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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-17

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, 17/02/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Kurdish issue a Turkish and int'l problem, Simitis says
  • Kenya asked for clarifications on Ocalan case
  • Opposition reactions
  • Stephanopoulos cuts visit to Austria short
  • Greek ambassador in Nairobi recalled
  • Ecevit denies any contact with Greece over Ocalan apprehension
  • Greek embassies hit by Kurdish protest
  • Deadline for sealed binding tenders for Ionian announced
  • Profit-taking overtakes stock market
  • Long-term yields drop in 7-year bond auction
  • Laliotis cites progress in public works projects
  • Alpha Investments share capital increase
  • Report on Greek telephony market
  • Agriculture Minister Anomeritis covers farm issues
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Kurdish issue a Turkish and int'l problem, Simitis says

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said last night that Greece "has done its duty to the fullest", on one hand safeguarding its crucial and substantial national interests and on the other hand showing in practice Athens' humanitarian solidarity, responsibility and sensitivity at a time when other countries distanced themselves.

In a late night written statement in reference to the capture of rebel Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan in Nairobi and his subsequent transfer to Turkey, Mr. Simitis also called on the European Union to assume its responsibilities in safeguarding Mr. Ocalan's fate, "who is now in the hands of Turkey".

Mr. Ocalan was captured after leaving the Greek ambassador's residence in Nairobi, Kenya, where he was given "temporary residence for humanitarian reasons", Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos revealed earlier in the day during an impromptu press confer ence at the foreign ministry.

The PKK leader, abducted under mysterious circumstances, was transferred to Turkey where he will stand trial.

"I wish to categorically state that we had secured Ocalan's safe passage to other countries where his protection and the granting of political asylum was guaranteed.

"However, Ocalan in consultations with third parties opted to proceed to unilateral talks with the government of Kenya and make his own moves," he said.

Condemning the occupation of Greek embassies and consulates by Kurdish protesters throughout Europe and the holding of hostages, Mr. Simitis said the Greek government's position on the Kurdish issue has always been crystal clear.

"We have as a principle, but also because our national interest so dictates, to disagree with any kind of separatist movements. However, we are steadily in favour of protecting the rights of minorities, social and human rights and democratic freedoms in all countries," he said.

"At the same time, we have set out with clarity and consistency that Greece will in no case convert the Kurdish issue into yet one more problem in Greek-Turkish relations," he added.

Finally, he stressed Kenya's responsibility in the development of the issue.

"It is the responsibility of the government of Kenya and those involved in this affair to explain and account for the way in which Ocalan, instead of the airport where he was heading, in order to end up in the Netherlands, as he intended, was trapped a nd transported to Turkey."

Mr. Simitis submitted the written statement from his home, as he was ill yesterday.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos called on Kurdish protesters to end takeovers of Greek embassies and consulates in various European capitals and cities that followed the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Mr. Pangalos said that PKK leader 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," the Greek minister said.

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

Kenya asked for clarifications on Ocalan case

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that Greece has asked clarifications from the Kenyan government concerning the circumstances surrounding the capture of Mr. Ocalan.

He said Mr. Ocalan had been in direct contact with Kenyan government officials - in whom the Kurdish leader had "shown trust" - with the aim of travelling to the Netherlands.

The Greek government, he added, has no information about "the way things turned out" and bore no responsibility from the moment of Mr. Ocalan's departure "from where he was, with the responsibility of the Greek side" to an unknown destination.

The spokesman said, Mr. Ocalan had personally entered into negotiations with the Kenyan authorities and had "shown great trust in the assurances he was given" by the latter.

Opposition reactions

The main opposition New Democracy (ND) party criticised the government's handling of the Ocalan issue, describing it as "bizarre and dangerous".

Spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said the government had involved Greece in a crisis and had failed at all levels.

"The government has achieved the impossible," Mr. Spiliotopoulos said, charging that "it had managed to turn all against Greece and put the country to shame".

The Communist Party of Greece said in a statenment that the "dramatic developments in the Ocalan affair prove yet again in a clear and abhorrent manner the role and objectives of the imperialistic order but also the enormous responsibilities of the PASOK government which finds itself involved in the refusal for the granting of political asylum as well as Ocalan's handover."

Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) party leader Nikos Constantopoulos said in a statement that the "dramatic developments constitute a disgrace for Europe and Greece," adding that the Greek government "has criminal responsibilities and owes clear and responsible explanations".

Mr. Constantopoulos said that the Greek government "became involved in the worst possible manner in the whole affair and exposed our country in all directions".

Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas slammed the government for pursuing a "national strategy and policy that serves the interests of the major powers of the West and Turkey, to the detriment of our national interests".

"The government has done everything possible for our country to lose a traditionally friendly ally, which is struggling for its self-determination and could have been a deterrent force against Turkish expansionism against our country," Mr. Tsovolas said .

Stephanopoulos cuts visit to Austria short

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos and Austrian Parliament President Heinz Fischer, who met here for talks yesterday, placed themselves in favour of a European settlement of the Kurdish problem.

Mr. Stephanopoulos, who is cutting short his official visit in Austria due to latest developments in the Abdullah Ocalan case, expressed his concerns about developments following the arrest of the Kurdish leader in Kenya and the occupation of the Greek embassy building in Vienna and other European capitals by outraged Kurds.

A meeting Mr. Stephanopoulos had with Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima lasted 40 minutes more than originally scheduled, with both men declined comments afterwards.

Greek ambassador in Nairobi recalled

Mr. Pangalos told Parliament that the Greek ambassdor to Kenya, Giorgos Kostoulas, had been recalled. The Kenyan government, according to Mr. Pangalos, subsequently sent a letter to Athens requesting the ambassador's recall.

Foreign ministry sources said Mr. Kostoulas will not return straightaway to the foreign ministry, but will observe customary procedures in Kenya, according to diplomatic protocol.

Ecevit denies any contact with Greece over Ocalan apprehension

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said here yesterday that "there was no contact with Greece" in the operation to transfer Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan to Turkey.

In reply to a relevant question, Mr. Ecevit did not respond to the essence of the issue. He merely confirmed a report that a private aircaft with which Mr. Ocalan was transferred from Kenya to Turkey belonged to Turkish businessman Parliament deputy Cav it Caglar.

Replying to the question on whether there was any contact with Greece, Mr. Ecevit said "no, there was no contact."

Meanwhile, the White House denied yesterday that the United States had any direct involvement" in the handover of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan to Turkey, but refused to comment further on his capture.

"My understanding is that the US had no direct involvement in the handover, " White House spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters, referring to Mr. Ocalan's apprehension and his delivery to Turkey.

Greek embassies hit by Kurdish protest

By late evening yesterday, authorities had either evicted from or persuaded protesting Kurds to end their occupations in a total of nine Greek diplomatic missions in European cities, namely, the embassies in Bonn, Moscow, Brussels, Copenhagen and Stockholm, as well as the consulates in Paris, Marseilles, Strasbourg and Stuttgart along with the UN mission in Yerevan.

Premises still under occupation included the Greek ambassador's residence in The Hague, the Greek embassies in London, Vienna and Berne, the consulates in Zurich, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hannover and Milan, the UN headquarters in Geneva and the Kenyan embassies in Bonn and Vienna.

Responding to reporters' questions later, US State Department spokesman James Foley said the US condemned the attacks against Greek missions in Europe.

"In the view of the United States is that hostage takings and other attacks on Greek facilities in Europe being carried out by Kurdish protesters are completely unacceptable and should stop immediately," he said, according to an ANA dispatch from Washington.

Deadline for sealed binding tenders for Ionian announced

A deadline for sealed binding tenders for the purchase of 51 per cent of state-run Ionian Bank's shares has been set for March 26, according to a relevant interest invitation published in the press today by Commercial Bank, Ionian's parent company.

According to the invitation, sealed binding tenders by interested parties must be submitted at the offices of the JP Morgan firm in London (the sale's financial sale adviser) and must be accompanied by letters of guarantee totalling five billion drachmas.

The tenders must state clearly that the amount for the price will be payable in cash, while the availability of relevant capital must also be described. Lastly, they must be accompanied by a business plan for Ionian's development.

According to the invitation, JP Morgan must negotiate with the interested parties and give a final reply within 20 work days at the latest as of March 26.

According to reports, Alpha Credit Bank, Eurobank in cooperation with Ergobank and the Piraeus Bank group submitted non-binding tenders, which gives them the right to participate in the second and final phase.

Profit-taking overtakes stock market

Equity prices succumbed to profit-taking on the Athens Stock Exchange to end lower yesterday, halting a recent record-breaking rally.

The general index ended 2.02 percent off to 3,396.85 points reflecting losses in banks and construction sectors.

Turnover was a record 171.05 billion drachmas and volume 39,819,132 shares. Sector indices suffered losses. Banks fell 3.05 percent, Leasing dropped 2.95 percent, Insurance eased 1.02 percent, Investment ended 2.92 percent, Construction plunged 4.53 per cent, Industrials fell 0.40 percent, Miscellaneous dropped 3.75 percent and Holding ended 2.55 percent off. National Bank of Greece ended at 20,500 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 34,750, Ergobank at 24,210, Ionian Bank at 17,000, Titan Cement at 23,600, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,650, Intracom at 18,450, Minoan Lines at 7,795, Panafon at 9,700 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,050.

Long-term yields drop in 7-year bond auction

Long-term yields dropped further during yesterday's seven-year bond auction by the finance ministry.

The average weighed yield fell to 5.94 percent, down from the original annual coupon of 6.0 percent and sharply down from a 8.25 percent yield of a corresponding issue in April 1998.

Bids submitted in the domestic market of primary dealers totalled 930.2 billion drachmas, more than three times the asked price of 320 billion. The finance ministry finally submitted bids totalling 384 billion drachmas.

Laliotis cites progress in public works projects

Addressing an international conference yesterday on major public works projects, Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis announced that 20,000 infrastructure projects for developing Greece are at the stage of being completed.

He reiterated that relevant funds amount to 4.3 trillion drachmas, adding that not even a drachma or an ECU will be lost from the valuable funds for the projects.

Mr. Laliotis referred at length to the projects programme and announced that 55 per cent of the Spata airport has been constructed to date and that the project will be completed by March 1, 2001.

In another development, Mr. Laliotis has earmarked credits amounting to about seven billion drachmas for road and flood protection works.

Alpha Investments share capital increase

The Alpha Investments firm will increase its share capital by 44 billion drachmas, according to a decision by its general assembly of shareholders yesterday.

For this purpose, 20 million new anonymous shares will be issued at the rate of one new share for every old one at a sale price of 2,200 drachmas.

After the increase is carried out, Alpha Investments will be the first portfolio firm having own capital exceeding 100 billion drachmas and assets totalling 130 billion drachmas.

It was announced yesterday that the company posted profits of 22 billion drachmas. Its dividend to be distributed amounts to 500 drachmas per share and its payment will start on March 15.

Report on Greek telephony market

The unreserved purchase of shares of the two private mobile telephony companies Panafon and Stet is recommended in a report by the Dresdner Kleinwort Benson company, according to a report by Reuters.

Based on the report, the Greek mobile telephony market presents excellent prospects and one of the largest enlargement rates with new subscribers in Europe.

At the end of 1998, the percentage of mobile telephone owners in the country was assessed at 19.5 per cent of the total population, about 4.5 per cent below the European average, while the percentage is expected to reach 28 per cent in 1999.

Dresdner Kleinwort Benson said that Panafon has offered high yields to its shareholders on a permanent basis, while Stet's shares are also attractive.

It further said the two private companies have business expansion plans for the immediate future, a good distribution system and exploit the experience of their shareholder companies in European markets.

Agriculture Minister Anomeritis covers farm issues

The difficulties, new measures and future of Greek agriculture within the bounds of the European Union were the dominant theme of statements Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis made to the ANA.

Answering a question on the recent farmers' mobilisations, the minister said "it is not correct for the union activities of a group to clash with the interests of other social partners.

"We are moving ahead with a programme of reconstructing the countryside, which focuses on the individual. We do not take measures under pressure, nor do we take measures which benefit local or sectoral interests," he added.

Mr. Anomeritis noted that "the cost of production is not an abstract notion. The decrease in fuel oil regards a 2 to 5 per cent cost, while in some greenhouse cultivations it reaches 15 to 20 per cent."

Answering on the new institutional changes promoted by the government, the minister said that the changes aim at creating strong farmers' cooperatives that can enter the production, the traffic and trade of agricultural products.

He added that at times "when the private capital maximises its strength by mergers, it is hard to understand why should we continue to have 7,000 local level cooperatives and dozens of unions, which are incurring debts on a permanent basis."

Addressing the balance of agricultural payments, the minister said there is a 350-billion drachma deficit of which 74 per cent stems from EU member- states products, which proves that Greece was not a net beneficiary of the Union's agricultural budget al locations, as has been said.

WEATHER

Overcast weather and sporadic showers will prevail in most parts of Greece today and mainly in the northern and eastern regions today. Winds variable, light to moderate. Overcast with intermittent rain in Athens with temperatures will ranging between 7-13C. Overcast in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 0-10C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 285.855 Pound sterling 467.411 Japanese yen (100) 243.109 French franc 48.775 German mark 163.583 Italian lira (100) 16.524 Irish Punt 406.240 Belgian franc 7.931 Luxembourg franc 7.931 Finnish mark 53.810 Dutch guilder 145.182 Danish kr. 43.035 Austrian sch. 23.250 Spanish peseta 1.922 Swedish kr. 36.079 Norwegian kr. 37.061 Swiss franc 200.067 Port. Escudo 1.596 Aus. dollar 183.351 Can. dollar 189.532 Cyprus pound 550.560 euro 319.940

(C.E.)


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