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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-16

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, 16/02/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Kurds seize Greek embassies, given ultimatum
  • Greece to facilitate NATO in case it deploys in Kosovo
  • Athens repeats its position over Ocalan issue
  • Gov't to allow NATO equipment headed for Kosovo
  • Premier predicts inflation at 2.5% by end of 1999
  • EIU predictions on Greece
  • Stock market increases
  • Construction firms buyout
  • Proposals to boost trade between border regions of Greece
  • Japanese trade specialists in Athens
  • Farmers in central Greece call off protests
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Kurds seize Greek embassies, given ultimatum

Greece today called on Kurdish protesters to end the takeover of Greek embassies in various European capitals and cities and gave them an ultimatum to do so until noon time.

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos issued the warning at an impromptu press conference at the foreign ministry as several embassies were seized by Kurdish demonstrators.

"They, (the Kurdish protesters) must abandon the Greek embassies and consulates by 12:00 Greek time," Pangalos said, and warned that the Greek government would take action against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Pangalos said that PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan had given "temporary residence, for humanitarian reasons" at the house of the Greek Ambassador in Kenya. "But at his own responsibility and initiative, and despite the Greek advice to the contrary, he tried to go to the Netherlands".

Pangalos said that en route from the ambassador's house to the airport, which was followed by Greek embassy cars, Ocalan's car "deviated from the route, and the embassy cars lost visual contact" with Ocalan's car.

The foreign minister said that Greece informed the Kenyan authorities of Ocalan's disappearance, adding that the Greek government was waiting to be briefed by the Kenyan government on what happened.

Pangalos said that he had already contacted the German foreign minister Joschka Fischer, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, as well as the American government, asking them to intervene to find out precisely what had happened.

Pangalos said that Kurdish demonstrators had seized the Greek embassies in Bonn, London, Vienna, Brussels and the Hague, and the Greek consulates in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Stuttgart.

The foreign minister described as "an act of extreme brutality" the holding as hostages of the wife and 8-year-old child of the Greek ambassador, P. Angelakis, at the Hague and the Greek ambassador, Y. Yennimatas, in Vienna, where Greece's head of state Costis Stephanopoulos is currently on an official visit.

"Greece has always shown respect for the Kurds' struggle, and for the defence of human rights in general," Pangalos said, and warned that the government was preparing a plan of action against the Kurdish organisation if the Kurd protestors did not abandon the Greek government buildings by noon, Athens time.

Pangalos reiterated that Greece "never considered, or would consider, as expedient or useful the presence of Ocalan on Greek territory, for reasons concerning both the interests of the Kurdish people and security and stability in the region".

He repeated that no application for granting political asylum to Ocalan had been made to Greece, "and if such a request had been submitted, under the 1991 Dublin treaty on political asylum, such a request would have been referred to Italy, which was the first European country that Ocalan went to after his departure from Syria".

Replying to reporters' questions, Pangalos said that after Ocalan's unsuccessful effort to land at a Dutch airport two weeks ago, the Kurdish leader's plane made a stopover at a Greek airport for refuelling and then went to Kenya because consultations were taking place with countries in that region for a definitive settlement of Ocalan's problem.

Pangalos said that Ocalan's presence at the Greek embassy in Kenya "was known exclusively by Ocalan and the Greek foreign ministry leadership", adding that this information was made public at Ocalan's initiative and foreign, non-Greek circles who advised the Kurdish leader to leave for Holland.

Pangalos further said that the latest developments "strongly prove that Greece should in no way become a part of the Kurdish problem", which he described as a domestic problem for Turkey "that must not become the object of a Greek-Turkish rift".

As Pangalos was giving his press conference, security police arrested 12 Kurds who were staging a hunger strike outside the Greek Parliament, where two Kurds immolated themselves last night and were taken to hospital for treatment.

The arrests bring to 80 the number of arrests outside parliament yesterday and today. According to a police source, the arrest of the 12 today was a precautionary measure because police feared that more Ocalan followers would set fire to themselves.

Meanwhile, a group of 300 Kurdish refugees who were removed by police from a central downtown Athens square, were transferred late last night to an old airforce camp on Mount Pateras southwest of Athens, instead of an area in the Athens surburb of Aghia Varvara.

Greece to facilitate NATO in case it deploys in Kosovo

Greece will provide facilities to NATO in case the aliance decides to deploy land forces in Kosovo, President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos stressed yesterday.

"Greece will definitely provide facilities, even though it may not participate - I am not aware of the government's final decision," he told reporters after talks with Austrian counterpart Thomas Klestil.

He added, however, "we had doubts as to whe ther a military intervention would be useful, and our impression is that it is not," although he expressed the hope for a peaceful solution, which as he said, concerned both Greece and Austria.

Mr. Stephanopoulos, accompanied by Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis and National Economy Deputy Minister Alekos Baltas, had arrived earlier in the Austrian capital on a three-day official visit, the first of a Greek head of state.

Besides Kosovo, talks included bilateral relations, the role of the two countries in the EU, Greek Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue.

Mr. Klestil stated that when his country exercised the EU presidency it unreservedly supported the beginning of negotiations of Cyprus with the Union, adding that he hoped this procedure would make a positive contribuition to a resolution of the island's political problem.

Referring to other issues, Mr. Stephanopoulos again invited Turkey to seek recourse to the International Court at The Hague rather than tactics which "were anachronistic", contrary to the UN Charter, and condemned by all European states if it considered it had any sort of legal difference with Greece. Speaking at the official dinner later, Mr. Klestil praised Greece "as the cradle of democracy, spiritual homeland of mankind which owes it so much."

Responding, the Greek president noted that relations between Greece and Turkey were not developing satisfactorily as with the other Balkan countries.

"Our desire for a development of Greek-Turkish relations stumbles at our neighbours' unacceptable and and groundless claims, which, accompanied by threats of war, reached as far as the disputing of our very territorial integrity," he said.

Athens repeats its position over Ocalan issue

A protesting Kurdish man suffered severe burns after setting himself alight during a rally in central Athens yesterday at the same time as Athens said it did not wish for fugitive Kurd leader Abdullah Ocalan to request political asylum in Greece, saying this would benefit neither Greece nor the Kurdish cause.

About 50 Kurdish protesters had rallied outside Parliament yesterday morning demanding that Greece grant political asylum to Mr. Ocalan.

The man set himself alight as police attempted to move the protesters away from Parliament. He was later reported in stable condition in a local hospital.

Another two protesters rushing to his assistance had their clothing set alight as they tried to extinguish the flames. Neither of the two was injured in the incident.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas repeated yesterday that Greece did not desire for Mr. Ocalan to apply for political asylum in Greece, as such a move would not be useful for the country or the Kurdish people.

Gov't to allow NATO equipment headed for Kosovo

"Greece is facilitating the transfer of NATO military equipment to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) through the port of Thessaloniki within the framework of a relevant decision by the Orgnisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to relieve the situation in Kosovo without, however, participating in operations itself," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.

"We have stated that we will participate in operations aimed at evacuating citizens from the specific region desiring to leave it and, of course, we will be present there, provided that all sides desire our presence," Mr. Reppas said.

He expressed a hope for diplomatic discussions taking place in France to reach a favourable conclusion.

Premier predicts inflation at 2.5% by end of 1999

Prime Minister Costas Simitis predicted yesterday that inflation would continue to fall to reach 2.5 per cent at the end of 1999, although he warned of possible inflationary pressures before then.

"Lower inflation is not only the responsibility of the government but all of those who participate in the economy," Mr. Simitis said in Thessaloniki during a luncheon held in his honour by the city's MPs and business people.

He said inflationary pressures were possible through an increase in currency circulation.

Unemployment had fallen "margi-nally" on the basis of the latest figures, he said, adding that there was a need for more effective employment programmes.

Mr. Simitis reiterated the government's interest in developing Thessaloniki's role in the wider Balkans and called for greater cooperation from business and industry in this direction.

The prime minister said the recently-signed contract for the construction of a subway system for the city will be tabled today in Parliament for ratification.

EIU predictions on Greece

The business climate in Greece is rated 6.71 (in a scale of 1-10) for the period 1998-2002, ranking the country in the 35th position in the world table of business prospects, Economist Intelligence Unit said in a report on Europe.

The country's rating in the previous period 1993-1997 was 5.88, but its place in the world table was 32nd.

A decline in the country's world position for the next five years is attributed to an expected improvement in other countries' business climate compared with Greece's.

In a quality rating of the business climate, the EIU rated Greece "moderate" for the period 1993-97 but upgraded the country to "good" for the next five years.

The EIU's report forecasts that Greece's participation in EMU will depend on technical factors, in contrast with Britain, Sweden and Denmark which all faced political problems.

The report notes that economic convergence with the Maastricht treaty criteria was a challenge for Greece, while for the other three European Union states, not participating in the euro, the problem was to overcome strong domestic political resistance to EMU.

Stock market increases

Equity prices surged to new records yesterday helped by strong buying interest in blue chips stocks, particularly in the construction sector.

The general index ended 2.18 percent up to 3,466.95 points, its 15th record this year. Turnover was 160.5 billion drachmas and volume 30,971,461 shares.

Dealers said the market easily absorbed an early wave of profit-taking to rebound later in the day.

The Athens Stock Exchange remains on a record breaking rally despite signs of fatigue showed by other European bourses.

Sector indices scored gains. Banks rose 1.02 percent, Leasing increased 0.31 percent, Insurance fell 0.60 percent, Investment ended 0.54 percent, Construction surged 4.50 percent, Industrials jumped 5.05 percent, Miscellaneous ended 1.16 percent up and Holding soared 6.41 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 4.08 percent up, while the FTSE/ASE 20 index rose 1.21 percent to 2,183.48.

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,300 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 35, 200, Ergobank at 25,100, Ionian Bank at 17,500, Titan Cement at 23,940, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,527, Intracom at 18,079, Minoan Lines at 8,050, Panafon at 9,900 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,050.

Construction firms buyout

Two construction companies listed on the Athens Stock Exchange announced the purchase of two similar firms in the bourse's parallel market yesterday.

AEGEK announced the purchase of 51 per cent (1,530,000 shares) of the Ekter firm.

AEGEK projects profits totalling 3.5 billion drachmas for 1998.

Ekter is active in both the public and private works sectors. Its turnover for 1998 is expected to reach 2.2 billion drachmas (3.4 billion drachmas in 1997) and its profits 250 million drachmas.

ATTIKAT announced the purchase of a majority stake in the Sigalas construction firm. ATTIKAT participates in the Attiki Odos joint venture, as well as in the Thessaloniki metro and Spata airport projects. Sigalas has undertaken considerable projects in the Middle East.

Proposals to boost trade between border regions of Greece

Improved relations between eastern Macedonia and Thrace with neighbouring Bulgaria in the sectors of industry, environmental protection, investment, economic cooperation and trade was the focus of a conference yesterday in Athens.

In fact, the president of the broader prefectural self-government of Kavala- Drama-Xanthi proposed various recommendations for better cooperation between the two neighbours.

He proposed the establishment of a permanent Greek-Bulgarian committee to deal directly with any problems, installation of pollution control mechanisms on both sides, preferred customs treatment for Greek products exported to Bulgaria and participation of Greek businesses in the privatisation of state defence industries in Bulgaria.

Japanese trade specialists in Athens

The Japanese Foreign Trade Organisation (JETRO) in Athens invited two Japanese import experts to visit Greece in February and March.

Lifestyle items specialist I. Hirose already visited the country between Feb. 8 and 13, while software expert H. Kanno will be in Athens between March 2 and 5.

The specialists' task is to buy product samples from Greece with export potential and exhibit them in Japan at various trade exhibitions.

JETRO was established in the early 1970s and is a non-profit government- funded trade promotion organisation.

Farmers in central Greece call off protests

Farmers in central Greece that had threatened to close national roads abandoned protests yesterday with "their heads held high," a farmers' representative said.

"We are leaving but we plan to continue our struggle for our demands to be met with other forms of protest," Communist Party of Greece MP and member of the PASE farmers union Evangelos Boutas told a short meeting of the protestors gathered at the juncti on of the Athens-Thessaloniki motorway, near Larissa.

Farmers had lined up their tractors along the sides of national roads at several points along the Athens-Thessaloniki motorway in central Greece last Monday, to demand lower debt repayment rates.

They warned of a repeat of protest action in 1997, when the country's road and rail network was paralysed by tractor blockades.

Last week, the government announced a package of measures to facilitate the repayment by farmers of debts to the Agricultural Bank of Greece, according to which 50 per cent of outstanding debts will be written off.

The measures also provide for the write-off of all default interest due, 50 per cent of accrued interest and refinancing with new loans at favourable interest rates.

WEATHER

Overcast weather and sporadic showers will prevail in most parts of Greece today. Sleet or snow in the mountainous regions. Winds variable, moderate. Overcast with intermittent rain in Athens with temperatures ranging between 5-13C. Overcast in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 2-8C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 283.563 Pound sterling 462.391 Japanese yen (100) 247.484 French franc 48.688 German mark 163.293 Italian lira (100) 16.494 Irish Punt 405.522 Belgian franc 7.917 Luxembourg franc 7.917 Finnish mark 53.715 Dutch guilder 144.926 Danish kr. 42.964 Austrian sch. 23.210 Spanish peseta 1.920 Swedish kr. 35.946 Norwegian kr. 37.162 Swiss franc 200.111 Port. Escudo 1.593 Aus. dollar 183.917 Can. dollar 189.928 Cyprus pound 550.957 euro 319.374

(C.E.)


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