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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-05-13

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, 13/05/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece will continue efforts for speedy solution to Kosovo crisis,
  • President Stephanopoulos holds talks with Armenian counterpart
  • Simitis calls for an end to war in Yugoslavia
  • Greece will not be used for NATO operations in Yugoslavia
  • Greece to meet euro criteria at the end of 1999
  • Stocks edge down in Russia jitters
  • Northern Greek firms see hefty losses from Kosovo war
  • Hellenic Petroleum posts profit jump in 1998
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece will continue efforts for speedy solution to Kosovo crisis,

Greece will continue its efforts towards a speedy political and diplomatic solution to the Kosovo crisis through a series of contacts in Europe, the United States and China, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said yesterday during a press conference.

Mr. Papandreou said that he was planning to visit Bulgaria on Friday for a Greek-Romanian-Bulgarian FMs' meeting on the issue, while on Tuesday he is set to visit Paris at the invitation of his French counterpart Hubert Vedrine. In a related developm ent, Prime Minister Costas Simitis last night called for an end to the conflict in Kosovo, saying that the continuation of the NATO campaign could lead to a failure in the search of a solution. Mr. Simitis was addressing a ruling PASOK electoral rally. He also said that next week he will visit the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Albania, while immediately afterwards he will be visiting Moscow, Washington and Beijing.

In evaluating the results of the crisis, Mr. Papandreou noted that Greece's priority was the protection of the country's national interests, so as not to become a part of the Balkan crisis, but rather an active element in the efforts to resolve it.

Toward this end the Greek government is in contact with Kosovo Albanian moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova, he said.

Mr. Papandreou also noted his Tuesday telephone contact with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, where he had the opportunity to exchange views on the problem.

Mr. Papandreou said that Ms. Albright expressed her satisfaction over the decision of the G8 on Kosovo.

On a different note, Mr. Papandreou reiterated Greece's initiatives for what he called the "day after", underlining the aim of restructuring the region by a long-term effort to upgrade it, since this region is integrally interconnected with Greek nation al interests.

President Stephanopoulos holds talks with Armenian counterpart

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos yesterday continued his official visit to Armenia with talks with counterpart Robert Kocharian and the signing of two bilateral agreements on the avoidance of double taxation and cooperation in customs matters.

The talks included the situation in the Balkans and in the Caucasus on which the two heads of state found a coincidence of views. Mr. Kocharian said Greece was a key-country in the promotion of Armenia's position in international organisations, and to that end he had asked for Athens' assistance.

The Greek president also visited the Museum and the Monument for the Armenian Genocide by the Turks in 1915, where he planted a fir tree "as an expression of honour to the Armenian nation".

On Turkey's relations with Greece and Armenia, and in response to a reporter's comment on the fact that there were many Turkish products in the Armenian market, Mr. Stephanopoulos stressed that his visit was not in pursuit of the formation of an alliance against any third country, noting that all three countries exported to the other two.

Mr. Kocharian stated that his country had opted for the free market model which dictated which products were traded. He also said his country's large investment plans included the participation of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) in Armenia's telecom utility, Armentel.

Replying to other questions, the Armenian president said that his country's military cooperation agreement with Greece did not mean "an alliance against any other country."

Simitis calls for an end to war in Yugoslavia

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday called for an end to the war in Yugoslavia, saying that a continuation of the NATO campaign could lead to failure in the search for a solution.

"The G8 plan can lead to a solution... (but) persistence with predetermined plans not only hampers a solution, but can also lead to a failure of the efforts... Nowadays we are witnessing that such plans, drawn without estimates for likely repercussions and without sensitivity, are dangerous," he told a rally in Piraeus which effectively opened the ruling PASOK party's Euroelection campaign.

The prime minister added that Greece had first opposed blind bombing and insisted on a political solution from the start. He revealed that in a telephone coversation with British counterpart Tony Blair yesterday afternoon he stressed Greece's wish for the peace process to make headway so that the war would come to an end. He distanced himself from the policy of other European countries, while also stressing that the existence of a sole superpower could not secure global stability.

"Europe, while showing it can be an economic giant, also exhibited great political weakness in the Kosovo crisis, where it lost the initiative...

"The Kosovo crisis has proved that one and only superpower cannot secure global stability today, since its unilateral actions alone amount to an imbalance. A superpower cannot appear as guarantor of global security and stability," he said.

Further, he criticised past conservative European governments as responsible for shaping today's Europe.

Greece will not be used for NATO operations in Yugoslavia

Greek territory and air space will not be used for carrying out military operations against Yugoslavia, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.

Mr. Reppas was responding to press reports that NATO had approached Turkey and Hungary for use of their air space to intensify the bombing campaign against Belgrade.

He said comments on Tuesday by Deputy Defence Minister Dimitris Apostolakis regarding Greek crews in AWACS operations in Yugoslavia had been misconstrued.

Asked whether Greece would follow its EU partners in blocking assets belonging to Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic and his family, Mr. Reppas said: "If the European Union takes such a decision, Greece will implement it."

There have been persistent reports in the foreign press that President Milosevic or his son, Marko, own property in Greece. The reports have not been confirmed.

Mr. Reppas said Greece's signature to a Western European Union communique which calls NATO's bombing "necessary and imperative" was "a restatement of the positions of the European Union and NATO on Kosovo".

He said Greece, represented by Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, had been "completely opposed" to the prospect of inspections of vessels - in the context of an oil embargo on Yugoslavia - and had abstained from other discussions.

Greece to meet euro criteria at the end of 1999

Greece will fullfil the convergence criteria for entry into the euro zone at the end of 1999 and join on January 1, 2001, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos to review the economy, Mr. Papantoniou said the government will apply to the European Union early next spring and a decision will be made within 2000.

This means that Greece will join the euro zone on January 1, 2001, he said.

The minister declined to forecast how rapidly interest rates would decline.

Mr. Papantoniou added that comments by EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Yves-Thibault de Silguy on the Greek economy were very positive.

He also said that the impact on the economy from the Kosovo war could reach 0.5 percent of the country's gross domestic product, representing around 200 billion drachmas.

Speaking after the same meeting, Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos said economic progress was satisfactory and that inflation remained on a downward trend as a result of anti-inflationary policy.

Mr. Papademos said he did not see a risk of inflation resurging but stressed that there was uncertainty over oil prices in international markets.

Stocks edge down in Russia jitters

Equity prices ended moderately lower yesterday hit by uncertainty over political developments in Russia and their impact on a diplomatic effort to end the war in Yugoslavia.

The general index ended 0.37 percent lower at 4,089.48 points. The index hit a new session high but a wave of profit-taking hit the banking sector and pushed the market lower.

Turnover was 213.089 billion drachmas and volume 43,757,684 shares.

Banks fell 1.38 percent, Leasing soared 6.38 percent, Insurance fell 1.49 percent, Investment eased 1.88 percent, Construction jumped 2.97 percent, Industrials dropped 0.20 percent, Miscellaneous ended 1.44 percent higher and Holding rose 4.33 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 6.39 percent up, while the FTSE/ASE 20 index eased 0.78 percent to end at 2,468.56 points.

National Bank of Greece ended at 22,215 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 22, 200, Ergobank at 29,950, Ionian Bank at 17,650, Titan Cement at 28,640, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,980, Intracom at 23,500, Minoan Lines at 8,550, Panafon at 8,400 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,805.

Northern Greek firms see hefty losses from Kosovo war

The overwhelming majority of commercial companies in northern Greece have seen a major drop in turnover since the war broke out in Yugoslavia, a survey by the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce said yesterday.

Eighty percent of businesses mostly based in Thessaloniki, Kastoria, Florina, Aridaea, Serres, Drama and Kilkis reported a 60-70 percent drop in their turnover in the first 40 days of the war.

The survey said that consumers in these regions were particularly cautious and reluctant to spend, preferring to save money in case the war spreads in the Balkans.

The survey also said that a total of 63 businesses specialising in trade transactions with Yugoslavia and neighbouring countries were facing extreme difficulty due to a complete freeze of trade, exports and payments. A 40 percent devaluation of the Yugo slav currency also hurt Greek exporting companies with dinar-based contracts.

The survey also warned of the impact of the Kosovo war on Greek tourism. Tourist arrivals from Yugoslavia totalled 150,000 last year.

Hellenic Petroleum posts profit jump in 1998

Hellenic Petroleum posted pre-tax profits of 40.2 billion drachmas in 1998, sharply up from 15.7 billion drachmas a year earlier, the company's chairman, Eleftherios Tzellas, told a presentation yesterday.

Turnover last year was 657.3 billion drachmas, lower than 742.6 billion drachmas in 1997, Mr. Tzellas told the Union of Institutional Investors.

Profits after tax were 27.5 billion drachmas in 1998, up from 6.3 billion in the previous year, he said.

Hellenic Petroleum, which is listed on the Athens bourse, recently signed contracts worth 180 million dollars with the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to acquire a majority stake in the country's OKTA refinery, and build a pipeli ne linking Thessaloniki and Skopje.

The Greek firm's Aspropyrgos refinery ranks sixth among 101 European facilities, Mr. Tzellas said.

WEATHER

Fair weather with rising temperatures is forecast for most parts of Greece today, with light clouds in the afternoon in mainland Greece and scattered rainfall in northern Greece. Winds from west - northwest, light to moderate. Athens, sunny with temperatures from 17-30C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 14-28C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          302.798
Pound sterling       490.088
Japanese yen (100)   250.490
French franc          49.199
German mark          165.008
Italian lira (100)    16.668
Irish Punt           409.779
Belgian franc          8.000
Luxembourg franc       8.000
Finnish mark          54.279
Dutch guilder        146.447
Danish kr.            43.450
Austrian sch.         23.454
Spanish peseta         1.939
Swedish kr.           36.014
Norwegian kr.         39.333
Swiss franc          201.088
Port. Escudo           1.610
Aus. dollar          202.105
Can. dollar          207.903
Cyprus pound         556.353
Euro                 322.727
(C.E.)
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