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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-05-23
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 23/05/1999 (ANA)
NEWS IN DETAILPapandreou: Solution to Kosovo nearer
Foreign Minister George Papandreou said in Moscow on Friday there might be a cease fire in Yugoslavia soon, even prior to a UN Security Council resolution.
"We are closer to a diplomatic solution" Mr. Papandreou said, during a short visit to the Russian capital, where he met with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov, former Swedish prime minister and now special UN envoy to Yugoslavia, Carl Bildt, and the U S ambassador in Moscow.
The Greek FM said there is a will by both the Russian side as well as the US and NATO toward a political solution of the problem, although still lacking complete agreement over details.
Mr. Ivanov stressed that the main issue was a cessation of military operations and pointed out that there was still disagreement over the "international security presence" and the withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo, while Mr. Bildt, replying to repor ters' questions over the outcome of western diplomacy in Yugoslavia, admitted to a "massive failure in averting war and in creating conditions for stability."
The Kososo crisis was one of the main items on the agenda of a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday.
Sources said the discussion revolved around the difference in the stance adopted by the United States on the one hand and most European countries on the other.
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the PM discussed the latest developments in the Yugoslav problem in telephone conversations on Friday morning with German Chancellor Gerhard Shroeder and Italian Premier Massimo D'Alema.
He added that the prime minister was also in daily contact with other European leaders.
Mr. Reppas also commented on Greece's refusal to allow the use of Greek airspace by Turkish military aircraft flying to Germany to join NATO air forces participating in the Yugoslav conflict.
He said it was the first time such a request had been made and underlined Greece's categorical opposition to Greek airspace being used "for these types of operations".
According to reports, the Turkish government submitted the request to the Greek foreign ministry at noon on Thursday, seeking permission for two or three aircraft to pass through Greek airspace.
Athens rejected the request later in the day on the grounds that Greece was not taking part in NATO military operations nor providing facilities to those countries which were participating.
On his part, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos gave the same reason for Greece's refusal to allow Turkish military aircraft to use Greek airspace.
He also clarified that NATO forces passing through Thessaloniki on their way to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) had nothing to do with the military operations in Yugoslavia.
"Their task is to set up camps for the refugees, who now number 200,000, and maintain stability in the country against any threat," he said.
Replying to reporters' questions, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the strength of the Greek contingent in any peacekeeping force to be deployed in Yugoslavia subject to agreement by Belgrade and NATO had not yet been decided.
He added, however, that Greece had already made the necessary preparations so that such a contingent could be immediately mobilised as soon as a settlement to the Kosovo crisis had been agreed.
According to sources, the Greek contingent in any peacekeeping force would initially be a batallion of 500 men.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos was speaking to reporters after briefing the board of directors of the Hellenic Arms Industry (EBO) on the policy which the company must follow in order to contribute to the implementation of the armed forces' ongoing five-year armame nts programme.
Credit expansion slows in March
Credit expansion slowed in March, rising by 8.5 percent year-on-year against the same month of 1998, the Bank of Greece said in a statement on Friday.
In February, the year-on-year rate of growth was 9.2 percent.
The slowdown was attributed to measures taken by the central bank recently to curb credit expansion.
Credit growth in the private sector rose 12.9 percent in March, down from a 14.9 percent rise in February, while credit to the public sector increased by 6.3 percent from an increase of 6.5 percent in the previous month.
Consumer and housing loans, however, continued to increase rapidly at 43.3 percent and 20 percent in March, up from 36 percent and 17.5 percent in the previous month.
Rubin praises latest Greek contribution to NATO
The US administation has high regard for Greece as an ally and its contribution in the Kosovo crisis, State Department spokeman James Rubin said on Friday.
"Greece is a very important part of the NATO alliance. Its efforts, both as regards support to the alliance and, more especially, in the humanitarian sector are particularly valued by the US," he said in reply to questions as regards Greece's role in NATO operations over Yugoslavia.
Commenting on the Greek government's decision this week not to allow flights through Greek airspace of Turkish military aircraft in support of the operations, he said there were no insuperable difficulties that could not be dealt with through operationa l arrangements. He concluded by saying that the Pentagon and NATO were not particularly concerned over the specific matter.
Red Line claims responsibility for attack
An anonymous caller to a radio station on Sunday claimed responsibility on behalf of the Red Line terrorist group for strafing an Athens branch of Nationale Nederlande, a Dutch insurer.
Late on Saturday two youths on a motorbike were seen driving at speed past the branch on Syngrou Avenue in Kallithea when three shots were fired at the building's entrance. No one was injured, police said.
Red Line has claimed responsibility for similar attacks in the past, including branches of American Express and the Interamerican insurance firm.
Sunday's call claiming responsibility was made to the Sky radio station.
Patriarch received by the Holy Synod
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos was officially received on Friday at Petraki Monastery in Athens by members of the Holy Synod, who presented him with the Grand Cross of the Apostle Paul, the founder of the church in Athens.
The Patriarch, who arrived in Athens on Thursday for a two-week visit to Greece, held a special service at the monastery's chapel and presented the Holy Synod with a priceless icon depicting Agios Andreas (St. Andrew).
Vartholomeos was later escorted by Archbishop of Athens and of All Greece Christodoulos to Greece's Supreme Court, where he was received by its president.
ANA to host European Press conference
The Athens News Agency, within the framework of activities of the Alliance of European Press Agencies, will organise the alliance's 4th conference at the Asteras Hotel next week in the seaside suburb of Vouliagmeni.
The conference will include the participation of presidents, general directors and other senior officials of 30 European news agencies.
The conference will deal with two issues: "The economic, business and stock exchange services of the agencies in the digital era" and "owner-ship status and problems of conflicting interests."
The conference will be inaugurated by Press and Mass Media Minister Dimitris Reppas on Thursday, while National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou will make an address at the official dinner on Friday.
The conference is being sponsored by National Bank, the Agricultural Insurance Co., General Bank, Commercial Bank and the Greek Tourist Organisation (EOT).
Police seize fake brand-name clothes
Police in Thessaloniki on Saturday seized hundreds of T-shirts, track suits and trousers bearing fake trade marks, and arrested the representatives of a small firm producing them.
The swoop on Alexandra Loggou's shop led to the confiscation of more than 1, 700 items with Adidas, Nike, Fila and other trade marks, as well as notes on more orders and designs.
Maritime, shipping forum
Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Friday opened an international forum on maritime and shipping activities, held in the port city of Kavala, northern Greece.
"Kavala will be a gateway for the Mediterranean, the Balkans and Black Sea countries to enter EU programmes" Mr. Venizelos said, stressing that the forum acquired increased significance in light of the Third Community Support Framework.
The forum is being organised with the participation of local government officials and shipping executives from 21 countries.
Alpha Credit Bank ranks globally in Euromoney poll: Alpha Credit Bank, the country's largest private banking group, ranked fifth globally for foreign currency trade involving the drachma in a survey carried out by the Euromoney trade magazine.
Alpha Credit also ranked top among Greek banks in the same category in the poll, held around the world.
In addition, Alpha came third globally and top in Greece as issuers of eurodrachma bonds.
Alpha Credit Bank announced its rankings in a news release on Friday, saying the findings reflected the quality of its involvement in world financial markets.
Finance ministry to hold T-bill auction on Tuesday: The finance ministry will auction 100 billion drachmas' worth of 12-month Treasury bills in paperless form on Tuesday.
The ministry said in a statement on Friday that primary dealers would receive a 0.45 percent commission. Also scheduled is a public offering of tax-free savings bonds in paperless form on the first three calendar days of June. The paper is geared mai nly to small investors.
Since September, when the domestic savings bonds were launched, the finance ministry has raised 800 billion drachmas.
Stocks end higher, surge through 4,200 points: Equity prices ended the week at a new record high with the general index breaking through the 4,200 level for the first time ever.
The index ended 0.99 percent higher at 4,206.76 points after two unsuccessful attempts to break the barrier in the last two sessions.
Demand was heavy for banking and smaller capitalisation stocks.
It was the market's 30th record close this year.
Turnover was 234.455 billion drachmas with 43,709,299 shares changing hands.
Construction and industrials underperformed the index, hit by profit- taking.
Sector indices ended as follows: Banks rose 2.75 percent, Leasing jumped 3.06 percent, Insurance increased 3.92 percent, Investment ended 2.28 percent up, Construction fell 4.27 percent, Industrials eased 1.11 percent, Miscellaneous rose 1.09 percent a nd Holding fell 1.15 percent.
The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 3.20 percent higher while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips rose 1.19 percent to 2,522.19 points.
National Bank of Greece ended at 23,100 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 22, 850, Ergobank at 30,390, Ionian Bank at 17,870, Titan Cement at 29,100, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,875, Intracom at 23,000, Minoan Lines at 9,700, Panafon at 8,250 and Hellenic Telec oms at 7,520.
Bond prices nose up in scant trade: Bond prices gained around 10 basis points in thin turnover on Friday. Electronic trade totalled 41 billion drachmas.
The ten-year-bond was trading at 104.50, showing a yield of 5.68 percent. The yield spread with German bunds was 164 basis points.
In the foreign currency market, trade also was lacklustre. At the central bank's daily fix, the euro was set at 324.900 drachmas from 324.850 drachmas in the previous session.
Titan Cement shows profit rise in Q1: The Titan Cement Group on Friday reported a 19 percent increase in its consolidated net profits in the first quarter of 1999 compared with the same period last year.
The Group's consolidated net profits, including 97 million drachmas from the company's activities in the Balkans, totalled 2.24 billion drachmas while sales rose to 37 billion, up from 32.6 billion last year.
Domestic cement sales rose slightly both in volume and in value in the period January-March.
Exports sales rose in value due to the strengthening of the US dollar and higher sales in America.
Sales in the Balkan region slipped compared with the same period last year due to adverse weather conditions.
The Yugoslavia crisis has had only a limited effect on subsidiaries in Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the company said.
The parent company's sales totalled 22.7 billion drachmas, up from 21.4 billion drachmas last year, while net profits rose to 2.998 billion drachmas from 2.690 billion drachmas a year earlier, marking an increase of 11 percent.
WEATHERCloudy weather is forecast in many parts of the country on Monday, turning to rain in some areas in the evening. Temperatures in Athens will range from 17C to 26C, and in Thessaloniki from 15C to 22C.
Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 304.008 Pound sterling 488.639 Japanese yen (100) 245.768 French franc 49.135 German mark 164.790 Italian lira (100) 16.646 Irish Punt 409.238 Belgian franc 7.990 Luxembourg franc 7.990 Finnish mark 54.207 Dutch guilder 146.254 Danish kr. 43.356 Austrian sch. 23.422 Spanish peseta 1.937 Swedish kr. 35.922 Norwegian kr. 39.174 Swiss franc 201.088 Port. Escudo 1.608 Can. dollar 207.268 Aus. dollar 201.431 Cyprus pound 557.008 Euro 322.301(C.S.)
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