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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-05-30
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 30/05/1999 (ANA)
NEWS IN DETAILGreek coroners say bus hostage killed by Albanian police
Two Greek coroners said on Sunday that a hostage shot dead in a raid on a hijacked bus in Albania was killed by police gunfire.
The coroners were speaking in Tirana, where they carried out a three-hour post-mortem on George Koulouris, 25, after flying to the Albanian capital from Thessaloniki.
On Friday, an Albanian hijacker armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and hand grenade had seized the bus in northern Greece, taking hostage the driver and passengers, who were all Greek.
Despite receiving the 50-million-drachma ransom he had sought, the hijacker failed to release the hostages and ordered the bus into Albania.
Both the gunman and Koulouris died from gunfire when Albanian police set up a road block and stormed the bus on Saturday to capture the hijacker and free the hostages.
The Albanian gunman was identified as Antonio Flambo, 25, who was living in Greece under the assumed name of Flamour Plisi.
One of the coroners - Mattheos Tsougas - was quoted as saying that Koulouris had suffered major chest wounds from repeated gunfire. The victim also carried two head wounds, which were not the cause of death.
Both the Greek and Albanian coroners were expected to issue a joint statement releasing their findings, which were the same, the second coroner was quoted as saying.
Koulouris' body was flown to Thessaloniki in the early hours of Sunday morning, and then to the victim's home village of Kato Scholari. His funeral was to take place in the village on Sunday afternnon.
Another passenger in the hijacked bus, Parthena Symelidou, 21, told reporters in Kato Scholari that Koulouris had repeatedly tried to help defuse the crisis during the 20-hour saga.
Three other survivors also returned to Thessaloniki on Saturday, in the prime minister's Falcon jet.
They were identified as Nikolaos Symelidis, 49, Kanela Karatsouli, 22, and Yiannis Tzioras, 30.
The rescued hostages gave five hours of testimony to Albanian police before returning home.
Accompanying them in Tirana and then back to Thessaloniki was the secretary general of the health and welfare ministry, Ioanna Panopoulou, who told reporters that the four were too exhausted to make statements on their return to the northern port city.
Anna Tsolaka, 43, and Maria Krystalli, 25, also taken hostage, were admitted to Ioannina hospital on Saturday. Tsolaka was being treated for severe shock and Krystalli for injuries to the face and throat.
A Greek public ministry spokesman said that there had been an agreement between Athens and Tirana that no action be taken to free the hostages by force. Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis described the action by Albanian police as "thoughtless" and "without regard for human life". Anna Tsolaka, 43 and Maria Krystalli, 25, two of the hostages on the hijacked bus, were admitted to Ioannina hospital shortly before noon on Saturday. Tsolaka is being treated for severe shock while Krystalli received injuries to the face and throat when Albanian police stormed the bus. Doctors at the hospital said the condition of both women was satisfactory.
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.
WEATHERSunny weather is forecast throughout the country on Monday. In the evening, mainland Greece will be cloudy and scattered showers are expected in Epirus and Macedonia. Winds northerly, light to strong. Athens sunny with temperatures between 17C and 31C. Same in Thessaloniki but cloudy in the evening with temperatures ranging from 15C to 29C.
Tuesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 307.758 Pound sterling 492.270 Japanese yen (100) 254.131 French franc 49.173 German mark 164.922 Italian lira (100) 16.659 Irish Punt 409.565 Belgian franc 7.996 Finnish mark 54.250 Dutch guilder 146.371 Danish kr. 43.390 Austrian sch. 23.441 Spanish peseta 1.938 Swedish kr. 35.885 Norwegian kr. 39.134 Swiss franc 202.145 Port. Escudo 1.609 Can. dollar 208.003 Aus. dollar 200.275 Cyprus pound 557.504 Euro 322.559(C.S.)
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