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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-05-26

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, 26/05/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • No change in Greek positions on Kosovo
  • 'Competing interests' delays Kosovo peace
  • Greeks unanimous in condemndation of NATO strikes
  • Northerners support government handling
  • Kosovo crisis changes Northerners EU outlook
  • Former PM Mitsotakis leaves for Belgrade
  • PASOK closing gap with ND - polls
  • 42 parties to stand for Euroelections
  • President begins Bulgarian visit
  • European news agencies meet in Athens
  • Five-day fuel workers strike begins today
  • Greece to get lifeguard schools
  • Rare ancient Greek coin donated to state
  • Police seize more than 200 kgs of hashish
  • Greek equities end lower for second session
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

No change in Greek positions on Kosovo

Greece on Wednesday reiterated that it did not intend to receive refugees from Kosovo, stressing that Greece was the only country which had provided effective humanitarian aid to the war-torn Serbian province. Replying to reporters' questions on the Kosovo crisis, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas also clarified that no decisions had yet been taken about the size of the Greek contingent to participate in any eventual peacekeeping force in Kosovo. The spokesman took the opportunity to once again declare Greece's opposition to any use of NATO ground forces in Kosovo.

'Competing interests' delays Kosovo peace

Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos on Wednesday attributed the delay in diplomatic efforts to resolve the Kosovo crisis to "competition among interests" which had broken out behind the scenes "irrespective of the principles on the basis of which military intervention in Yugoslavia was decided". Commenting on NATO's decision yesterday to increase the number of its troops stationed on Kosovo's borders to nearly 50,000, Tsohatzopoulos said this was the peacekeeping force which would be deployed in the Serb province once agreement had been reached by Yugoslavia and the Alliance subject to the approval of the UN Security Council. Tsohatzopoulos expressed the view however that NATO's decision provided no guarantee of a solution to the Kosovo crisis, adding that the rate at which the peacekeeping force is assembled should be on a par with efforts for a diplomatic settlement.

Greeks unanimous in condemndation of NATO strikes

Greeks almost unanimously condemn the NATO bombings in Yugoslavia and oppose prospective ground operations in Kosovo, while an overwhelming majority believe US president Bill Clinton should be tried as a criminal of war. According to a survey conducted by ICAP Hellas on behalf of Pantios University, 99.5 percent of those polled opposed the bombings and 99.3 percent the prospect of ground operations. The poll, carried out on behalf of the University's psychology department between April 29 and May 5 among 1,000 people in Athens and Piraeus, showed 69.7 percent calling for Clinton to be put on trial on war crimes charges and 38.9 percent naming the US leader as the "big winner" of the war. A sweeping 78.6 percent found Greek media coverage of the Yugoslav conflict to be objective.

Northerners support government handling

Northern Greeks appear to be largely supportive of the government's handling of the Yugoslav crisis and less supportive of opposition parties' approaches to the issue, an opinion poll conducted in northern Greece shows. The poll, conducted by K-Research on 1200 voters registered to vote in the Macedonia and Thrace regions, said the government's handling of the crisis received the support of 38 percent of respondents. Main opposition New Democracy received 29.8 percent support and leftist parties 24.9 percent. The poll was conducted over the period May 17-24. Nine in 10 believed that the atmosphere had been polluted by toxins and carcinogens released by NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia and two in three believed the waters of the Axios River have been polluted.

Kosovo crisis changes Northerners EU outlook

The Kosovo crisis has also been a factor in how the northern Greeks see the European Union, with 93 percent saying they had been disappointed with how European leaders have handled the crisis. Some 16 percent said they "no longer" desired Greece to be fully integrated into the European Union, compared to 28.6 percent who did. The majority, 52.2 percent, said they desired full integration but said they were not as certain as they were before the Kosovo crisis broke out. Twenty percent said Greece's participation in NATO was necessary, 64 percent said it was a necessary evil and 13.1 percent said Greece should withdraw from the Alliance. Nine in ten said they believed NATO to be an instrument of the United States' foreign policy and not an organisation which respected the views of its members.

Former PM Mitsotakis leaves for Belgrade

Former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis left today for Belgrade on a private visit, where he will meet Thursday with Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and senior Yugoslav and Serb officials. In an airport statement, Mitsotakis, honourary president of the main opposition New Democracy party, said his visit was informal and aimed at aiding the peace process to the best of his abilities. Mitsotakis is due to return to Athens on Friday, via Sofia. Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas later confirmed that Mitsotakis had spoken over the telephone with Prime Minister Costas Simitis regarding the former's visit to Belgrade for talks with Milosevic. The spokesman said Mitsotakis had briefed both the premier and Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis.

PASOK closing gap with ND - polls

Two opinion polls released on Wednesday showed that the ruling party was closing in quickly on the lead opposition New Democracy has on it. An Opinion poll published in daily Eleftherotypia said PASOK was polling 27.4 percent to New Democracy's 29.5 percent, just three weeks before the European Parliament elections. In Metron Analysis' poll, published in daily Ta Nea, PASOK was nearing New Democracy at similar levels, 29.4 to 31.4 percent. Both polls returned a high number of undecided voters - 11.5 percent in the Opinion poll and 13.6 percent in Metron. The Metron poll also showed that Prime Minister Costas Simitis was leading New Democracy president Costas Karamanlis in the popularity stakes. Simitis polled 49.4 percent and Karamanlis 47.8 percent; ahead of both of them are Left Coalition's Nikos Constantopoulos (56.8 percent) and Democratic Social Movement leader Dimitris Tsovolas (52 percent).

42 parties to stand for Euroelections

A total of 42 parties will be standing for election to the European Parliament when Greeks elect their representatives on June 13, according to the Supreme Court. Apart from the parliamentary and more established political parties, the list includes three ecology parties - two of them with the same name 'Alternative Ecologists'. Also among the parties standing for election are the Greek Hunters' Party, with the motto "nature, hunting, fishing and tradition". Also standing for election is the 'Blank' party, which first appeared in the 1992 national elections. Then, the party received about 13,000 votes in the Athens First constituency. In the last European Parliament elections in 1994, 'Blank' received 18,000 votes or 0.29 percent of 6.5 million votes cast. Many pollsters believe their relatively strong showing is due to a confusion among voters who believe they are casting a blank protest vote. Smaller parties rarely gain more than 1.0 percent of the vote. In the 1994 Euroelections, the Centre Union and now-defunct Democratic Renewal Party both polled over 1.0 percent but failed to gain a seat.

President begins Bulgarian visit

President Kostis Stephanopoulos on Wednesday began a three-day official visit to Sofia, reciprocating a similar visit to Athens by his Bulgarian counterpart Petar Stoyanov two years ago. Stephanopoulos will be having official talks with Stoyanov about the Kosovo crisis, the general situation in SE Europe, the Cyprus problem, Greek-Turkish relations and bilateral ties. Stephanopoulos is accompanied by Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis and a large group of Greek businessmen who will be attending a business conference in Sofia. During his stay in Bulgaria, Stephanopoulos will be visiting the towns of Burgas, Messimvria and Plovdiv.

European news agencies meet in Athens

An Alliance of European Press Agencies (EAPA) seminar opens in Athens Thursday, focusing on the theme "Economic, Financial and Business Services in the Digital Era" and "Ownership of News Agencies and Conflicts of Interest". The two-day seminar, organised by the Athens News Agency (ANA) at the Astir Hotel in Vouliagmeni, will be attended by the presidents, general directors and other senior staff of 30 European news agencies. The 4th annual EAPA seminar will be inaugurated Thursdya monring by Minister for the Press and Mass Media, Dimitris Reppas, while Minister of National Economy and Finance Yannos Papantoniou will be the guest speaker at the formal banquet on Friday evening.

Five-day fuel workers strike begins today

Workers at state-run Hellenic Petroleum on Wednesday said they were beginning a five-day strike. The strike will affect both refinery and distribution facilities, raising fears that petrol and diesel supplies will dwindle at fuel stations around the country. The workers are protesting against plans to shut down operations at four refinery units, which will lead to the loss of 250 jobs.

Greece to get lifeguard schools

Greece's Merchant Marine Minister said on Wednesday that he was introducing legislation to Parliament that would provide for the establishment of lifeguard training schools. Minister Stavros Soumakis said the schools would provide certification that they had completed a full course. The bill, he added, also mentions the obligation to have lifguards on duty at beaches around the country. Local coastguard authorities will be responsible for licensing the schools.

Rare ancient Greek coin donated to state

A rare, priceless ancient Greek coin dating to the 5th century BC hs been donated to Athens' Numismatics Museum, it was announced today. The rare silver Athenian 10-drachma coin, one of 25 in existence throughout the world, was donated by a Greek national who wishes to remain anonomous, after the donor purchased it from a German auction house. The coin, presented to Culture Minister Elisavet Papazoi, is priceless, archaeologically, while its commercial value is estimated at 596,700 deutschemarks, or some 93 million dr.

Police seize more than 200 kgs of hashish

Police in north-west Greece on Wednesday announced the arrest of four Greeks and an Albanian and the seizure of 125 kilos of marijuana. The five were spotted in two cars by border guards at Lia, Thesprotia and they admitted to having hidden 125 kilos of marijuana in eight sacks in a wooded area near the border. The narcotics were later found by drug squad officers. The five arrested were due to be formally charged by a public prosecutor in the port town of Igoumenitsa. Police in Thessaloniki, meanwhile, announced the seizure of 80 kilos of marijuana which had been loaded onto two horses and smuggled into the country from neighbouring Albania. Border guards spotted the horses, led by two men who managed to escape, late last night in the area of Kokkini Petra, Kastoria. The horses were left behind by the men as they fled.

Greek equities end lower for second session

Equity prices came under pressure for the second consecutive session on Wednesday to end sharply lower on the Athens Stock Exchange. The general index ended 2.46 percent down at 4,010.93 points, off the day's lows. Traders said the market found support above the 4,000 level which was seen as a technical support level in the short-term. Turnover shrank to 157.1 billion drachmas. Dealers said uncertainty over the outcome of diplomatic efforts to end the war in Yugoslavia combined with falling international markets and increased volatility in the domestic bond market, discouraged sentiment.

WEATHER

Overcast weather will prevail in most parts of Greece today with the possibility of showers in the mountainous regions of eastern Macedonia and Thrace. Winds, northerly, moderate, turning strong in the southern Aegean Sea. Partly cloudy in Athens with temperatures ranging between 16-25C. Possibility of showers in the afternoon in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 15-24C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          303.612
Pound sterling       485.703
Japanese yen (100)   247.524
French franc          49.196
German mark          164.997
Italian lira (100)    16.667
Irish Punt           409.754
Belgian franc          8.000
Luxembourg franc       8.000
Finnish mark          54.275
Dutch guilder        146.438
Danish kr.            43.402
Austrian sch.         23.452
Spanish peseta         1.939
Swedish kr.           35.889
Norwegian kr.         39.079
Swiss franc          201.922
Port. Escudo           1.610
Can. dollar          208.260
Aus. dollar          199.819
Cyprus pound         557.504
Euro                 322.708
(M.P.)
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