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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-05-20

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, 20/05/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Papandreou calls on Belgrade to accept Helsinki meeting proposals
  • Stocks edge up, hit new high
  • Greece, Russia sign commitment to oil pipeline
  • Engineering contractor gets deal with Canadian firm
  • Tourists in Rhodes up from last year
  • Greece formally applies for 'Patriot' system
  • Communist parties to gather in Athens
  • Greece will enter `euro zone` on strictly economic criteria
  • Vartholomeos begins official visit to Church of Greece today
  • Greenpeace on dioxin levels in Greece from NATO bombings
  • New traffic code hopes to reduce appalling road casualties
  • Five new ambassadors present credentials
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Papandreou calls on Belgrade to accept Helsinki meeting proposals

Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday appealed to Belgrade and to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic personally to accept proposals emerging from a tripartite meeting here, proposals that were taken to Belgrade by Moscow's envoy for the Balkans, Viktor Chernomyrdin, "given that it is a very important and perhaps final opportunity".

Mr. Papandreou added that the talks between the United States, Russia and the European Union were "the most serious and systematic diplomatic effort to date...a turning point in the Kosovo crisis".

He added that it would depend on "all sides" whether a settlement will result.

The US delegation at the talks was headed by US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, while Russia was represented by Mr. Chernomyrdin. The EU was represented by Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who has assumed a special mediation role in efforts to resolve the Kosovo crisis.

Mr. Papandreou had separate meetings in Helsinki yesterday with Mr. Ahtisaari and Mr. Talbott.

The Greek FM flies to Moscow tomorrow for further consultations with Mr. Chernomyrdin.

Mr. Talbott told reporters that he was "fully briefed" on Greece's efforts to contribute to a settlement of the Kosovo crisis. He said Athens had "in this period" been a very good ally "and we are grateful for the support being given to us by Greece, be ing aware of the opposition inside the country to the NATO operations".

Mr. Talbott added that Greece, "an international symbol of democracy", was participating very actively in diplomatic efforts for a solution.

"I believe that Greece will also have a role to play the day after," Mr. Talbott said.

In Athens, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that a political solution to the Yugoslav problem was nearer than ever but warned against excessive optimism, saying it would be wrong to think that a settlement was just days away.

Stocks edge up, hit new high

Equity prices broke into new record territory yesterday despite ending sharply off intraday highs.

Fuelling sentiment were hopes of an end to the war in Yugoslavia; steady US interest rates; and positive forecasts on the Greek economy by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and by Moody's, the US credit rating agency.

The index ended at 4,109.10 points, up 0.06 percent, posting its 28th record this year.

Turnover was heavy at 219.729 billion drachmas with 39,272,034 shares changing hands.

Banks fell 0.54 percent, Leasing rose 1.22 percent, Insurance gained 0.58 percent, Investment eased 2.45 percent, Construction fell 1.89 percent, Industrials increased 0.66 percent, Miscellaneous ended 2.52 percent up and Holding rose 3.81 percent.

The parallel market index for small capitalisation companies fell 1.36 percent while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips gained 0.24 percent to finish at 2,458.71 points.

Greece, Russia sign commitment to oil pipeline

Greece and Russia yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding that commits the two sides to build an oil pipeline to Greece from Bulgaria.

The pipeline from the Bulgarian port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis in Greece will carry Russian oil.

At a meeting in Athens, the two sides agreed to proceed as soon as possible to a detailed examination of a feasibility study by ILF, a German consultancy firm.

They also agreed to set up an international company, Transbalkan Oil Pipeline Co. S.A., to build and operate the pipeline. In two months, Russia will decide on its participant in the company. A previous agreement on share participation was reaffirmed.

The memorandum was signed in Athens following a meeting between Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Russian Deputy Minister of Fuel and Energy, E. Telegina.

The Russian side also proposed hosting a trilateral meeting in Moscow in July in order to finalise and initial Transbalkan's statutes. Also discussed were natural gas supplies and an aluminina project.

Engineering contractor gets deal with Canadian firm

Edrasi Psalidas, an engineering contractor listed on the Athens bourse, yesterday announced the creation of a joint venture with Dumas Ltd of Canada.

The new company, called Edrasis Dumas Mining (EDM), with each side holding 50 percent of stock.

Edrasi Psalidas recently signed a long-term contract with the Attiki Odos consortium building a ring road around Athens.

Tourists in Rhodes up from last year

A total of 49,433 tourists are currently staying in Rhodes hotels, of whom 48,457 are from abroad, the Greek National Tourism Organisation's office on the island said yesterday.

At the same time last year, the total was 43,560 residencies, of whom 42, 565 were from abroad.

The number of tourists is believed to be considerably higher as the figures do not take into account residency in rented rooms and other accomodation.

Greece formally applies for 'Patriot' system

Athens has formally applied to the United States to purchase the "Patriot" anti-aircraft missile system to boost its air defence, the US Pentagon announced yesterday.

The 200-million-dollar purchase would also include support systems, parts, technical support and personnel training programmes for the system, a Pentagon announcement said.

The missile system is manufactured by the Massachusetts-based Raytheon Corp.

The Pentagon said the agreement would not adversely affect the military balance in the region nor Washington's efforts for a negotiated solution to the Cyprus issue.

The Pentagon further said Greece needed this anti-aircraft system to upgrade its air defence, adding that the Hellenic Armed Forces would have not difficulty in absorbing the relevant technology.

It added that the overall agreement could also include one or more supplementary accords on offset benefits.

Two specialists from the US department of defense would be sent to Greece for the materialisation of the agreement, the Pentagon added.

Communist parties to gather in Athens

An international meeting of communist and labour parties from 50 countries will be held in Athens this week, according to Communist Party of Greece KKE) deputy Orestis Kolozov.

The meeting will be attended by 55 communist and labour parties and will focus on the issue of "The Crisis of Capitalism, Globalisation and the Labour Movement's Reply."

The meeting will also cover developments in the Balkans and the role played by major international organisations such as the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation.

Greece will enter `euro zone` on strictly economic criteria

Greece will claim its place in the "euro zone" rightfully and not through political negotiation, Prime Minister Costas Simitis reiterated in Parliament yesterday. "We shall join the euro rightfully and not with any other political criteria. We shall conquer entry without any bargaining. We have to continue our policy unwaveringly and steadfastly," he told a special Parliamentary session on relations with the European Union. He also stressed the importance of the upcoming Euroelections.

"Euroelections are very important for Greece, but for Europe itself too. There is no time for adventurist policies or clever verbiage. This is not era for apprentice conjurors," he said. The prime minister referred to Greece's upgraded position within the European Union, which can play a central role in regional and international developments.

He also made a special reference to the war in Yugoslavia.

"We succeeded in being reliable allies and reliable interlocutors with all Balkan countries. We were asked to be involved militarily and we said a clear no. We shall work for the European Union to change stand," he stressed.

Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis accused the PM of gross inaccuracies, adding that in the '80s the PASOK governments drove the country into heavy debt, and dissolved the state mechanisms.

Mr. Karamanlis accused Mr. Simitis of distorting figures, saying that eight trillion and not nine trillion were given from the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF).

Mr. Karamanlis said the Euroelections were a referendum for the government's policy and are decisive for the country's course towards 2000 and the dynamism of political developments.

"Only the prime minister does not realise the importance of the Euroelections. You are downplaying its importance because you are expecting your party's defeat," he said. The role played by the European Union in the war against Yugoslavia and the "myth" of economic indicators by the PM were at the focal point of criticism by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga.

Ms Papariga said the EU's policy is a cause for the war and this is apparent by the signatures placed by the governments of EU member-states and by the fact it has chosen NATO as its military mechanism.

Coalition for the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos tabled a proposal drafting a unanimous Parliamentary resolution expressing opposition to the war and requesting an end to the NATO bombings.

Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas criticised both the government and the EU for their choice and course on the issue, while he posed the question of whether EMU entry is an economic aim or a political one, since as he noted the premier insisted it is "a goal of national importance."

Vartholomeos begins official visit to Church of Greece today

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, the spiritual leader of the world's approximately 300 million Orthodox Christians, begins a ground-breaking 15- day visit to the Autocephalus Orthodox Church of Greece today.

It is the first official visit by the Patriarch to the Greek Church.

Vartholomeos, who will be afforded the honours normally reserved for a head of state, will be met at the airport by President Kostis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos.

Also attending the welcome ceremony will by Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, the head of the main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis, cabinet members, the armed forces leadership, members of the Holy Synod and of the diplomatic corps.

Foreign Minister George Papandreou will host a luncheon today in honour of Vartholomeos.

During his stay, the Ecumenical Patriarch will visit Megara, Evia, Preveza, Ioannina, Metsovo, Grevena, Kastoria, Katerini, Verria and Naoussa.

On May 31, he will visit Thessaloniki, followed by a tour which will take him in Neapoli, Lagada, Arnaia, Drama, Nevrokopi, Serres and Kilkis.

The official visit will end on June 5.

The Church of Greece is the only Orthodox Church which Vartholomeos has not visited. He has already visited the all-male monastic community of Mount Athos and areas of Greece under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including the semi-auto nmous Church of Crete and the Metropolitan dioceses of the Dodecanese.

Greenpeace on dioxin levels in Greece from NATO bombings

The environmental organisation Greenpeace said yesterday that although dioxins and carcinogenic hydrocarbons resulting from NATO bombings in Yugoslavia had reached Greece, current levels did not pose an immediate danger for public health.

"The levels of toxic substances which have been measured do not entail an immediate risk for public health in Greece," representatives of the organisation's Greek branch told a news conference.

Greenpeace branch head Stelios Psomas said available data from readings to date undoubtedly lent weight to the view that depending on the meteorological conditions prevailing, toxic substances do reach Greece from Yugoslavia.

"What is needed though is an extensive measurement network if we are to have a clearer picture about the levels of toxic pollutants and dioxins and their possible repercussions for the Greek people," he said.

Mr. Psomas said the results of readings by groups from the universities of Thrace and Thessaloniki were "compatible" and showed that dioxins had multiplied fifteen-fold.

Dioxin, trace amounts of which were found in 'Agent Orange', the defoliant used by US forces in the Vietnam War, is a toxic compound that is carcinogenic and linked to birth defects in certain animals.

In addition, Mr. Psomas said, the levels of certain carcinogenic hydrocarbons and other toxic compounds had also increased, particularly when air masses arrived from Yugoslavia.

He said that the various toxic pollutants, large quantities of which are released into the atmosphere when petrochemical and other installations are bombed in Yugoslavia, can be inhaled and also settle on agricultural products, rendering their consumpti on dangerous.

New traffic code hopes to reduce appalling road casualties

Greece's notoriously unruly drivers will have to wrestle with a new traffic code as of Monday, when stiffer fines and penalties come in for those used to driving recklessly.

The new code aims at fostering safer driving practices on Greek roadways and protecting pedestrians, passengers, children, the disabled and drivers themselves, of both motorbikes and cars.

More than 2,000 people die on Greek roads annually in road accidents, leaving 30,000 slightly injured and more than 4,000 seriously injured. The toll is one of the highest in Europe, more than double the average in Britain and the Netherlands, which rep ortedly have the lowest casualty rates.

Accidents on Greek roads have increased 105 per cent over the past 30 years, while in other countries the incidence of road accidents dropped by between 5 and 40 per cent.

Under the new code, illegally overtaking other cars, driving down lanes in the wrong direction, reckless driving manoeuvres and overloading will carry fines of 100,000 drachmas.

Running red lights and stop signs will also carry a fine of 100,000 drachmas.

Those found to be driving under the influence of alcohol, driving the wrong way down one-way streets, not using seat belts, driving without a licence, failing to monitor car emissions, and not using a helmet on motorbikes will face fines of 50,000 drach mas.

The new code will also provide penalties for drivers who fail to provide seat belts or restraints for children under 12 and introduces fines for those overtaking school buses. Also new is the introduction of lessons in road safety to all schools.

Paradoxically, fines for illegal parking will be lower. As an incentive to get drivers to pay their fines, a 50 percent discount will be available to those who pay by the deadline.

Drivers will lose the right to drive for between two to five years if found to have caused a road accident leading to fatalities.

Those causing serious injury will lose their licences for between three months and two years. The penalties double if the driver is involved in another similar accident.

Those driving without a valid licence will be unable to resit exams for a licence for three years; these three become 10 if the driver involved is the cause of a traffic accident.

Wearing seat belts and motorcycle helmets will be mandatory both within and outside city limits. This measure is expected to bring the number of non- alcohol related accidents down by at least 800 fatalities. 300 lives are estimated to be saved by the co mpulsory use of seatbelts and 300 from wearing helmets.

Five new ambassadors present credentials

Five new ambassadors presented their credentials to President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos yesterday in the presence of Foreign Undersecretary Grigoris Niotis.

The new envoys are Britain's, David Christopher Andrew McCulloh Madden; Germany's, Karl-Heinz Albert Kuhna; Italy's Agostino Mathis; Korea's Park Chang-I and Switzerland's, Maria-Luisa Caroni.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather is forecast in most parts of Greece today with the possibility of showers in the northern Ionian, Epirus and Macedonia. Winds variable, moderate to strong. Increased cloudiness in Athens with temperatures between 17-28C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 15- 23C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          302.917
Pound sterling       490.068
Japanese yen (100)   243.794
French franc          49.129
German mark          164.769
Italian lira (100)    16.644
Irish Punt           409.187
Belgian franc          7.989
Luxembourg franc       7.989
Finnish mark          54.201
Dutch guilder        146.236
Danish kr.            43.352
Austrian sch.         23.419
Spanish peseta         1.936
Swedish kr.           35.736
Norwegian kr.         39.035
Swiss franc          201.143
Port. Escudo           1.607
Can. dollar          206.058
Aus. dollar          200.399
Cyprus pound         557.504
Euro                 322.261
(C.E.)
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