Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-24
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 24/02/1999 (ANA)
- 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
- 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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
The purchase will be completed through a share capital increase that will
take the centre's capital to three billion drachmas, allowing an expansion
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
Sanyo Hellas Holdings plans to expand into new business sectors that show
The company also plans a 10 billion drachma share capital increase by June
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
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.
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.
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