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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-15

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, 15/02/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis accuses opposition of impeding country's progress
  • Karamanlis predicts ND victory in next elections
  • Bulgarian VP cites upcoming Simitis visit to Sofia
  • Ocalan ready to ask Greece, other European nations for asylum
  • Greek participation in upcoming NATO exercise
  • Tsohatzopoulos on measures against drug use
  • Strike at public hospitals in Athens, Thessaloniki continues
  • Spyridon invites Christodoulos to US
  • EPP conference on Crete
  • Farmers again warn of mobilisations
  • Last of four bank robbers who fled into mountains arrested
  • Greek first division results/standings
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis accuses opposition of impeding country's progress

Prime Minister Costas Simitis charged yesterday that the main opposition New Democracy party and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) were "harmoniously cooperating, with their only aim being that the government fails in its goals."

Speaking in Kilkis on the second day of his tour of northern Greece, Mr. Simitis said his government's policies were moving the country forward, noting the improvement of the economic indicators and the positive results in the lives of citizens after the country's entry in the 'euro zone'.

Based on that progress, he said the government was ready to forge ahead with tax cuts, such as increasing untaxed revenue limits, connecting those limits with the year-on-year inflation rates. He claimed that the government is being attacked by certain groups because it is successful in combatting tax evasion.

The premier noted that if ND really cared for the well being of citizens it would have cooperated with the government on such issues that would have been to the citizens' benefit.

He said that in elections in the year 2000 citizens will vote on the government's work and achievements and for that reason they will renew their trust in PASOK, while he added that opposition parties will get what he called "a first taste" of that with the June 13 Euroelections.

Speaking on current issues such as education, health and farmers' demands, the premier defended his choices and the need for a modernisation of Greek society, noting that any one who refuses the need for reforms drags Greece backwards. He also stressed that the government would not accept that.

Speaking specifically on the subject of health care, he said that there are deficiencies but pointed to projects in progress, while he said the government increased doctors' salaries significantly.

Referring to problems local merchants and vendors face from strict travel visa requirements for FYROM nationals, Mr. Simitis recognised that a problem existed, adding that the Greek side would desire a simpler and quicker procedure for crossing the Greek-FYROM borders. However, he said the issue was part of a more general policy, "as Greece has its own views that must be respected by the neighbouring state."

The Greek PM also said that he believes Skopje will soon normalise bilateral relations, something that will lead to closer cooperation.

During his Serres visit on Saturday, Mr. Simitis reiterated his certainty over a victory by ruling PASOK in the June Euroelections and national elections.

Finally, he said Greece will enter European Monetary Union "on its own feet."

Speaking on foreign affairs, the premier said that Greece is exercising an active policy, noting the efforts of Greece in overcoming the Albanian crisis, as well as the hosting of a Balkan summit in Crete.

Karamanlis predicts ND victory in next elections

Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis concluded a two-day tour of Halkidiki prefecture yesterday by appealing to potential voters and by harshly criticising the PASOK government's policy.

Addressing local officials, bussiness people and employees' groups, Mr. Karamanlis said a recent settlement by the government of farmers' debts was "just another pre-election gimmick", while he stressed that he was against road blocks by protesting farmers.

He added that the country's farm sector was in poor shape due to the government's ineffective policy and stressed that agriculture will collapse unless measures are taken.

Speaking to ND supporters in the Nikitas municipality, the main opposition leader expressed a certainty that ND will win the next elections.

"Our aim is not to change 'green suits' with 'blue' ones, but to form a government that will lead the country to a national revival," Mr. Karamanlis said.

Bulgarian VP cites upcoming Simitis visit to Sofia

Prime Minister Costas Simitis will pay an official visit to Bulgaria in the spring, according to Bulgarian vice-president Yevgeni Bokardjiev.

The Bulgarian VP, made the statement upon his return to Sofia yesterday from a visit to Athens, where he attended a meeting of a joint committee for commercial and economic cooperation.

Ocalan ready to ask Greece, other European nations for asylum

A French news agency (AFP) report yesterday stated that Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) representatives had conveyed a message to the Greek government, stressing that PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan wished to ask Greece for political asylum.

Mr. Ocalan intends to ask Greece "to be clear and examine my demand for political asylum," AFP reported.

Government sources in Athens said last night that no such request by the Kurdish leader had reached Athens. The same sources reiterated the Greek position that Mr. Ocalan's arrival in Greece would not be useful, neither for Greece or for the Kurds thems elves and their just cause.

The PKK leader's arrival in Greece, let alone granting him political asylum, would be detrimental to the Kurdish issue as it would transform the issue into yet another Greek-Turkish difference, the same sources said.

The Greek government is expected to stand by this position in case Abdullah Ocalan requests political asylum.

According to information gathered by government services, Mr. Ocalan is likely to lodge his request with the public order ministry today, while the same demand will be put also to other European countries, the same sources added.

Prime Minister Costas Simitis last night was briefed on the situation by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos during a telephone discussion.

Greek participation in upcoming NATO exercise

Greece will participate in the NATO naval exercise "Dog Fish '99", set for Feb. 18 to March 3 in the sea region between Ionian and Sicily.

Greece will contribute a submarine, a naval support aircraft and a warship.

Air force and naval units from France, Germany, the United States, Spain, Italy, Canada, Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Turkey and Greece will participate in this annual exercise, aimed at protecting surface vessels from submarine attacks in vital shipping lanes.

Tsohatzopoulos on measures against drug use

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos stressed on Friday that solutions to social and economic problems faced by youth as well as teens' effective communication with their families and society were the shields against drug abuse.

Addressing an event against drugs on Friday organised by the Thessaloniki Labour Centre, he added that success of such efforts emanated from the state, which as he said, should implement appropriate policies for social and economic development, employme nt, education and the "creative use" of youths' spare time.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos also cited studies reporting that about 12 per cent of drug users tried illegal substances while serving in the military.

He further outlined a strategy by the armed forces to combat illegal drug use.

Strike at public hospitals in Athens, Thessaloniki continues

State hospitals in Athens and Thessaloniki will operate with only skeleton crews as of today, as physicians are continuing a strike.

The announcement comes despite a government decision to satisfy one of state hospital doctors' basic demands, namely, an increase of shift-duty payments.

The strike was sparked after the non-payment of several months' worth of doctors' shifts by the health ministry.

Doctors in Athens have announced six-hour work stoppages until Wednesday while their colleagues in Thessaloniki will not work on shift-duty and at the hospitals' out-patient centres.

Social Security Foundation (IKA) doctors have also announced a five-day strike starting today.

Spyridon invites Christodoulos to US

Archbishop of America Spyridon yesterday invited Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos to visit the United States. During a dinner hosted by Christodoulos in honour of Spyridon, the Archbishop of America said: ''come witness our stru ggles, our bitterness, come and see that all is gained by great effort and that no one is giving us anything if we do not win it ourselves.''

Earlier, during the morning service at the Athens Metropolitan Cathedral, Spyridon, on an official visit to Greece, issued a call for unity towards "ecumenical Hellenism."

Archbishop of America Spyridon addressed a letter of congratulations on Friday to US President Bill Clinton, following the latter's acquittal by the US Senate on two impeachment charges.

EPP conference on Crete

A European Peoples' Party (EPP) congress has been scheduled for Feb. 27 in Irakleio, Crete.

According to sources, participants will include EPP President Wilfreid Martens, a number of party leaders affiliated with EPP, Eurodeputies and other political figures. Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis will also take part.

Farmers again warn of mobilisations

Protesting farmers in Thessaly, Serres and Kavala remained poised to mobilise in the next few days in order to press demands.

In Thessaly, farmers' representatives warned of a tractor convey headed for Athens, while various meetings are planned for this week to work out their policy.

A farmers' representative in northern Greece said he wasn't satisfied with the government's latest offers.

Last of four bank robbers who fled into mountains arrested

The fourth and last member of a gang of bank robbers was arrested on Saturday after 10 days on the run in snow-covered mountains of the northeastern Peloponnese.

He was identified a Dionysios Douros, 32, from the village of Roviata, Amaliada region.

The suspect was spotted in the morning walking along a road between the villages of Kastania and Karteri. According to reports, he was suffering from frostbite, exhaustion and also had a slight leg injury from a fall.

The four-member gang held up a bank in the secluded village of Kleitoria, Achaia prefecture on Feb. 3 and escaped with some six million drachmas.

The gang sought refuge in the rugged mountainous region of Corinth prefecture after failing to elude police. One of the suspects was killed during a shootout with police last Sunday, while a second was found dead the following day.

The third suspect, Yiannis Karadimos, gave himself up on Friday.

Greek first division results/standings

Panelefsiniakos-Olympiakos Piraeus 0-2 Apollon Athens-AEK Athens 1- 1 Panionios Athens-Ionikos 0-2 Kavala-Ethnikos Astir 3-0 Ethnikos Piraeus-Paniliakos Pyrgos 1-1 OFI Iraklion-Iraklis Thessaloniki 3-1 Playing today: Panathinaikos- Proodeftiki, Veria-Xanthi, Aris- Thessaloniki-PAOK Thessaloniki. Standings/points: Olympiakos 44, Panathinaikos, AEK 40, PAOK 36, Aris 33, Xanthi, OFI 32, Ionikos 29, Iraklis 27.

WEATHER

Unsettled weather will prevail throughout Greece today. Sleet or snow in northern Greece and the mountainous regions of the country, with improvement later in the day. Rain with sunny spells in central and southern Greece. Winds variable, moderate to strong. Athens will be partly cloudy with possibility of rain and temperatures ranging from 4-12C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 1-8C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 283.920 Pound sterling 461.915 Japanese yen (100) 248.069 French franc 48.699 German mark 163.329 Italian lira (100) 16.498 Irish Punt 405.610 Belgian franc 7.919 Luxenburg franc 7.919 Finnish mark 53.727 Dutch guilder 144.957 Danish kr. 42.962 Austrian sch. 23.215 Spanish peseta 1.920 Swedish kr. 35.764 Norwegian kr. 36.952 Swiss franc 199.491 Port. Escudo 1.593 Aus. dollar 182.325 Can. dollar 190.206 Cyprus pound 548.576 euro 319.444

(C.E.)


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