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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-05-03

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, 03/05/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece announces decision to purchase US, French warplanes
  • Transport minister begins visit to FYROM
  • Gov't expresses support on World Press Day
  • Greek-built refugee camp in Albania inaugurated
  • Campaign to stress that Greece among safest countries for tourists
  • Burns praises Greek government's decision on warplanes purchase
  • Alpha Credit Bank approves plan for share capital increase scheme
  • Gov't plans to suspend collection of an airport duty
  • Equity prices end week sharply higher on ASE
  • Nine bln dr contract between IKA and Intrasoft approved
  • Greek first division soccer results
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece announces decision to purchase US, French warplanes

Greece on Friday announced the purchase of 50 F-16 Block 50 Plus combat aircraft, 15 Mirage 2000-5 warplanes and new weapons systems for its fleet of 10 Mirage 2000s as part of its multi-million dollar armaments programme for the Hellenic Air Force.

Prime Minister Costas Simitis announced the decision following a meeting of the Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA).

The total cost of the F-16 aircraft will come to 600 billion drachmas. The 1.3 trillion drachma Hellenic Air Force programme involves the purchase of new combat aircraft and the replacement of losses.

The main contenders for the lucrative fighter jet contract were the French Mirage-2000-5, the Eurofighter-2000, the US F-15 and F-16 Block 50 Plus and Russia's Sukhoi-27.

He said the decision to purchase the F-16 aircraft was based in part on the need to maintain uniformity in the Air Force fleet, a policy which would also lead to a reduction in the operating costs of the Armed Forces.

"When we say we want a 'strong Greece', we mean one which will have a voice and authority, one able to participate in the European architecture and the world security system," Mr. Simitis said.

Referring to the decision in mid-February this year for negotiations to begin for the purchase of 60-90 fourth generation Eurofighters as a medium- term measure in the framework of the armaments programme, Mr. Simitis said this earlier decision would also strengthen the Air Force, as 70-80 percent of the aircraft parts would be manufactured in Greece.

"In this way we have ensured Greece will have 4th generation combat aircraft of the highest technology as of 2005," he said.

Referring to other decisions by KYSEA, to purchase US-made Patriot long- range missiles and Russian and French medium and short-range missiles as well as 45 new training aircraft from the US and four airborne radar systems, Mr. Simitis said they would all contribute to upgrading the country's defence capabilities.

"It is our aim to make the Greek Armed Forces so strong that nobody would ever dare to attack the country. We do not follow a policy of pressuring or coercing others. We want and aim for peace, cooperation and friendship to be permanently consolidated in the region," Mr. Simitis said.

Commenting on the decisions, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said that by the decisions the Air Force will be undoubtedly strengthened in the medium and long term more than ever.

He said that after efforts were made the amount of 600 billion drachmas was reached for the purchase of 50 F-16 Block 50 Plus aircraft, while the strengthening of the air force fleet was widened.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the Air Force had proposed the procurement of 36 F- 15 aircraft at a total cost of 732 billion drachmas, believing that the specific aircraft was one of strategic importance.

The Air Force's proposal was not applied, he added, since there was the difference of 132 billion drachmas which was not covered by the National Economy Ministry which has its own priorities.

The purchase of 8-9 twin-seater F-16s was also decided to cover losses, as well as to serve training purposes. The total cost will amount to 70-80 billion drachmas.

KYSEA approved in principle the purchase of four hovercrafts which carry a big number of personnel and have speeds of up to 60 knots in conditions of up to 6 beauforte winds. The total cost will amount to 174 million dollars. Candidate countries for the purchase are Russia and the Ukraine.

Replying to a question on whether with KYSEA's decisions the gap between Greece and Turkey was narrowed, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the first substantive step was taken to overturn the disproportionate situation prevailing between the two countries, as a result of the fact that no deterrence policy was applied after 1986. He also expressed the view that competition will continue to exist between the two countries.

Transport minister begins visit to FYROM

Transport and Communications Mi-nister Tassos Mantelis today begins a two- day visit to the neighbouring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Mr. Mantelis, who is heading a large delegation of Greek public and private enterprises as well as deputies, will meet FYROM President Kiro Gligorov, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and his counterpart Bobi Spirkovski.

The object of the visit is the promotion of cooperation between the two countries in transport and communications aiming at the region's development and stability.

Gov't expresses support on World Press Day

On the occasion of World Press Day, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas yesterday expressed the government's undivided support and appreciation for the functionaries of the press and stressed the need for them to remain non- aligned and independent in exe rcising their duties.

Mr. Reppas said that in this way journalists will have a decisive contribution in shaping citizens' objective opinion with the ultimate purpose of further strengthening the democratic nature of public and political life.

He further said that there is no constitutional freedom without freedom of the press, adding that the press does not merely carry out an informative function but contributes substantively to the application of democracy, constituting one of its ingredients.

Greek-built refugee camp in Albania inaugurated

Albanian government vice-president Ilir Meta, Health Minister Leonard Solis and the Greek ambassador to Tirana on Saturday inaugurated a refugee camp built by the Greek military contingent in the country.

The 2,500-person capacity camp received 348 refugees on its first day of operation, as Mr. Meta expressed the absolute satisfaction of his government towards Greece's stance to date.

The 400-strong Greek military contingent in Albania built the 300-tent camp as part of Greece's efforts to aid Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in dealing with the flood of refugees from Kosovo.

Campaign to stress that Greece among safest countries for tourists

Greece said it would launch an international advertising campaign to underline that the country was among the safest in the world for tourists, in the wake of U.S. warnings to its citizens about travelling to Greece.

"The campaign will promote Greece's safe image around the world. Greece is not only a factor of stability and peace in the region but is also an extremely safe destination for tourists," Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos said in Parliament.

The U.S. State Department on Thursday issued a public announcement informing its citizens of the depth of anti-American feeling in Greece prompted by NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia.

U.S. officials underlined that the announcement was not a travel advisory - which effectively warns citizens not to travel to certain destinations - but an announcement which underlined the need for greater vigilance by U.S. citizens travelling to Greece.

It added that the U.S. embassy in Greece was not aware of any specific threats against U.S. tourists or residents in Greece.

"Greece is as safe as any other European Union country and, according to crime statistics, one of the safest in the EU," Mr Venizelos said.

Burns praises Greek government's decision on warplanes purchase

Addressing the conference organised by the Economist in Athens on Friday, US Ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns praised the Greek government's decision to purchase new warplanes, stressing that "we are proud and hail the modernisation of the Greek armed forces."

The Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) decided at the end of last week to purchase 50 US-built F-16 Block 50 Plus as well as 15 French-built Mirage 2000-5 warplanes.

Referring to the Kosovo crisis, Mr. Burns said there was always the danger of a flareup in the Balkans due to the action of nationalist forces.

Mr. Burns said Greece and the US have the same positions. They do not want changes in borders in the Balkans, because a change can bring about more afterwards. He also said that the US realises that Greece is the sole country having a common course with Serbia due to religion and geopolitical position.

Mr. Burns also stressed that the US does not issue travel advice to Americans not to visit Greece, adding that businessmen and tourists will continue coming.

Alpha Credit Bank approves plan for share capital increase scheme

An Alpha Credit Bank's general shareholders' meeting on Friday approved a plan for a share capital increase scheme worth 132 billion drachmas, May 7- 9.

The plan includes the issuing of 11,000,000 new shares at a nominal price of 1,500 drachmas each in a ratio of one for eight old ones. The offering price was set at 12,000 drachmas per share.

The bank's president Yiannis Costopoulos, addressing the meeting, said that procedures for the full merger between Alpha Credit and Ionian Bank were progressing at full speed.

Subsidiaries were expected to be fully merged within 1999, while the legal merger of the two banks was expected early next year, he said. The new group's network will total 437 branches in Greece and 41 abroad. Its ATMs network will exceed 675, pushing the group to second position in the domestic bank market. Alpha Credit Bank will also be one of the largest 80 European financial institutions.

Mr. Costopoulos said the bank will seek listing on the London Stock Exchange through the issuing of Global Depository Receipts (GDRs) and he reiterated that there would be no cutbacks in the group's workforce.

Gov't plans to suspend collection of an airport duty

Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos announced plans by the government to offset possible harm to the country's exports and imports industry and tourism by lifting an airport duty and subsidising road transport.

Responding to a question in Parliament on the repercussions of the Yugoslav war on the Greek economy and tourism, Mr. Venizelos said he had requested the transport and communications and national economy and finance ministries to suspend collection of the airport duty for the Visegrad countries of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

"We are organising a system of subsidies for road transport workers from the Visegrad countries, with subsidies for transport or subsidised charter flights which will be used instead of road transport," he said.

He said those flying in to the airports in Corfu, Thessaloniki, Kavala and Alexandroupolis, regions which have been particularly hard-hit by the Yugoslav war, would be exempted from paying the airport duty.

Equity prices end week sharply higher on ASE

Equity prices ended the last trading session of the week on Friday sharply higher on the Athens Stock Exchange reflecting investors' confidence over a positive outcome in a diplomatic effort to solve the Kosovo crisis.

The general index ended 2.66 percent higher at 3,617.42 points, off the day's highs. It ended the week 9.19 percent higher and 7.14 percent up in the month.

The index stands 32.14 percent higher this year.

Turnover was 138.973 billion drachmas and volume 29,383,450 shares. The week's turnover totalled 563.974 billion drachmas for a daily average of 112.8 billion, down from 117.04 billion the previous week.

Traders said the market was encouraged by Bank of Greece's report and particularly its positive forecasts on the country's participation in EMU and a drop in the inflation rate to 2.0 percent in the summer.

Analysts said the resistance showed by the Greek market during the Kosovo crisis was proof of its underlying strength and predicted a quick jump to the 4,000 level immediately after the end of the war.

Sector indices scored big gains. Banks rose 1.72 percent, Leasing increased 1.02 percent, Insurance fell 0.83 percent, Investment jumped 2.30 percent, Construction soared 7.22 percent, Industrials rose 3.89 percent, Miscellaneous ended 2.93 percent higher and Holding increased 2.46 percent.

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,005 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 22, 000, Ergobank at 26,905, Ionian Bank at 18,100, Titan Cement at 23,800, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,485, Intracom at 20,385, Minoan Lines at 7,390, Panafon at 8,210 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,150.

Nine bln dr contract between IKA and Intrasoft approved

Greece's Auditing Council approved a nine-billion drachma contract between the Social Security Foundation (IKA) and computer software systems firm Intrasoft, IKA announced. According to the announcement, Intrasoft will study and construct a customised sof tware system package for IKA in efforts to modernise the foundation's services.

Greek first division soccer results

Kavala-Olympiakos Piraeus 0-2 Panathinaikos-Xanthi 2-1 Aris Thessaloniki-AEK Athens 2-0 Panelefsiniakos-PAOK Thessaloniki 0- 4 Apollon Athens-Ionikos 1-1 Paniliakos Pyrgos-Panionios 2-0 Ethnikos Piraeus-Iraklis Thessaloniki 1- 2 OFI Iraklion-Proodeftiki 0-0 Veria-Ethnikos Astir today Standings/points: Olympiakos 71, AEK 61, Panathinaikos 60, PAOK 50, Xanthi 46, OFI, Aris 45, Ionikos 44, Iraklis 43, Kavala 36.

WEATHER

The weather today is expected to be warm, humid and sunny with local cloud in the west, centre and north of the country increasing. Showers are possible in the north and northeast. Winds southerly mild to moderate. Warm and humid in Athens with temperatures ranging from 16C to 31C. Same in Thessaloniki with a light cloud and temperatures ranging from 13C to 30C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          308.332
Pound sterling       497.147
Japanese yen (100)   257.701
French franc          49.666
German mark          166.574
Italian lira (100)    16.826
Irish Punt           413.668
Belgian franc          8.076
Luxembourg franc       8.076
Finnish mark          54.794
Dutch guilder        147.837
Danish kr.            43.974
Austrian sch.         23.676
Spanish peseta         1.958
Swedish kr.           36.682
Norwegian kr.         39.588
Swiss franc          202.837
Port. Escudo           1.625
Aus. dollar          203.208
Can. dollar          210.329
Cyprus pound         563.947
Euro                 326.767
(C.E.)
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