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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-24

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, 24/02/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis slams Ankara over its poor human rights record
  • Gov't: Athens prepared for any Turkish provocations
  • Inquiry opens into Ocalan's arrival, stay in Greece
  • US rejects Demirel provocations against Greece
  • Karamanlis on official US visit
  • Conference on oceanographic study of E. Mediterranean, Black Sea
  • Stocks nosedive on political gloom
  • Foreign investors dump domestic bonds
  • Consumer loans jump 37.5 pct in December
  • Two-year savings bonds for issue
  • Aluminium de Grece shows 15 pct profit jump in 1998
  • Sanyo Hellas breaks into health sector
  • Greek industrial output costs rise, bucking EU trend
  • New maritime academy in Hania
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis slams Ankara over its poor human rights record

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday criticised Turkey over the Ocalan affair, saying Ankara faced international judgement over its poor human rights record.

"Following Turkey's failure to make the Kurdish issue a chapter in Greek- Turkish relations, Turkish officials have proceeded with a slanderous campaign against Greece. But, this will be in vain, as Turkey is and will be held to account for the violation of human rights and the failure to implement the rules of international law," Mr. Simitis told reporters after a joint meeting of the inner Cabinet and the Government Council on Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA).

Stressing that his PASOK government would continue to forge ahead with its programme to become the 12th member of Economic and Monetary Union, Mr. Simitis announced that ruling PASOK party would move in Parliament to set up a parliamentary fact-finding commission on the Ocalan affair to provide "full disclosure of what actually transpired", as he said.

"This government will continue to implement its policies and achieve its goals in accordance with the timetable it has set," he said.

"Nobody can interrupt the course towards a modern and strong Greece. Nobody can derail this course or create obstacles or harm the national interest," he added. He also requested that MPs take care to draw lines between internal criticism and national s trategy.

Mr. Simitis said he was certain that Greece would participate in EMU in 2001 and that the government's goals would be met.

He called Monday's declaration from EU foreign ministers on the Ocalan issue a positive development, saying it forced Turkey to face up to its responsibilities, while the EU requested a fair and open trial for Ocalan on the basis of rule of law and called on Turkey to resolve the Kurdish issue with political means and with respect for human rights.

Mr. Simitis said he would have bilateral talks with his European Union counterparts at a series of meetings to outline to them the problems that have arisen due to Turkey's stance on the issue.

Mr. Simitis said these talks would be held on the sidelines of Friday's urgent EU summit in Bonn, and the European Socialist Party conference on Sunday.

Gov't: Athens prepared for any Turkish provocations

Greece must be prepared to deal with any eventuality, the government stressed yesterday in response to questions on whether there was a possibility of an armed confrontation with Turkey.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas expressed certainty that Turkey would use all means at its disposal in the issue of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, and with this context, could undertake "initiatives" - other than verbal attacks against Greece -to harm Athens' course towards the European Union's single currency.

Commenting on a meeting earlier in the day of the Government Council on Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA), Mr Reppas said any possible resignation by Prime Minister Costas Simitis was not brought up at the meeting and neither was any change in the government's policy.

He said the current climate would change when the results of the government's policy and the "initiatives which have been undertaken on all levels become apparent."

The government spokesman also lashed out at all those "who are revelling in the Ocalan tragedy" and hastened to add that there was no question of ruling PASOK's congress, scheduled for March, being postponed.

Inquiry opens into Ocalan's arrival, stay in Greece

An Athens prosecutor began hearing testimony this week from the individuals involved in bringing Kurdish rebel leader

Abdullah Ocalan to Greece without the government knowing of his arrival.

The inquiry was ordered last week to determine whether any laws had been broken. First Instance Prosecutor Vassilis Pliotas was assigned to conduct the inquiry.

Three ministers, including former FM Theodoros Pangalos, were forced to resign from the government on Thursday after the news that the Greek embassy in Kenya had sheltered Mr. Ocalan for 12 days.

The PKK leader was captured by Kenyan security forces and handed over to the Turks as he left the embassy, and after assurances by Kenyan authorities.

Mr. Piliotas heard testimony from retired naval officer Antonis Naxakis, who admitted to bringing Mr. Ocalan to Greece from Russia by private plane and setting in motion a series of actions that ultimately led to his capture.

Mr. Naxakis told reporters after his testimony that he continued to feel he was a guilty party to the capture by Turkey of the Kurdish rebel leader.

He also criticised the government for shifting the blame, as he said, to services such as the Greek intelligence service (EYP), and said he was "not about to become the alibi for the betrayal".

The head of EYP also resigned in the wake of the Ocalan affair on Friday.

Also present at the prosecutor's office was PASOK MP Costas Bandouvas, who said he came to provide moral support for Mr. Naxakis.

Mr. Bandouvas was served with a verbal summons while he was at the offices and testified for an hour.

Mr. Pliotas, whose inquiry has been assigned a further two prosecutors, also heard testimony from another two individuals - a member of EYP and an airport official.

The inquiry is expected to be completed by Feb. 27.

US rejects Demirel provocations against Greece

The US administration yesterday categorically rejected a proposal by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel to include Greece in a US list of countries supporting terrorism.

"There is no question that Greece provided haven to Ocalan in recent weeks, and we have made our position very clear on that," US State Department spokesman James Foley said.

"However, the issue of - let's remember Greece is a friendly government...it's an allied government: it's one we work with. It's one that we - it's a country that we support in many different fora in many different ways. And I have made clear to you our difference of opinion on the question of harboring Ocalan. But you have to place that against the overall picture, which is one of solidarity among two NATO allies and common work on all kinds of economic, political and security issues," he added.

"Let me just say, though, that the question of placing governments on the state sponsors of terrorism list is a very serious matter. We only place governments on that list when we have clear and compelling evidence of a pattern of continued support over time at the highest levels of government, " he said.

Mr. Foley concluded by saying that evidence proving the existence of such behaviour have not been brought to the attention of the US government.

Karamanlis on official US visit

Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis will pay his first official visit to the United States in his capacity as Greek main opposition leader, during the second week of March.

While in the US, Mr. Karamanlis will be received by US Vice-President Al Gore and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

During his four-day visit, Mr. Karamanlis will also meet with various US Congressmen, while he is to deliver addresses at several academic institutions and "think tanks.

His schedule will probably include visits to other US cities, including Boston, New York and Chicago.

Conference on oceanographic study of E. Mediterranean, Black Sea

The first international conference for an oceanographic study of the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea began at the Zappeion Mansion in Athens yesterday.

The conference's primary target is the registration and comparison of all the oceanographic and marine environmental parameters of the two adjoining seas, as well as encouraging cooperation between researchers from countries bordering on these seas and with their colleagues from European Union countries.

According to the president of Greece's National Marine Research Centre, the country is upgrading its research, qualified scientific potential and acquiring a deep sea research vessel, among others.

Officials from the centre said that Greece's scientific research community in the oceanographic research sector have more than doubled the absorption of EU funds.

According to speakers, the conclusions to be derived from the conference will contribute to the creation and implementation of a coordinated programme for all research activities and the enactment of regulations to protect the marine environment.

Stocks nosedive on political gloom

Share prices ended sharply lower yesterday hit by domestic political uncertainty following the Ocalan affair, and fears of a western military strike on Kosovo.

The general index ended 6.06 percent down at 3,052.04 points, off the day's low of 2,991, down 7.94 percent near the 8.0 limit down for shares.

Traders said major domestic institutional investors moved in to bull up the market, nudging the index upwards. Turnover was 156.6 billion drachmas and volume 24,945,885 shares.

Spurring the profit-taking spree was a report by PA Salomon Smith Barney report saying that Greece's participation in European economic and monetary union could be delayed due to adverse political developments.

Athens Stock Exchange chairman Spyros Kouniakis said that the plunge in prices was due to an overreaction since economic fundamentals remained unchanged. Mr. Kouniakis urged investors to remain calm during the current volatile period.

Sector indices suffered losses.

Banks dropped 6.33 percent, Leasing plunged 7.62 percent, Insurance eased 4.41 percent, Investment was 5.68 percent off, Construction fell 7.58 percent, Industrials dropped 6.69 percent, Miscellaneous ended 6.51 percent lower and Holding fell 6.32 percent.

A total of 130 shares hit the day's 8.0 percent limit down. Among them were Commercial Invest, Aktor, General Bank, Bank of Greece, ETEBA, Ergobank, Sysware and Intertek. National Bank of Greece ended at 18,500 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 30,400, Ergobank at 21,413, Ionian Bank at 15,100, Titan Cement at 20,900, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,400, Intracom at 18,240, Minoan Lines at 7,075, Panafon at 9,250 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7, 700.

Foreign investors dump domestic bonds

Investors from abroad, chiefly the United States, sold off Greek bonds in the secondary market yesterday due to political uncertainty. Turnover hit a record high of 209 billion drachmas, traders said. Bond prices lost an average of 150 basis points, widening the yield spread between 10-year bonds and German bonds to 221 from 206.

But the bond sell-off did not lead to heavy demand for foreign currency, which contained a decline by the drachma.

The national currency was 322.980 to the euro at the central bank's daily fix.

Interbank rates remained soft in a liquid market. The overnight rate was steady at 9.90 percent.

Consumer loans jump 37.5 pct in December

Consumer loans surged by 37.5 percent in December 1998 compared with the same month in the previous year, the Bank of Greece said in a report yesterday.

The rapid growth of the end-year balance of consumer loans vindicated the central bank's worries over the phenomenon's impact on the broader economy.

The rate of increase was the highest since a 78.7 percent jump in 1995. Consumer loans rose by 34.4 percent in 1996 and by 27.9 percent in 1997.

The Bank of Greece's figures also showed a steady rise in private sector loans. Credit rose by 15.2 percent in 1998 from 15.3 percent in 1997. Commercial bank loans to the private sector rose 17.9 percent in 1998.

Housing loans rose 38.7 percent in 1998 from a 36.9 percent increase in 1997, signalling a curbing of credit growth in the sector. The central bank, however, expects housing credit growth to accelerate in 1999 due to lower interest rates being offered by banks.

Foreign currency loans rose by 14 percent in 1998 following an 18.8 percent increase in 1997 and the same figure - 18.8 percent - in 1996.

Two-year savings bonds for issue

The finance ministry said yesterday it will offer two-year tax-free savings bonds on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 2 and 3 at nine percent.

The bonds in electronic form have a minimum face value of 10,000 and are issued in multiples up to 15 million drachmas for each investor.

The issue, which is aimed at retail investors, was originally scheduled for February 26 and March 1.

Aluminium de Grece shows 15 pct profit jump in 1998

Aluminium de Grece, a subsidiary of the French Pechiney Group, yesterday reported 1998 net profits of 36.4 million dollars before tax from 31.6 million a year earlier, marking a 15 percent rise, it said in a statement yesterday.

Higher productivity and modernisation led to increased output despite a drop in aluminium prices, the statement said.

Management will propose to shareholders on May 27 a dividend per share of five dollars, the conversion of preferred shares into common and a two-for- one stock split.

Sanyo Hellas breaks into health sector

Sanyo Hellas Holdings is entering the health sector through the purchase of a 24 percent stake in CAT Scan Diagnostic Centre SA, Sanyo said in a statement yesterday.

The purchase will be completed through a share capital increase that will take the centre's capital to three billion drachmas, allowing an expansion plan.

Diagnostic Centre is a leading establishment of its kind and one of the best equipped in Europe. It has 11 departments with a large specialised staff.

Sanyo Hellas Holdings plans to expand into new business sectors that show rapid growth.

The company also plans a 10 billion drachma share capital increase by June this year.

Greek industrial output costs rise, bucking EU trend

Greek industrial production costs increased by 1.5 percent in December against the same month in 1997, countering a trend of decline in the European Union.

In the 15-nation bloc, costs fell by 2.2 percent in December with eurozone countries posting a 2.5 percent drop, Eurostat said yesterday.

Luxembourg was the only other EU country to mark an increase, with industrial production costs rising by 0.2 percent.

New maritime academy in Hania

A new maritime academy was inaugurated yesterday in Hania on Crete built at a cost of 1.4 billion drachmas, funded through national and EU coffers.

Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis, in his opening remarks, stressed that for Greece to remain an international shipping force there was a requirement for contemporary training and immediate adjustment to international rules and agreements.

WEATHER

Cloudy weather and rain will prevail in most parts of Greece today. Winds westerly, northwesterly, moderate to strong. Partly cloudy with sunny spells in Athens with temperatures ranging between 7-13C. Overcast in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 2-9C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 291.460 Pound sterling 471.914 Japanese yen (100) 240.133 French franc 48.844 German mark 163.816 Italian lira (100) 16.548 Irish Punt 406.819 Belgian franc 7.942 Luxembourg franc 7.942 Finnish mark 53.886 Dutch guilder 145.389 Danish kr. 43.098 Austrian sch. 23.284 Spanish peseta 1.925 Swedish kr. 35.942 Norwegian kr. 36.930 Swiss franc 200.513 Port. Escudo 1.598 Aus. dollar 186.228 Can. dollar 194.432 Cyprus pound 552.048 Euro 320.396

(C.E.)


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