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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-19

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, 19/02/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Cabinet reshuffle following Ocalan uproar
  • ND calls for Simitis' resignation
  • The new Cabinet as of Feb. 18, 1999
  • Kranidiotis says criticism of Athens `unfair`
  • G. Papandreou: Athens will demand common EU stance on Kurdish issue
  • Thousands rally for Ocalan in downtown Athens
  • Kaklamanis voices bitterness to US Congressional delegation
  • Outlook brighter for euro entry in 2001, analyst says
  • Stocks slump on political unease following Ocalan affair
  • State OTE now owns 35 pct of Rom Telecom
  • Infoquest forges alliance with US cable firm
  • Geothermal energy possibility in Evros
  • Athens News Agency English service
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Cabinet reshuffle following Ocalan uproar

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday asked for the resignations of three of his key ministers in the wake of the uproar over the capture of rebel Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, Public Order Minister Philippos Petsalnikos and Interior Minister Alekos Papadopoulos had tendered their resignations.

A mini cabinet reshuffle was announced later in the day by Mr. Reppas in which George Papandreou, until now Alternate FM succeeds Mr. Pangalos, while Yiannos Kranidiotis succeeds Mr. Papandreou.

Replacing Mr. Papadopoulos is Vasso Papandreou, who leaves the development ministry.

Replacing Ms Papandreou at the development ministry is Evangelos Venizelos, whose post at the culture ministry is taken over by Elizabeth Papazoi, until now Aegean minister.

Michalis Chrysohoidis, until now deputy development minister, takes over as public order minister, replacing Philippos Petsalnikos.

Stavros Benos, until now deputy interior minister, takes over at the Aegean ministry. Leonidas Tzanis, a Cabinet newcomer, takes over as deputy interior minister, while also Gregoris Niotis takes over as deputy FM, replacing Yiannos Kranidiotis.

Finally, Cabinet newcomer Yiannis Haralambous takes over as deputy development minister.

The new ministers will be sworn in today prior to a Cabinet meeting chaired by Mr. Simitis.

At the same time, the prime minister ordered an inquiry to determine which individuals had acted "illegally and above and beyond the limits of national responsibility" that brought Abdullah Ocalan to Greece and "created the current problem", he said.

Mr. Reppas said it emerged from an examination and evaluation of the situation that "mistakes and omissions" had occurred which led Mr. Simitis to take the decision to ask for the resignation of the three ministers.

Asked whether Mr. Simitis bore any responsibility for the outcome of the Ocalan affair, Mr. Reppas said the premier had "no responsibility and no involvement" since "he did not handle any issue".

The spokesman acknowledged, however, that Mr. Simitis had been informed of the Ocalan issue as it developed. He added that it was not the right time to refer in detail to the events surrounding the Kurdish leader's capture, while stressing that the prem ier wanted "ample light" to be shed on the affair.

Replying to other questions, Mr. Reppas said there was no question of early elections being held.

The spokesman rejected accusations that Greece had "collaborated" to hand over the PKK leader, stressing that only Greece had provided assistance and protection to Mr. Ocalan.

Earlier yesyterday, Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou, (now new foreign minister) in a letter to the prime minister, indirectly but clearly called for the removal from the government of all those responsible for the "mishandling" of the Ocalan case.

Mr. Papandreou, in his letter, distanced himself from the handling of the Ocalan issue, adding that the latest developments have "harmed our country's reputation, undermined the dignity and pride of the hospitable Greek people, and gave rise to substantial questions as to the true events".

In the 10-point letter, Mr. Papandreou called for full, public clarification of the Ocalan issue and Greece's involvement, "as painful as that may be", and full briefing of the public on the true events.

"It is our duty to make every effort so that politics may regain the confidence of the people and to avert the creation of a sentiment of humiliation," Mr. Papandreou said.

Mr. Papandreou further called for an examination of the involvement of the Greek intelligence services, as Greece's image "must not be indentified with 'secret service' methods", adding that "the para-state must be combatted wherever it remains", as it posed a threat to a "transparant and democratically controlled Greek foreign policy".

The minister also said that Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and the Turkish government were greatly mistaken if they thought that the Kurdish problem had been solved with Ocalan's arrest.

"The Kurdish issue is a national, political and social problem for Turkey." Mr. Papandreou said

ND calls for Simitis' resignation

The main opposition New Democracy party yesterday demanded Prime Minister Costas Simitis' resignation over government's handling of the Ocalan affair.

"Mr. Simitis is the primary individual responsible for the country's disgrace and if anybody has to resign, it is he," ND leader Costas Karamanlis told a meeting of his party's MPs yesterday morning.

Mr. Karamanlis said his party could not "impose elections" but that it could ensure that ruling party PASOK would lose the next elections.

Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas also called for the resignation of Mr. Simitis.

"The government has proven itself, in its entirety, to be dangerous and harmful to national interests, which it can no longer be allowed to handle, " Mr. Tsovolas said.

"It has brought the Greek government unbearable feelings of humiliation and shame," he said.

Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos told a news conference that the resignations of the three ministers could not be used as "an alibi" to cover up the circumstances of Mr. Ocalan's capture.

The new Cabinet as of Feb. 18, 1999

Prime Minister: Costas Simitis

Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister: Vasso Papandreou
Deputy Ministers: George Floridis, Leonidas Tzanis

National Defence Minister: Akis Tsohatzopoulos
Deputy Minister: Dimitris Apostolakis

Foreign Minister: George Papandreou
Alternate Minister: Yiannos Kranidiotis
Deputy Minister: Grigoris Niotis

National Economy Minister: Yiannos Papantoniou
Deputy Ministers: Christos Pachtas, Alekos Baltas

Finance Minister: Yiannos Papantoniou
Deputy Ministers: George Drys, Nikos Christodoulakis

Development Minister: Evangelos Venizelos
Deputy Ministers: Anna Diamantopoulou, Yiannis Haralambous

Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister: Costas Laliotis
Deputy Ministers: Theodoros Koliopanos, Christos Verelis

Education and Religious Affairs Minister: Gerasimos Arsenis
Deputy Minister: Ioannis Anthopoulos

Agriculture Minister: George Anomeritis
Deputy Ministers: Costas Vrettos, Paraskevas Fountas

Labour and Social Security Minister: Miltiades Papaioannou
Deputy Ministers: Fivos Ioannidis, Christos Protopapas

Health and Welfare Minister: Lambros Papadimas
Deputy Ministers: Nikos Farmakis, Theodoros Kotsonis

Justice Minister: Evangelos Yiannopoulos

Culture Minister: Elisabeth Papazoi
Sports Deputy Minister: Andreas Fouras

Merchant Marine Minister: Stavros Soumakis

Public Order Minister: Michalis Chrysohoidis

Macedonia-Thrace Minister: Yiannis Magriotis

Aegean Minister: Stavros Benos

Transport and Communications Minister: Tassos Mantelis
Deputy Minister: Nikos Salayiannis

Press and Media Minister: Dimitris Reppas

Minister to the PM: Costas Geitonas
Deputy Minister to the PM: George Pashalidis

Kranidiotis says criticism of Athens `unfair`

Deputy FM Yiannos Kranidiotis said yesterday that "it is unfair for Greece to be held responsible" over the latest developments in the Ocalan affair.

"We have supported the struggle of the Kurdish people in the past, repeatedly raising the issue in Europe, and will continue the same course in future," he said during heated discussion of the issue in Parliament's foreign affairs committee.

Mr. Kranidiotis was standing-in for Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, whose absence from the session caused furor among deputies of all parties, many of whom called for his resignation and a full account on the affair.

Former PASOK minister Sifis Valyrakis said he was "withdrawing his confidence from the foreign minister," while Stelios Papathemelis said the Greek people demanded to know the whole truth over this tragedy, and expressed regret that Mr. Pangalos could n ot be "forcefully brought" to testify before the committee.

Another PASOK MP, retired army general Kyriakos Spyriounis, said he would resign from the ruling party and as member of Parliament if it were proved that the government was guilty of "gross dishonesty" in Ocalan's transfer to the Turks.

G. Papandreou: Athens will demand common EU stance on Kurdish issue

Foreign Minister designate George Papandreou yesterday announced Greece's intention to demand the formulation of a common European Union position regarding the Kurdish problem. He was speaking to reporters after talks in Bonn with f ormer German chancellor Helmut Kohl.

"The EU must at last take a position and formulate a common stance on the Kurdish problem and also ensure, by any means possible, that Ocalan's integrity will be guaranteed at his trial, which should be conducted in a European manner," Mr. Papandreou sa id.

The Ocalan affair, the stance of the EU and relations with Turkey are expected to dominate Monday's General Affairs Council, at which Greece will be represented by Mr. Papandreou.

During the next few days, Mr. Papandreou said he will have the opportunity to have talks with the German presidency of the EU "and, of course, I will be raising the Kurdish issue, about which there is, unfortunately, a great deal of hypocrisy in the EU. We have not confronted the problem with strength and determination."

Meanwhile, Kurdish protesters who had occupied the Greek embassy in London since Tuesday yesterday evacuated the building.

The Kurds were protesting the capture of Abdullah Ocalan.

British special forces police arrested the undetermined number of protesters and announced that embassy employee Babis Patsouris, who was held hostage throughout the occupation, was "very well."

Thousands rally for Ocalan in downtown Athens

Thousands of Greeks and Kurds demonstrated in central Athens yesterday night, protesting the arrest of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The demonstrators, chanting "freedom and independence for Kurdistan," burned flags of the US, the European Union, Turkey and Israel, and forced a strong police cordon to retreat to a near distance from the Turkish embassy.

A delegation handed a petition to Parliament and the prime minister's office - also pinned to the door of the Turkish embassy- calling on Turkey to immediately grant Mr. Ocalan political prisoner status, for the convening of international conference fo r a political solution to the Kurdish problem, and for the setting up of an international committee to monitor the conditions of his detention.

Kaklamanis voices bitterness to US Congressional delegation

Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis yesterday received a US Congressional delegation at his office.

The delegation, en route from Cyrpus, was escorted by US ambassador in Athens Nicholas Burns.

Following the meeting, Mr. Kaklamanis expressed what he called "feelings of bitterness" by the Greek people and Parliament in relation to Washington's dealing with Ankara.

According to the announcement issued by Mr. Kaklamanis' office, the United States was not doing anything for the continuing Turkish invasion and occupation in Cyprus.

He added that Ankara has been transferring US-made military equipment, while Washington is also idle regarding the threat against Greece created by a Turkish landing fleet stationed on the shores of the eastern Aegean.

Several US Congressmen responded that the United States wishes for a peaceful and stable Mediterranean and the best possible relations between Athens and Ankara.

The US Congressmen are scheduled to visit Ankara next.

Outlook brighter for euro entry in 2001, analyst says

Greece's chance of entering the euro zone in 2001 is increasing but the government has no room for error in handling the economy, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said yesterday.

In a report on the economy, the IOBE urged a swifter pace of structural changes to the economy while acknowledging difficulties faced by the government.

It said that "tentative steps" in structural reform harboured risk.

An anticpated rise in the economy's rate of growth could fuel inflation and lower competitiveness, if unaccompanied by enough restructuring, the report said. High priority sectors for restructuring were the labour market, the tax system and social insurance.

IOBE also warned that growing competition among banks and a higher availability of loans could erode credit expansion targets.

Finally, the report said the outlook for the Athens Stock Exchange in 1999 remained healthy with profits and dividends expected to rise.

Stocks slump on political unease following Ocalan affair

Political unease in the wake of Turkey's capture of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan hit stock prices on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday although the market managed to end sharply off the day's lows helped by bargain- hunting.

The general index ended 2.08 percent off at 3,359.22 points after losing around 7.0 percent early in the session.

Traders said domestic institutional investors mainly bought shares and retail investors were on the selling side.

Turnover was a record 174.1 billion drachmas and volume 37,122,879 shares.

Sector indices suffered losses.

Banks fell 1.88 percent, Insurance eased 1.31 percent, Investment dropped 3.29 percent, Industrials fell 2.80 percent, Miscellaneous ended 1.36 percent off, Holding eased 0.02 percent, Leasing plunged 5.27 percent and Construction lost 6.49 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 3.20 percent off while the FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 1.80 percent down at 2,091.88.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 227 to 58 with another 6 issues unchanged.

Eskimo, Thessaliki, Macedonian Spinning Mills and Hellenic Petroleum were the most heavily traded stocks.

Nematemboriki, Lambropoulos, Xifias, Aspis Invest, Fanco, Endysi, Tasoglou, Aspis Pronia, Naoussa and Hellenic Bottling hit the day's 8.0 percent limit up.

Mosholios Chemicals, Barba Stathis, Alysida, Ideal, Corinth Spinning Mills, Gek, Vioter, Atemke, Gener and Fintexport hit the day's 8.0 percent limit down.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,000 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 33, 490, Ergobank at 24,200, Ionian Bank at 16,830, Titan Cement at 23,000, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,790, Intracom at 19,995, Minoan Lines at 7,600, Panafon at 9,410 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,880.

Merrill Lynch, the US investment firm, said that the Ocalan affair was not expected to have any serious or long-term repercussions on Greek markets, saying that any drop in equity prices signalled buying opportunities.

State OTE now owns 35 pct of Rom Telecom

Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), a heavily traded stock on the Athens Stock Exchange, now owns 35 percent of Rom Telecom and has 51 percent of voting rights, OTE president Vassilis Rapanos told a news conference in Bucharest yesterday.

Mr. Rapanos also said that a 2.7 billion dollar investment plan for the Romanian telecom was being discussed with the country's government.

Romania's telecommunications infrastructure was lacking, but investments would lead to development, he said.

In addition, Rom Telecom was overstaffed but management would follow Romanian law. Staff levels would drop gradually, Mr. Rapanos added.

Infoquest forges alliance with US cable firm

Infoquest, a domestic software company, has signed a strategic alliance with Lucent Technologies, a US market leader in global cable systems.

Infoquest said in a statement yesterday that the deal aimed to create a powerful group in telecommunications networks ahead of the 2004 Olympic Games to be hosted by Athens.

Lucent Technologies was seeking information projects linked to the Olympics and selected Infoquest as a partner, the statement said.

The two companies' alliance has already begun with training for technical staff in designing cable systems, it added.

Geothermal energy possibility in Evros

An Institute of Geological and Metallurgical Research (IGME) spokesman yesterday said the use of low-impact energy sources in Evros prefecture created possibilities for the better development of the area.

IGME geologist Nikolaos Kolios said a 350-metre-deep drilling in the municipality of Trajanoupolis, Evros, produced hot water of 90 degrees celsius equivalent to 10MW in thermal power, generating enough energy to replace several thousand tonnes of conve ntional fuels.

Athens News Agency English service

The Athens News Agency (ANA) provides a same-day, around-the-clock-news service in English to keep subscribers up to date on the issues that shape Greece's political and economic scene. The ANA Special English Service offers diplomats and journalists the latest news through on line (PC & Modem) on the country's foreign and domestic policies, its political parties, trade unions and pressure groups, the economy, industry and transport, and visits by officials from abroad. For further information, please call Chris Eliou, Director of the Special English Service on 6400560 , Ext.613. You may order subscriptions from George Tsambras, Management and Sales Department, on 6400580, fax 6400024.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather will prevail in most parts of Greece today. Sporadic snowfall or sleet in Thrace, the eastern Aegean and the Dodecanese islands. A drop in temperatures is expected. Winds northerly, northwesterly, strong, turning gale force in the Aegean Sea. Athens will be sunny but cold with temperatures between 2-9C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 0- 4C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 284.109 Pound sterling 464.554 Japanese yen (100) 237.485 French franc 48.694 German mark 163.314 Italian lira (100) 16.496 Irish Punt 405.572 Belgian franc 7.918 Luxembourg franc 7.918 Finnish mark 53.722 Dutch guilder 144.944 Danish kr. 42.969 Austrian sch. 23.213 Spanish peseta 1.920 Swedish kr. 35.750 Norwegian kr. 36.474 Swiss franc 199.784 Port. Escudo 1.593 Aus. dollar 180.271 Can. dollar 190.127 Cyprus pound 550.560 euro 319.414

(C.E.)


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