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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-05-28

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, 28/05/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Albanian holds bus passengers hostage
  • Parliament holds debate on Kosovo
  • Greece to oppose any forced border change
  • Milosevic indictment not helpful
  • IOC pleased with 2004 Games preparations
  • New Democracy still leads, but Simitis more popular
  • Athens dismisses Turkish protest as irrational
  • Government critical of anti-NATO protests
  • Crunch-time for Kosovo, Mitsotakis says
  • Greek equities end week with moderate losses
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Albanian holds bus passengers hostage

An armed Albanian was holding eight people hostage in a bus near Thessaloniki and demanding 50 million drachmas ransom, police said. Initial reports said the Albanian boarded an inter-city bus carrying out the Scholari-Thessaloniki route and pulled a Kalashnikov semi-automatic rifle out of his travel bag. The Albanian ordered the driver to take the coach back to Scholari, where it remained for about ten minutes in the village square which was cordoned off by the police. The man, who was just recently released from prison, is reportedly demanding 50 million drachmas and safe passage out of the country in return for releasing the hostages.

Parliament holds debate on Kosovo

Greece will not be participating in any military operation in Kosovo in line with the stance it has had since the beginning of the crisis, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Friday. Simitis was speaking in parliament during an off-the agenda debate on the Kosovo crisis, called by the Democratic Social Movement. "Greece has successfully and without becoming (internationally) isolated opposed the military operation," Simitis said, defending the government's position on the affair. Greece has consistently said it is opposed to the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia and has worked hard on the diplomatic front to seek a political settlement of the issue. As a member of NATO, however, it has extended the Alliance logistical support and allowed the use the port of Thessalonik for the passage of NATO troops and supplies to the peacekeeping force based in Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Greece to oppose any forced border change

Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis warned on Friday that any change of borders without the consent of the interested parties was tantamount to the overturning of the international order which had prevailed for many decades. Kranidiotis told a news conference that any such change would set a bad precedent, in effect opening up a "Pandora's box", since it would overturn the order of things "and with it, the stabilisation that every system needs". The inviolability of borders and respect for the territorial integrity of every state are the fundamental principles on which not only Greece but all countries base their policy. Referring specifically to the Kosovo crisis, Kranidiotis said the European Union summit in Cologne on June 3-4 provided an opportunity to reposition the entire problem within the framework of diplomacy.

Milosevic indictment not helpful

Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis said yesterday's indictment of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic by the International War Crimes Court "does not contribute in particular to diplomatic efforts for a settlement of the Kosovo problem". While acknowledging that the court was an independent body, set up by the United Nations, with the right to function and express its opinion, Kranidiotis said that from a political viewpoint, the indictment did not come at "the right moment", namely at a time when efforts to advance the G8 peace initiative were gathering momentum and Greece and many other countries backed the initiative as the basis for a diplomatic solution to the Kosovo crisis.

IOC pleased with 2004 Games preparations

The president of the International Olympic Committee's Coordination Committee Jacques Rogge said on Friday he was pleased with preparations under way for the Athens 2004 Olympics but said decisions on sites for eight projects had to be made soon. "If preparations continue at the same pace, the (2004) Olympic Games will be impeccable," Rogge told reporters at a news conference at the end of several days of briefings. But he said that locations for the eight projects had to be finalised by September and that the Olympic Village - the biggest project - had to be ready by March 2004. He added that he felt this was plenty of time.

New Democracy still leads, but Simitis more popular

With European Parliament elections just two weeks away, the most recent opinion poll shows the main opposition New Democracy leading among political parties, but Prime Minister Costas Simitis still more popular than opposition leader Karamanlis. The poll, conducted by V.PRC and appearing in the mass circulation daily Ta Nea today, the last day allowed for the release of pre-election polls, showed ND in first place with 31.9 percent, a 4.4 percentage point lead over the ruling PASOK with 27.5 percent. A hefty 17.7 percent of those polled were undecided.

Athens dismisses Turkish protest as irrational

Athens said on Friday that the Turkish foreign ministry had made verbal representations to the third-ranking diplomat at the Greek embassy in Ankara, asking Greece to refrain from actions which could create tension "in areas which Turkey considers to be disputed". Although the Aegean island of Agathnonisi was not specifically mentioned when the Greek diplomat was summoned to the ministry, it is believed the representations were made following Greek newspaper reports that a group of citizens was planning to raise a giant Greek flag on the island, which is located just south of Samos. Confirming the Turkish protest, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas dismissed it as "irrational, unjustified and lacking seriousness", given that "there is an organised (Greek) community on Agathonisi, it is not a disputed area".

Government critical of anti-NATO protests

The government on Friday criticised protests against the passage of NATO troops and equipment through the northern port city of Thessaloniki. Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the protestors were doing the country a disservice and were damaging the country's image. "And when violence is used, such acts are unacceptable," Reppas added. Demonstrators in Thessaloniki early yesterday turned back a convoy of NATO troops and supplies headed for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Two protestors were slightly injured in scuffles with riot police. The convoy eventually succeeded in leaving Thessaloniki later yesterday morning. "It is unacceptable for us to be obstructing the passage of foreign troops through Thessaloniki when Skopje has given permission for the deployment in FYROM of 16,000 troops participating in the peace force," Reppas said.

Crunch-time for Kosovo, Mitsotakis says

Former premier Constantine Mitsotakis said on Friday after returning from talks in Belgrade with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that the Kosovo crisis was on a razor's edge. "There will either be a major step towards peace or there will be an escalation of the conflict, operations by ground forces which would be a tragedy for the Balkans and be paid for by our children and grandchildren," Mitsotakis said. The honorary president of Greece's main opposition New Democracy party said the "objective conditions" existed for peace in the region but added that he did not know whether the opportunity would be seized by the West.

Greek equities end week with moderate losses

Equity prices ended the week with moderate losses partly recovering from an initial sharp decline which pushed the general index temporarily to the techninal support level of 3,800 points. The index ended 0.68 percent lower at 3,934.67 points, off the day's lows of 3.40 percent helped by renewed short-covering buying which emerged in the last half-hour of trading. Turnover shrank further to 139.4 billion drachmas. Traders said the market has embarked on a correction course following successive falls in international markets. Worries over developments in Yugoslavia also dampened sentiment.

WEATHER

Fine weather will prevail in most parts of Greece today with the possibility of showers in the afternoon in the mountainous regions of northern Greece. Winds northerly, light to moderate, turning strong in the Aegean Sea. Sunshine in Athens with temperatures between 15-29C. Same in Thessalonikli with temperatures from 13-27C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          308.889
Pound sterling       491.933
Japanese yen (100)   252.672
French franc          49.147
German mark          164.831
Italian lira (100)    16.650
Irish Punt           409.338
Belgian franc          7.992
Luxembourg franc       7.992
Finnish mark          54.221
Dutch guilder        146.289
Danish kr.            43.380
Austrian sch.         23.428
Spanish peseta         1.937
Swedish kr.           35.938
Norwegian kr.         39.101
Swiss franc          202.378
Port. Escudo           1.608
Can. dollar          209.689
Aus. dollar          201.128
Cyprus pound         558.397
Euro                 322.380
(M.P.)
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