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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-10

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, 10/02/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis: No gov't intention to sell majority stake in OTE
  • Nation's foreign currency reserves jump to Dr 21.6 bln
  • Current account shows 221 mln dollar surplus in Jul-Aug 1998
  • Commercial Bank to seek binding offers in Ionian privatisation
  • T-bill rates plunge in heavy demand
  • Gov't on S-300 installation in Crete
  • Dayton agreements, Kosovo the focus of Pangalos' talks in Belgrade
  • Parliament discussion begins on Treaty of Amsterdam
  • Harrier eagle protection programme
  • Archbishop of America Spyridon arrives in Athens
  • First step towards hotel 'star' system taken
  • Contract with Canadian firm for Thessaloniki metro coaches
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis: No gov't intention to sell majority stake in OTE

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that the government did not intend to sell a majority stake in the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) to private investors, although he noted that some changes may be made in the future to make the state-run telecoms utility more competitive.

The premier was speaking to reporters after a lengthy meeting with OTE's board at the organisation's headquarters.

Expressing the view that OTE was successfully operating in the face of international competition, Simitis referred to the organisation's major investments in Romania, Serbia and Armenia.

He congratulated OTE management and employees, saying they had made a major contribution to the organisation's development.

Commenting on an upcoming fourth sale of OTE shares, a 10 per cent package which will increase the private sector's stake to 45 per cent, the PM said the government was trying to considerably reduce the state's participation in such enterprises.

He also observed that with current technology, new subscribers could have a telephone line in a matter of five days, while this waiting time will drop to three days with full digitisation of OTE's switchers.

He further underlined OTE's new services with emphasis on the number 1502, a telphone service for the issue and delivery of birth certificates, police records and other official documents.

Nation's foreign currency reserves jump to Dr 21.6 bln

The country's foreign currency reserves on January 31 were 21.6 billion dollars, sharply higher than 18.2 billion dollars on December 31, the Bank of Greece said in a statement yesterday.

January's inflows of 3.4 billion dollars reflected interest by investors abroad in domestic bonds and stocks, and therefore their confidence in the economy, economists said.

Current account shows 221 mln dollar surplus in Jul-Aug 1998

The current account showed a surplus of 221 million dollars in July-August 1998 against a deficit of 720.8 million dollars in the same period of 1997, the Bank of Greece said in a statement yesterday. The central bank attributed the improvement to a decl ine in the trade deficit, a rise in European Union inflows and an increase in foreign currency from tourism. The trade deficit in July-August was 2.538 billion dollars, declining by 11.1 percent against the same period of 1997.

Commercial Bank to seek binding offers in Ionian privatisation

State-owned Commercial Bank of Greece is to invite binding offers next week in an international tender to privatise its subsidiary, Ionian Bank. Commercial's financial adviser, JP Morgan, said in a statement yesterday that the call for potential bidders would be published in the week beginning February 15. The deadline for non-binding offers in Ionian's 51 percent privatisation was on Monday, ending the first phase of the sale. The bidders' names were not released. Expected to take part in the tender were Alpha Credit Bank, EFG Eurobank with Ergobank, and the Bank of Piraeus Group. The first attempted sale of Ionian fell flat when the bids offered were considered to be too low. The sale is central to the government's wide-ranging privatisation plan to shrink the public sector and aid entry into European economic and monetary union.

Meanwhile, equities ended yesterday's session sharply lower on the Athens Stock Exchange hit by profit-taking and rumours of unsatisfactory non- binding offers in a privatisation tender for Ionian Bank.

The general index ended 3.09 percent off at 3,219.91 points.

Turnover was 123.6 billion drachmas and volume 28,481,099 shares. Bank shares were badly hit. Ionian Bank's share price fell 5.2 percent followed by Commercial Bank with a 3.6 percent loss. Sector indices lost ground. Banks dropped 3.87 percent, Leasi ng fell 1.20 percent, Insurance ended 0.35 percent off, Investment eased 0.93 percent, Construction ended 0.39 percent up, Industrials fell 2.71 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.88 percent down and Holding plunged 3.74 percent.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,200 drachmas, Ergobank at 24,000, Alpha Credit Bank at 35,060, Ionian Bank at 16,300, Titan Cement at 23,245, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,310, Intracom at 15,700, Minoan Lines at 7,660, Panafon at 9,745 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,100.

T-bill rates plunge in heavy demand

Average weighted yields dropped substantially in yesterday's auction of three- and six-month treasury bills by the finance ministry.

The three-month average weighted yield was 9.5 percent from 11.07 percent in the previous auction on December 22.

Primary dealers submitted bids totalling 228 billion drachmas, six times higher than the 40 billion sought by the ministry, which accepted bids totalling 48 billion drachmas.

The six-month average weighted yield was 9.54 percent from 10.46 percent in the previous auction on December 8.

Bids submitted totalled 206 billion drachmas, five times more than the amount sought. The ministry accepted bids totalling 48 billion drachmas.

Bankers said the new drop in short-term interest rates paved the way for a cut by Bank of Greece in its money market intervention rate.

Gov't on S-300 installation in Crete

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas again stressed yesterday that the Russian-made S-300 missiles purchased by Cyprus will be deployed in eastern Crete. He said technical details of the S-300s' installation will be discussed next week when a Cypriot delegation and a representative of the Greek foreign ministry travel to Moscow.

Reppas clarified that the missiles would remain in the ownership of the Cyprus Republic, while Greece would control the operation of the weapons system and pay for its operating cost. He said the governments of Greece and Cyprus would jointly decide how to make optimum use of the S-300 missiles but declined to say when the missiles would be installed in Crete.

Dayton agreements, Kosovo the focus of Pangalos' talks in Belgrade

Bilateral relations between Greece and Yugoslavia, implementation of Dayton Agreements and the Kosovo issue in light of Rambouillet talks were discussed here yesterday by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and his Yugoslav counterpart Zivadin Jovanovic.

Referring to bilateral relations, Mr. Jovanovic termed them as "good", adding that cooperation in the political, economic, tourist, cultural and communications sectors was improving continuously, while he stressed the importance of a business delegation accompanying Mr. Pangalos.

Mr. Jovanovic said he briefed his Greek counterpart on the strategy, as he called it, of his country for resolving all problems concerning Kosovo with political and peaceful means through dialogue. He said that on the basis of precisely this strategy, his country decided to send a delegation to carry out negotiations at Rambouillet.

He further said that Yugoslavia wishes the success of these talks and pointed out that the basis for a success is full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, full respect for the equality of all nationalities in Kosovo and respect for the highest European and international standards on human rights and minority rights.

Mr. Pangalos referred to Bosnia-Herzegovina, which he visited on Monday, and reiterated the need for full implementation of the Dayton agreements.

Mr. Pangalos reminded that Greece has a particular sensitivity on the issue of human rights and believes that they must be safeguarded and protected absolutely in Kosovo as well as anywhere else.

He added that sometimes the international community applies double standards on this issue and that this is certainly something which does not please Greece.

The second point Mr. Pangalos underlined is the need for the inviolability of borders in the region of southeastern Europe and stressed that whatever agreement adopted must clearly determine that it exludes the independence of Kosovo now and in the future.

The third issue Mr. Pangalos touched on is that force must not be used as a threat and as an argument when negotiations are being conducted. He reiterated that talks must start for Yugoslavia's incorporation in all international organisations from which it has been excluded.

Replying to questions from the press on the possible implementation of whatever agreement on Kosovo with military means and on the possibility of Greek participation, Mr. Pangalos said that he and Mr. Jovanovic did not discuss the issue of the implementation of the solution since the solution is not yet in sight and reiterated that Greece will not participate in operations aimed at enforcing peace.

"The position of my country is that we do not participate in peace enforcing situations in southeastern Europe," Mr. Pangalos said, adding that "we may participate in peacekeeping operations provided we have the agreement of the country on the soil of which the operation is taking place."

Parliament discussion begins on Treaty of Amsterdam

Parliament began a five-day debate yesterday evening which is expected to conclude with the ratification of the Treaty of Amsterdam.

The treaty, which in effect revises the Maastricht Treaty on European unification, was signed in Amsterdam on Oct. 2, 1997 by the foreign ministers of the European Union member-states.

The principal targets of the Treaty of Amsterdam are three:

First, to strengthen democracy within the EU by instituting policies and actions which better safeguard citizens' rights.

Second, to create a more cohesive presence for the EU on the international scene, particularly by means of a common foreign and security policy.

Finally, the adjustment of the EU's institutional structure in order to make it more effective in view of the future accession of countries of central and eastern Europe.

Harrier eagle protection programme

A programme to save and protect the harrier eagle in Greece, the largest bird of prey in Europe, has been underway since last October by the University of Crete's Natural History Museum and the Greek Ornithological Society. The programme is being applied in seven regions on Crete and another three regions in mainland Greece, belonging to the network "Natura 2000".

Harrier eagles are now characterised as a "species threatened with extinction." The eagles used to be found in almost all of Greece's mountainous regions, both on the mainland and the islands.

Archbishop of America Spyridon arrives in Athens

Archbishop Spyridon arrived in Athens yesterday on his first visit to Greece since taking over as Prelate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America three years ago.

Spyridon, a former Metropolitan of Italy, was elected to replace Archbishop Iakovos by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in July 1996.

Education Undersecretary Yiannis Anthopoulos, among others, greeted him at the airport.

Spyridon, who will stay in Greece until Feb. 15 at the invitation of the Greek government, is scheduled to meet with President Kostis Stephanopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Simitis as well as various ministers.

He will also hold talks with main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis, other political leaders as well as Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Shortly after his arrival, Spyridon was received by Archbishop Christodoulos for discussions on several topics of interest between the two Greek Orthodox Churches.

Asked about reported problems in the Orthodox Church in the United States, and specifically about opposition among US Orthodox bishops to his appointment, Spyridon said the problems were being dealt with.

"Our Church is successfully performing its task...it is natural for there to be problems and difficulties...only cemeteries have no problems.

The Archbishop later visited Parliament where he was warmly received by members of the committee for Orthodoxy and the committee for expatriate Greeks.

"The Greek-American Orthodox community is like a new great Greece, as the case used to be with Greeks in southern Italy during antiquity and Byzantium," the Archbishop told Parliament.

Replying to questions by MPs, Spyridon underlined that Greeks should not approach the US administration only in times of need.

The Archbishop further announced that the Archdiocese has established an office near the White House in order to boost relations with Washington.

First step towards hotel 'star' system taken

A substantive step was taken yesterday towards implementing the classification of Greek hotels with the international "star" system after the Greek Tourist Organisation (EOT) delivered its proposal to the sector's representatives.

Hoteliers' observations are expected very soon in order to enable the final phase of the proposal to be implemented.

Development Minister Vasso Papandreou announced at a press conference the proposed system resulting after a comparative study on the experience obtained by other countries.

Ms Papandreou offered assurances that when the system will operate it will equal those applied by other European countries.

She said there are hotels in Greece declaring themselves luxury hotels without being so, adding that this situation must end.

EOT intends to provide a transitional period of one year as a time limit for the "star" system to be applied. Supervision for its implementation will take place at central level by EOT, probably in cooperation with a private company "to avoid pressures during the classification of hotels if control was to take place at a regional level," as she said.

The experience of the Greek Standardisation Organisation (ELOT) on quality certification systems based on ISO might also be utilised at the same time.

Ms Papandreou also disclosed that the corresponding classification of rented rooms with the "key" system has begun.

Contract with Canadian firm for Thessaloniki metro coaches

The Canadian embassy yesterday announced the signing of a contract for construction and placement of a rapid automatic transport system for the proposed Thessaloniki metro on behalf of the Bombardier company.

The contract in question follows a contract for the purchase of 10 amphibious firefighting aircraft "Canadair 415 GR", while the value of both exceeds US$430 million.

Bombardier will provide primary parts of the transport system for the Thessaloniki project, including 36 coaches similar to the metro coaches delivered for the Docklands network in London. The contract for the Canadair aircraft anticipates the possibili ty of five more aircraft being purchased and includes spare parts and ground maintenance and training equipment. Delivery has started, with one plane already in Greece.

"These two sales are very important for trade between Greece and Canada and are indicative of the high level of technology Canadian industry can provide for its trade partners," a Canadian embassy release stated.

WEATHER

Partly cloudy weather will prevail in most parts of Greece today with rain in the west of the country. By nightfall, rain is also expected in mainland Greece and the islands of the northern and eastern Aegean. Snow will fall in the mountainous regions of central and northern Greece. Winds southerly, southwesterly, strong, turning gale force in the Ionian Sea and the Aegean Sea. Possibility of rain in the evening in Athens with temperatures between 5-15C. Rain from the afternoon in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 2- 10C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 282.482 Pound sterling 463.085 Japanese yen (100) 246.145 French franc 48.767 German mark 163.557 Italian lira (100) 16.521 Irish Punt 406.176 Belgian franc 7.930 Finnish mark 53.802 Dutch guilder 145.160 Danish kr. 43.021 Austrian sch. 23.248 Spanish peseta 1.922 Swedish kr. 35.950 Norwegian kr. 36.996 Swiss franc 199.640 Port. Escudo 1.595 Aus. dollar 182.687 Can. dollar 189.170 Cyprus pound 552.544

(C.E.)


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