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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-26

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, 26/02/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • 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
  • Weather
  • 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 night.

Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the operation was a "humanitarian act", in accordance with the permanent principles of Greece and the European Union.

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 wished.

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 international observers.

"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 Petersberg.

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 on Wednesday.

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 helicopters.

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 23 women.

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 said.

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 points.

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 points.

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 billion.

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 tonnes.

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 executives.

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 meat market.

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 holiday-makers forecast.

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.

WEATHER

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.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

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 Euro 320.079

(C.E.)


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