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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-05-07

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, 07/05/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis welcomes G8 breakthrough for Kosovo peace
  • Stocks hit fresh all-time high on Kosovo peace hopes
  • Domestic banks nearly ready for YK2
  • AGET Heracles posts Dr 20.8 bln profit in 1998
  • New domestic carrier launched
  • Former FM Papoylias holds talks with Milosevic
  • Visiting Austrian leader says political solution in Kosovo near
  • PM focuses on rural projects during interior ministry visit
  • Stephanopoulos to visit Armenia
  • Simitis kicks off PASOK campaign in Elefsina
  • Pilot 35-work week proposed by banks
  • Statue of Artemis discovered near Dion site
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis welcomes G8 breakthrough for Kosovo peace

Prime Minister Costas Simitis last night welcomed a G8 agreement on the Kosovo crisis, saying it was a major step towards peace in the region.

"We hail the agreement and we hope that it will soon be adopted as a United Nations Security Council resolution and that all sides involved will implement it," Mr. Simitis said, addressing a ruling PASOK-affiliated labour union meeting in Elefsina, western Attica.

"Greece had from the very beginning outlined that the solution to the crisis could not be imposed only by force of arms, that political initiatives and diplomatic actions were necessary. Today's agreement confirms this point of view. At the same time the agreement prescribes that there should not be a change of borders...We have worked in this direction, " Mr. Simitis said.

"We, as well as others,have prepared the ground for today's agreement. This proves that peace is possible as long as it's not just words," he added.

"Our policy yielded results and will in the future continue to open paths," he added.

The foreign ministers of the 'G8' - the world's seven wealthiest and more industrialised countries along with Russia - unveiled a common proposal for resolving the Kosovo crisis at their meeting in Bonn yesterday.

The G8 ministers called for a Yugoslav troop withdrawal from Kosovo and an immediate end to violence that would allow the refugees to return home.

The ministers issued a statement calling for "effective international civil and security presences" in Kosovo to protect returning residents.

"A political process towards the establishment of an interim political framework agreement providing for a substantial self-government for Kosovo, taking full account of the Rambouillet accords and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other countries of the region as well as the disarming of the UCK," the statement read.

"Thanks to the groundwork by many countries and the pressure from us also, there has been this progress," Mr. Simitis said when asked by reporters to comment on statements by US President Bill Clinton.

Mr. Clinton said yesterday that he believed the G8 nations were getting closer to reaching an agreement for resolving the Kosovo crisis.

Stocks hit fresh all-time high on Kosovo peace hopes

Equities set a new record yesterday supported by hopes of a diplomatic solution to the Yugoslav crisis and euphoria in the domestic bond market.

The general index neared the 4,000-point barrier ending 4.29 percent higher at 3,962.38 points, off the day's highs of 3,990.16 points. It was the 24th record close this year combined with a new record in volume.

The index has gained 44.74 percent since the start of the year reflecting the market's optimism on economic convergence towards euro zone countries.

Fuelling the latest round of sentiment was a fall in April's consumer price inflation to 2.8 percent, which dropped below the three percent level for the first time in 28 years.

Turnover yesterday was a record 232.827 billion drachmas and volume 40,938, 892 shares.

Sector indices scored major gains.

Banks soared 5.06 percent, Leasing jumped 8.0 percent, Insurance ended 1.44 percent up, Investment increased 3.85 percent, Construction ended 3.36 percent higher, Industrials rose 3.58 percent, Miscellaneous ended 3.47 percent up and Holding rose 3.15 p ercent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 3.31 percent higher, while the FTSE/ASE 20 index rose 4.83 percent to 2,441.10.

A total of 71 shares ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit up, with eight banking shares among them (Piraeus, General , Attica, Dorian, ETEVA and Central Bank).

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 239 to 46 with another 13 issues unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 22,695 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 22, 500, Ergobank at 29,700, Ionian Bank at 18,500, Titan Cement at 27,540, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,560, Intracom at 22,300, Minoan Lines at 7,780, Panafon at 8,640 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,500 drachmas.

Domestic banks nearly ready for YK2

The Global 2000 Coordinating Group, set up to probe computer problems stemming from the change of millennium, has said that Greek banks have fully comprehended the phenomenon and have taken most of the steps needed to correct their systems.

The group's statement was relayed yesterday by the Union of Greek Banks, which has been working with its members to solve the international problem of a failure by computers to recognise the last two digits of the new millennium.

Further information is available on www.hba.gr.

AGET Heracles posts Dr 20.8 bln profit in 1998

Cement maker AGET Heracles posted 1998 pre-tax profits of 20.8 billion drachmas, up 22.2 percent on 1997 results, chairman Massimo Giudici told the annual general shareholders meeting yesterday.

He said 1998 turnover was 105 billion drachmas, showing a rise of 5.5 percent on the previous year.

The AGET Heracles Group's consolidated net profits after tax in 1998 were 15.284 billion drachmas, up 38.67 percent on a year earlier.

Consolidated turnover was 158.1 billion drachmas, up 8.17 percent on 1997 results. AGET's dividend on 1998 profits is 90 drachmas per share.

A total of 180 million drachmas from profits will be distributed among staff.

The Group's investments in 1998 totalled 13.687 billion drachmas from 8.776 billion drachmas in the previous year.

Twenty percent of 1998 investments, which were funded entirely from shareholders' equity, covered environmental protection.

Halkis Cement, a subsidiary of AGET, posted pre-tax profits of 3.273 billion drachmas in 1998, up from 514 million drachmas a year earlier.

New domestic carrier launched

A new domestic air carrier, Aegean Airlines, will begin operations on May 28, according to the company.

In a ceremony yesterday, Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos christened the firm's first two passenger aircraft.

Former FM Papoylias holds talks with Milosevic

Former Greek FM Karolos Papoulias met yesterday with Yugoslavia's leadership for talks on ways to defuse the Kosovo crisis.

Afterwards, an official statement issued by the Yugoslav president's office stressed that Mr. Milosevic "thanked the Greek people for their support and solidarity to the Yugoslav people", while noting that the "mass opposition of the Greek people to the NATO attacks provides the Yugoslav people with a major impetus to defend their country."

Following the meetings, Mr. Papoulias, who is also the chairman of Parliament's foreign affairs committee, said there was hope for an end to the crisis over the next few days.

Mr. Papoulias said his meeting with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic dealt with the issues at depth.

He added that he would also brief PM Costas Simitis on the results of his talks, adding that he was returning to Athens more optimistic.

Mr. Milosevic said "the key principles on which a political settlement for Kosovo should be based are equality between all ethnic communities which live in the region and protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and Yugoslavia."

"A just agreement on all pending issues can be achieved with a political process through direct negotiations," the Yugoslav leader reportedly stated, adding that "an end to the offensive, the establishment of peace and the return of Yugoslav citizens to their homes" should be part of such an agreement.

Mr. Papoulias also met with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic and Yugoslav Federal Parliament President Ljioubica Ristic.

Visiting Austrian leader says political solution in Kosovo near

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos met yesterday with Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima in Thessaloniki, with talks focusing on the Kosovo crisis and with both men expressing a belief that a political solution on the issue is very near.

Mr. Klima is in Greece as part of a visit to the Halkidiki region, a popular northern Greece holiday destination for many Austrian tourists, and this year's site of an annual festival organised by Vienna for many of its citizens to celebrate the coming of spring. A different country is chosen every year.

Mr. Klima called for an end to the bombings and for support of initiatives taken by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, while he expressed a belief that "we are moving toward a political and peaceful solution."

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said "we are at the final political-diplomatic solution, which Greece believed in and for which we fought for from the beginning."

PM focuses on rural projects during interior ministry visit

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday expressed satisfaction over the course of projects in rural areas, which he said are changing the country's appearance, and during a visit to the interior ministry.

The premier also instructed regional officials accelerate the implementation of the government's work.

"We are closely watching the course of the projects, which amount to 20, 000", while he referred to "considerable economic resources secured" by the government for the 2000-2006 period from the 3rd Community Support Framework.

The new projects which are being planned and classified will be submitted for approval at the European Commission at the end of the year to enable them, as he said, to provide an impetus to the country's development.

An additional 250 billion drachmas will be provided to support the Kapodistrias programme, apart from the amount of one trillion drachmas which had been announced.

Referring to repercussions the war in Yugoslavia will have on Greece, Mr. Simitis said there will be fewer tourists in certain areas but added that "the government has the situation under control. The problem might possibly be handled with domestic tourism. But we are closely watching the situation and we will take all necessary measures, particularly on issues concerning repercussions on the environment and health."

"We must be careful about what is being said concerning great dangers," he warned, and emphasised that "we cannot convey everything that our competitors say about big problems. All citizens must cooperate to protect our economy, the sale of our products and tourism," he said, adding that everything is under control in the economic sector.

Stephanopoulos to visit Armenia

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos will pay an official visit to Armenia from May 11-13.

Mr. Stephanopoulos will be accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis and Deputy National Economy Minister Alekos Baltas.

Simitis kicks off PASOK campaign in Elefsina

Prime Minister and ruling PASOK president Costas Simitis yesterday inaugurated the party's pre-election campaign in light of next month's Euroelections, and during a meeting of party affiliated unionists in Elefsina, western Attica.

"We begin today (yesterday) the struggle for the Euroelections from here, the blue-collar town of Elefsina," the premier said.

Mr. Simitis spoke on what he called the government's successes in the economic sector, pointing to a decline in inflation and interest rates as well as an increased rate of development.

He also criticised the opposition parties and especially main opposition New Democracy party.

Pilot 35-work week proposed by banks

The Union of Greek Banks' proposal to the Federation of Bank Employee Unions (OTOE) for a two-year labour agreement includes the pilot implementation of the 35-hour work week and a lump sum increase of 3.4 per cent this year followed by 2.4 per cent in 20 00.

The proposition was accepted in principle by OTOE's president and it will also be tabled for approval at the federation's general assembly today.

The 35-hour work week will be applied as a pilot programme at two branch offices and at one additional service.

The decrease in work time will be applied as a pilot programme as of August 1 at bank branches all over the country while, after the lapsing of the eight-month period, OTOE and the Union of Greek Banks will meet and evaluate the results of the experimen tal application of the measure.

Statue of Artemis discovered near Dion site

Archaeologists announced yesterday that they had discovered a priceless life-size statue depicting the Olympian goddess Artemis, in the vicinity of the significant archaeological site of Dion, northern Greece.

The discovery was made during excavations for construction of a new highway within the Litohoro city limits and about 3.5 kilometres from Dion, a sanctuary during antiquity.

The statue was uncovered in the remains of a temple dedicated to the goddess near the mouth of the Vafyras river.

The discovery of the site and the statue will give archaeologists a more extensive picture of the layout of the sacred city of the ancient Macedonians. It appears now that the site extended as far as the foot of Mount Olympus and to the coast of modern-day Pieria prefecture.

The temple has an extensive antechamber in which the headless statue was sat on a wide table-like structure.

Professor Dimitris Pantermalis, who oversees excavations in the greater Dion area, said the statue was fashioned in the style of the Athenian school during the Hellenistic era.

The goddess is dressed in flowing robes, sandals and carries a sheaf of arrows on her back.

Dion is being shaped into an archaeological park of about 500 acres. The latest discoveries will add to the wealth of finds at the site which include a mosaic depicting Dionysos, the god of wine, spas, an Odeon, and a number of temples.

WEATHER

Partly cloudy weather will prevail throughout the country today with the possibility of showers or storms in Epirus and mainland Greece in the afternoon. Winds variable, light to strong, turning gale force in the Aegean Sea. Partly cloudy in Athens with temperatures between 13-21C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 9-18C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          297.947
Pound sterling       487.568
Japanese yen (100)   246.710
French franc          49.119
German mark          164.739
Italian lira (100)    16.641
Irish Punt           409.112
Belgian franc          7.987
Luxembourg franc       7.987
Finnish mark          54.190
Dutch guilder        146.209
Danish kr.            43.335
Austrian sch.         23.415
Spanish peseta         1.936
Swedish kr.           35.797
Norwegian kr.         38.946
Swiss franc          200.320
Port. Escudo           1.607
Aus. dollar          199.873
Can. dollar          205.780
Cyprus pound         555.599
Euro                 322.202
(C.E.)
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