Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-26
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 26/02/1999 (ANA)
- Three Ocalan aides and a Greek officer land safely in Greece
- Simitis letter to EU counterparts regarding Ocalan issue
- Premier in Bonn for unofficial EU summit
- British warship arrives in Thessaloniki with equipment for Kosovo
- Tsohatzopoulos: Turkey sliding into `dangerous path`
- Stocks post gains on political confidence
- Hellenic Petroleum more than doubles group profit in 1998
- Titan Cement Co. reports 30 pct group profit jump
- New produce, meat markets in Thessaloniki by mid-2000
- More Italian arrivals to Greece noted
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Three Ocalan aides and a Greek officer land safely in Greece
Three female aides of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan arrived in
Athens last night after being evacuated from the Greek embassy in Nairobi
and flown to Greece on a chartered Falcon jet.
A Greek intelligence service agent, holed up with the three Kurdish women
since Ocalan's mysterious transfer to Turkey 10 days ago, was also on the
plane, which landed at the Elefsina military airport, west of Athens, at
around 10 p.m.
Press ministry secretary general Nikos Athanasakis said the plane had not
landed at the main Athens airport for security reasons.
The successful evacuation was supervised by Greek foreign ministry
secretary general Pavlos Apostolidis, who flew to Kenya on Wednesday
Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the operation was a "humanitarian
act", in accordance with the permanent principles of Greece and the
He stressed that all relevant consultations, both in Athens and by Mr.
Apostolidis and other EU ambassadors in Nairobi, were conducted in full
transparency. He also thanked, in particular, the ambassadors of Belgium
and Sweden for their assistance, adding that the German presidency of the
EU had also shown "sensitivity".
He noted that the sensitivity and moral strength which the Greek people had
exhibited in the Ocalan affair gave grounds for particular satisfaction.
Replying to reporters' questions, he said Washington had played no
particular role in the operation to transfer the four from Nairobi, and
said he was not aware of anything that Greece had given in exchange for the
assurances it required from the Kenyan government.
Mr. Papandreou said one of the Kurdish women held a Belgian passport, a
second possessed Greek political refugee travel documents, while the third
had been given assurances that she could be given the same if she so
Simitis letter to EU counterparts regarding Ocalan issue
Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday sent his European Union counterparts
a letter calling on the EU to deal with the Kurdish issue that has arisen
in the wake of Turkey's capture of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan in
a spirit of "humanitarianism and with respect for human rights."
"The Ocalan matter is an issue which the European Union is obliged to deal
with in a humanitarian spirit and above all with respect for human rights,"
the letter says.
Mr. Simitis' letter explains Greece's unwilling involvement in what has
come to be known as the Ocalan affair.
"Abdullah Ocalan, after he failed to secure refuge in another country,
illegally entered Greece. This occured despite the fact that my government
had clearly underlined that for many important reasons our country was not
the most appropriate to extend him political asylum. Extending political
asylum, due to the nature of Greek-Turkish relations, would have transformed
the Ocalan matter into an additional Greek-Turkish dispute.
"The government, faced with the fact of the illegal presence of Mr. Ocalan
on Greek territory, had no other option but to help him leave Greece for a
country which could give him political asylum, in accordance with the
established process and rules of international law. For this reason, Greece
undertook great efforts under extremely adverse conditions.
"Unfortunately, our efforts failed. As everybody knows, Ocalan was arrested
under as yet undetermined and legally dubious circumstances. To my great
regret, Greece was not able to promptly inform its partners in the European
Union in relation to these developments, due to the extremely sensitive
nature of the entire matter and the declared reluctance of certain member-
states to involve the Union in this issue.
"Today it is an obligation of the European Union to exert its influence to
ensure a fair and open trial for Mr. Ocalan. A trial in accordance with the
rules of due process, by an indepdent court, with the ability (for Mr.
Ocalan) to choose his own lawyers and, of course, in the presence of
"The EU, while unequivocally condemning all forms of terrorism, must use
all the means at its disposal to pursue every initiative designed to assist
the Kurdish population in gaining full respect for their fundamental rights
and to contribute towards finding a political solution to the Kurdish
problem," the premier's letter read.
Premier in Bonn for unofficial EU summit
Prime Minister Costas Simitis arrived in Bonn last night to participate in
an unofficial summit of EU leaders, scheduled for today in the town of
The summit will focus exclusively on the "Agenda 2000" programme.
However, at the luncheon at noon today, where it is customary for issues of
a political nature to be discussed, the issue of Kurdish leader Abdullah
Ocalan is expected to be discussed, as well as the Kurdish issue in general,
despite initial reservation s set out by the German EU presidency over a
danger of "Ocalanising" the session.
The publicising of the letter addressed by Mr. Simitis to his 14 counterparts
on the handling of the Ocalan issue on behalf of Greece, and responsibilities
corresponding to the EU for the promotion of a political solution to the
Kurdish issue, together with the relevant resolution ratified yesterday by
a European Parliament plenum in Brussels played a role in having the issue
included in the luncheon's agenda.
British warship arrives in Thessaloniki with equipment for Kosovo
The British warship "Sea Sentorium" arrived at the port of Thessaloniki
yesterday carrying vehicles, armoured personnel carriers and containers
destined for Kosovo. The French warship "Foudre" also arrived in Thessaloniki
According to information from military sources, the arrival of two US
warships at Plaka Litohorou has been postponed for a fortnight. The ships
are carrying about 2,500 American troops, armoured personnel carriers and
The postponement of their arrival is probably linked to political
developments on the Kosovo issue and the fortnight given to the two sides
to discuss terms of the political agreement reached at Rambouillet.
Containers started being unloaded first at the port of Thessaloniki which
contain military equipment for general use. The vehicles carrying the
equipment are already headed for the borders with the Former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). The military unit accompanying the mission
arrived in Thessaloniki by air on Wednesday and is composed of 135 men and
At the same time containers are continuing to be unloaded from the French
ship which carried trucks and other vehicles as well as tanks which are
being sent to FYROM.
Movement will continue at the port of Thessaloniki over the following days,
military sources said, since the whole operation of transporting the NATO
military force through Thessaloniki will last for about two months.
Tsohatzopoulos: Turkey sliding into `dangerous path`
National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday accused Turkey of
using wrong tactics and falling into a dangerous path in verbally
escalating tension with Greece on the pretext of the Ocalan issue, for the
purpose of concealing its own responsibi lities.
Speaking at the Elefsis Shipyards during the delivery of the tank carrier
"Lesvos" to the Hellenic Navy, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that Turkey, which
occupied the northern sector of the Republic of Cyprus, used its military
strenth and violence to invade neighbouring states and used state violence
in order to achieve calm domestically, was in no position to accuse Greece
of being identified with terrorism.
"Turkey totally lacks the credibility to charge Greece of having any
relationship with terrorism," he said.
"It is Turkey which is being judged in the Ocalan case. It is Turkey that
must prove that it is in a position to apply international law and respect
human rights if it desires a prospect of convergence with the European
Union and cooperation with the neighbouring peoples," Mr. Tsohatzopoulos
Greece, he added, "has actively proved its determination to combat
terrorism, from which it has had many victims".
At the same time, Greece "is a democratic country which, like all the
European countries, has the non-negotiable right to defend human rights,"
the defence minister said.
The defence minister further reiterated that Greece's defence mechanism was
in full readiness and guaranteed the country's security.
He called on Turkey to show reason and avoid the tactic of tension.
Stocks post gains on political confidence
Share prices continued moving upwards yesterday as the market regained
confidence in the country's political and therefore economic stability.
The general index ended 3.04 percent, or 99.38 points up at 3,369.43
Traders said buying interest focused on banks and particularly National
Bank of Greece, which ended 7.3 percent up near the daily 8.0 percent limit
up on news of its planned share capital increase.
Massive buy orders caused temporary problems in the Athens Stock Exchange's
electronic trading system early in the session.
Turnover was 142.2 billion drachmas and volume 24,657,476 shares.
Sector indices scored gains. Banks soared 4.23 percent, Leasing rose 1.39
percent, Insurance ended 4.69 percent up, Investment increased 3.53 percent,
Construction ended 2.42 percent higher, Industrials rose 2.82 percent,
Miscellaneous ended 0.89 percent up and Holding rose 0.24 percent.
The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 2.23 percent up
while the FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 2.82 percent higher at 2,109.68
National Bank of Greece ended at 21,435 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 33,
400, Ergobank at 23,900, Ionian Bank at 16,775, Titan Cement at 22,150,
Hellenic Petroleum at 2,675, Intracom at 21,270, Minoan Lines at 7,580,
Panafon at 9,700 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,940.
Hellenic Petroleum more than doubles group profit in 1998
Hellenic Petroleum's consolidated pre-tax profits more than doubled in 1998
to 40.2 billion drachmas from 15.7 billion the previous year, the state-
owned company said in a statement yesterday.
The parent company's pre-tax profits more than tripled to 32.7 billion
drachmas from 9.1 billion in 1997.
The profits of EKO-ELDA, a commercial subsidiary, totalled seven billion
drachmas while Asprofos SA, a research company, posted profits of 1.1
Refinery sales totalled 10.6 million metric tonnes, marking a 3.5 percent
increase from 1997. EKO-ELDA's sales were unchanged at 4.0 million metric
The group's 1998 turnover totalled 659 billion drachmas, down from 744
billion in 1997. The fall was attributed to a sharp drop in international
oil prices last year.
The group's operating profit rose by 25 percent to 63.1 billion drachmas
from 50.4 billion in 1997.
The improved operating profit reflected higher refinery sales, improved
refinery efficiency and higher refinery margins, the company said.
Titan Cement Co. reports 30 pct group profit jump
Titan Cement Company, a blue chip on the Athens bourse, yesterday reported
a 30 percent jump in consolidated profits before tax and minorities to 36.5
billion drachmas in 1998 from 28.1 billion drachmas a year earlier.
Consolidated turnover rose to 159.8 billion drachmas, up 15.1 percent on
the previous year, Titan said in a statement.
The parent company's pre-tax profits totalled 27.2 billion drachmas in 1998,
up 18.6 percent, on turnover of 102.6 billion, up 5.6 percent.
Management will propose a dividend of 400 drachmas per share, up from 320
drachmas the previous year, the statement said.
A total of 540 million drachmas will be divided among four hundred Titan
The company last year spent 18.5 billion drachmas on investments.
According to management, the year's profit rise was mostly due to the
group's activities abroad, especially increased profitability in its US
operation and the incorporation of results by newly acquired subsidiaries
Plevenski Cement of Bulgaria and Ceme ntarnica Usje of the Former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia.
New produce, meat markets in Thessaloniki by mid-2000
The building of new facilities in Thessaloniki's central market are
expected to be completed by mid-2000, housing both the main produce and
The current markets will be transferred from the city's centre.
Macedonia-Thrace Minister Yiannis Magriotis made the announcement while
visiting the market in the morning.
He said a timetable for the project's completion will be strictly adhered
to, whose budget totals some 2.25 billion drachmas, provided through state
and European Union funds.
Mr. Magriotis also referred to the positive repercussions emanating from
Turkey's customs union with the EU, when asked to comment on statements by
well-known Turkish businessman Rahmi Koc who, in his capacity as president
of a Turkish-Greek commercial group, called on Turk entrepreneurs to cease
cooperation with Greek firms following the Ocalan affair.
The Greek minister said that after the customs union between the EU and
Turkey, Greek exports to the neighbouring country quadrupled, while imports
from Turkey remained frozen, resulting in the balancing of the trade
balance between the two countries.
More Italian arrivals to Greece noted
An upward trend noted in recent years in the arrivals of Italian tourists
to Greece is expected to continue this year, with more affluent Italian
A turn is also recorded among Italian tourists with preference to
qualitative and theme-oriented tourism.
Those were the conclusions derived from contacts National Tourism
Organisation (EOT) secretary general Michalis Kyriakidis had with
representatives of the largest Italian tour operators, on the sidelines of
the "International Tourism Fair BIT '99" in Mi lan.
It was found that Italians show increased interest in conference tourism
and Greek cuisine and culture. Tourism sector representatives expressed
satisfaction with the improvement noted at the level of services and
installations of general and specialised tourism infrastructure.
Greece already is among the seven most popular destinations for Italian
tourists. EOT is participating with a large pavilion in the BIT fair, which
opened yesterday and ends on Sunday.
Cloudy weather and local rain will prevail in most parts of Greece today.
Sporadic snowfall in the mountainous regions. Winds variable, moderate to
strong in the Aegean and Ionian seas. Athens will be sunny with small
possibility of rain and temperatures between 5-14C. Scattered clouds in
Thessaloniki with temperatures from 3-9C.
Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 290.051
Pound sterling 465.050 Japanese yen (100) 240.590
French franc 48.795 German mark 163.653
Italian lira (100) 16.531 Irish Punt 406.416
Belgian franc 7.935 Luxembourg franc 7.935
Finnish mark 53.834 Dutch guilder 145.246
Danish kr. 43.051 Austrian sch. 23.261
Spanish peseta 1.923 Swedish kr. 35.664
Norwegian kr. 36.807 Swiss franc 201.262
Port. Escudo 1.596 Aus. dollar 182.057
Can. dollar 193.142 Cyprus pound 550.481