of it in electronic format, to meet professional-level needs in the subjects of international relations, security, defence, etc.; economics, trade, development; US social and political processes; federal and state legislation/regulations; environmental issues, and finally, telecommunications issues and US policies.

Geared toward professionals in Greece (academics, Greek government officials, the media, NGOs and US embassy personnel, among others) much of the IRC's information can be accessed over the Internet, while for on-site research an appointment needs to be made.

For specific information, queries should be sent by e-mail to irc&usisathens.gr or by telephone at 36.38.114 and 36.37.740. Its website is www.usisathens.gr

Group reports US aid for Cyprus, none for Greece and Turkey

A National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes release on Friday noted that US President Bill Clinton this week sent US Congress a budget request maintaining US$15 million for Cyprus and no military or economic aid for Turkey or Greece.

"Mr. Clinton's request for fiscal year 2000, which maintains the end of military aid to Turkey and Greece as well as economic aid to Turkey, also maintained the full $15 million in economic aid to Cyprus," the release said.

"These requests for fiscal year 2000 are the same amounts requested by President Clinton and passed by the Congress for last fiscal year.

"In addition, President Bill Clinton requested funds for Greece and Turkey for the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, $35, 000 for Greece (up from $25,000 last year) and $1.5 million for Turkey (the same amount as last year)," the release read.

"While Greece has not received US economic aid over the years, Turkey received up to $125 million cash in economic support funds," the release added.

Ionian denies FT report over inflated assets

Ionian Bank on Friday categorically denied a "Financial Times" report according to which the state-controlled bank has technically inflated its assets ahead of a new international tender for the sale of 51 percent of the bank.

The report claimed that a large Greek bank, not yet identified, deposited 550 billion drachmas in Ionian Bank's branch in London. The money was then lent to the depositor in a back-to-back transaction, inflating the bank's assets by 20 percent and its corporate deposits by two-thirds.

The report said that JP Morgan, the US investment bank acting as consultant to Commercial Bank on Ionian's sale, informed possible bidders with a confidential memorandum.

News of the FT report was largely ignored by the Athens Stock Market, where Ionian Bank's share price eased slightly following a decline in the bourse's bank sector.

Ionian Bank is the fourth largest bank in Greece based on its total assets and fifth on its market capitalisation.

The bank's network includes 222 branches in Greece, 276 automatic transaction machines, 15 "clever bran-ches" and two branches abroad. Ionian Bank's activities also expand in financial services (mutual funds, leasing, securities and finance), in hotels and education.

Stock market up

Greek equities resumed their upward course on Friday to end the last trading session of the week moderately higher.

The general index ended 0.44 percent up to 3,307.62 points reversing an initial 2.0 percent decline. It ended the week 5.02 percent higher.

Turnover was a record 238.6 billion drachmas and volume 37,664,420 shares, boosted by the transfer of Xiosbank's 10,498,260 shares, worth 98.172 billion drachmas from Vardinoyiannis group to Bank of Piraeus.

Sector indices were mixed. Banks fell 0.31 percent, Leasing rose 0.07 percent, Insurance dropped 1.59 percent, Investment ended 0.63 percent higher, Construction soared 6.61 percent, Industrials increased 1.47 percent, Miscellaneous ended 1.02 percent o ff and Holding rose 1.96 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 2.21 percent up while the FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 0.10 percent up to 2,104.97.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 212 to 66 with another 12 issues unchanged.

Xiosbank, Thessaliki, Bank of Piraeus and Ideal were the most heavily traded stocks.

Vioter, Bitros, TEB, Benroubi, Bank of Athens, Levenderis, Diekat, Kambas and Terna hit the day's 8.0 percent limit up.

Viosol, Elfico, Minerva, Mohlos, Yalco, Teletypos, Dias, Radio Athina and Pairis suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,600 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 37, 200, Ergobank at 24,700, Ionian Bank at 17,650, Titan Cement at 23,710, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,300, Intracom at 16,190, Minoan Lines at 10,500, Panafon at 9,850 and Hellenic Tele coms at 8,450.

Bond auction

The finance ministry said on Friday it will auction two new issues of three- and six-month Treasury bills, worth 40 billion drachmas each, in electronic form next Tuesday.

The auction will take place in the domestic market of primary dealers. The ministry will pay a premium of 0.15 percent for three-month T-bills and 0.25 percent for six-month securities.

Allianz-Piraeus Bank venture

Allianz Insurange Group, Europe's largest insurance company, and Piraeus Bank Group on Friday announced a decision to create a joint life insurance company.

The shareholder and bancassurance agreement was signed in Athens. The new company is called "Allianz Piraeus Life Insurance" with a capital of one billion drachmas (approx. six million DMarks).

Alexander Sarrigeorgiou, general manager financial services of Allianz Greece, will be appointed executive chairman.

Allianz Piraeus Life Insurance will develop specific products for the Piraeus Bank Group to be distributed exclusively through its branch network of Piraeus, Macedonian & Thrace, Xiosbank and Piraeus Prime Bank. The company will offer life insurance products linked with mutual funds, either under Piraeus or under Allianz fund management.

Gener-PPC agreement

Gener Energy, a subsidiary of listed on the parallel market of the Athens Stock Exchange Gener Contractors, on Friday announced a deal with Public Power Corporation (DEH) to jointly study, build and operate a hydro- electric project in northern Greece.

The deal was signed with DEH's subsidiary, 'DEH Renewable'.

WEATHER

Overcast weather is forecast in most parts of Greece on Sunday with scattered rain in the eastern Aegean and the Dodecanese islands. Winds variable, strong to very strong. Partly cloudy in Athens with temperatures ranging between 4-14C. Partly cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 0-9C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 282.343 Pound sterling 463.581 Japanese yen (100) 250.202 French franc 48.712 German mark 163.374 Italian lira (100) 16.503 Irish Punt 405.723 Belgian franc 7.921 Finnish mark 53.742 Dutch guilder 144.998 Danish kr. 42.967 Austrian sch. 23.222 Spanish peseta 1.921 Swedish kr. 35.984 Norwegian kr. 36.704 Swiss franc 199.779 Port. Escudo 1.594 Aus. dollar 183.465 Can. dollar 189.968 Cyprus pound 550.560

(M.S.)


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