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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-07-14

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, 14/07/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Cohen lauds Greece's role in Kosovo crisis
  • Reconstruction organisation issue taken up with Commission
  • Greek, Albanian and FYROM FMs to meet today
  • Regional conditions needed to prevent crises turning into conflicts
  • Gov't denies any intent to negotiate over Turkey's EU status
  • Simitis attendance at ESP's Vienna summit announced
  • Olympiakos signs Zahovic
  • New 2004 organising committee president to be announced on Friday
  • Right policy mix needed to cut inflation, Papademos says
  • Outcome of banking takeover battle by August 4
  • Stocks fall with players on the sidelines
  • Car sales in Greece up 50.2 pct in June
  • State telecom okays Bulgaria deal
  • Winner named for Egnatia Way project
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Cohen lauds Greece's role in Kosovo crisis

US Defense Secretary William Cohen stressed yesterday from Thessaloniki that Greece's role in the pacification of Kosovo had been indispensible, while the northern port city will play a major part in the Balkans' reconstruction.

"Nothing could have been done without Greece's support, and for this reason the United States and NATO wish to express their gratitude for its stand," he said after talks with his Greek counterpart Akis Tsohatzopoulos and in response to a question over whether Greek public opinion attitudes had delayed the deployment of NATO forces in the troubled Yugoslav province.

Mr. Cohen arrived in Greece's northern capital yesterday afternoon. He will have talks in Athens today with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis.

The US defence secretary announced that his government planned to set up a commercial bureau in Thessaloniki with a view to participate in the reconstruction effort.

Both men refused to be drawn into providing extensive details in their one- hour talks. Mr. Tsohatzopoulos made a general reference, saying that apart from bilateral issues, they had discussed a common effort for the stabilisation of the region, the situation in the Middle East and Mediterranean, which indicated that Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue were also included.

The Greek minister added that there was an exchange of information on defence and military matters, which pointed to issues of terrorism and the modernisation of the Greek armed forces.

Mr. Cohen referred to US and Greek troops being "side by side" in Kosovo, while Mr. Tsohatzopoulos described his US counterpart's visit as "political", as it coincided with the selection of Thessaloniki as the headquarters of the Balkan reconstruction a gency, and with the relevant efforts of the European Union and Washington.

The Greek defence minister stressed the importance of consolidating security in the region, adding that because the integration of Balkan countries in the EU and NATO required time, there was need for regional cooperation.

"Such an effort for the creation of conditions of security can be promoted through the establishment of an organisation of military cooperation. The meeting today in Athens of the military and political committee of the peace force in SE Europe is the first step for the launching of this institution," he said.

"This institution will strengthen the role of Greece and Thessaloniki as a centre for supporting the new process of democratisation, peace and development of the region," he added.

Mr. Cohen did not appear to be annoyed by protesting Communist Party of Greece demonstrators, and was careful to distinguish, in response to questions, between sentiments of anti-Americanism in Greece during the Yugoslavia crisis and speculation about likely terrorist attacks.

"Those expressing their opposition with their voice cannot be confused with terrorists. Such expressions are welcome in democratic countries such as my own," he said.

Responding to a question on Greece's armaments programme, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that in an especially antagonistic environment, the country needed to have a deterrent force and the programme would be implemented.

Reconstruction organisation issue taken up with Commission

Athens expects the European Commission to assume its responsibilities and implement a political decision by the EU leaders to base the EU's Kosovo reconstruction organisation in Thessaloniki, Alternate FM Yiannos Kranidiotis said in Brussels after meeting with Commission President Romano Prodi and Commissioner Hans van den Broek.

He added that Greece would submit reservations concerning draft operational regulations of the organisation, which the Commission had submitted before a recent Rio de Janeiro summit and which referred to Pristina as the base of the agency.

"Greece cannot consent to the installation of the organisation in Pristina, " he said, while stressing Mr. van den Broek's assurance that "some solution would be found".

Mr. Kranidiotis noted that all countries agreed on Thessaloniki, and that the only objections were raised by the Commission.

Sources said Mr. van den Broek's objections were based on his estimate of the Greek city as "anti-economical," as it was not yet clear whether reconstruction would concern only Kosovo or the Balkans more generally.

Mr. Kranidiotis was reported to have had "a cordial and interesting" discussion with Mr. Prodi on the Greek priorities regarding the EU, Cyprus' accession course, and relations between Turkey and the EU.

Greek, Albanian and FYROM FMs to meet today

Foreign Minister George Papandreou left for the Prespes lake district today to confer with his counterparts from Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Paskal Milo and Aleksander Dimitrov, respectively, within the framework of a relevant initiative by Athens.

Talks between the three ministers will focus on issues of mutual interest as well as developments in the Balkans.

According to reports, the Greek side wants these tripartite meetings to take place every six months.

Regional conditions needed to prevent crises turning into conflicts

It is necessary to formulate conditions for the prevention of crises developing into conflicts, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said yesterday, as he opened an Athens meeting of the military-political committee of the SE Europe multinational peacekeeping force.

He also said that those who believe that there could be peace and security in Europe without ensuring security in the Balkans had made a "terrible mistake"

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said it was "particularly positive" that the international community, although delayed, was advancing a reconstruction programme for the entire Balkans so that the Balkan nations would be able to create conditions of democracy and fre edom and also of economic and social growth "in this transitional period they are going through after the security void created by the major changes in the early '90s".

The committee is discussing matters concerning progress towards setting up the force's headquarters, a map exercise to be held at the end of the year, establishing the force's staff and its budget.

The multinational force includes Greece, Italy, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and FYROM, with the United States and Slovenia participating as observers.

Gov't denies any intent to negotiate over Turkey's EU status

The government yesterday denied that Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis had made a statement dissociating Turkey's designation as a candidate for European Union accession from the fulfilment of conditions set at the most recent EU summit in Cologne.

Denying that Mr. Kranidiotis had made such a statement to Reuters news agency, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the alternate FM had constantly reiterated the positions of the Greek government on the issue "which have not changed and concern the fulfilment of all the preconditions by Turkey, which has no other way of being designated a candidate country".

A Reuters despatch from Athens on Monday quoted Mr. Kranidiotis as saying that if Turkey failed to fulfil the criteria set and EU members still wanted to offer it formal candidacy, then Greece would allow it under two conditions.

The first, according to Reuters quoting Mr. Kranidiotis, was a statement that Cyprus' EU accession would go ahead unhindered by a political solution being a prerequisite, and second, a public statement of solidarity from the EU with Athens over Ankara's territorial claims in the Aegean.

"In those circumstances Greece would also lift a long-standing veto on EU funds going to Turkey," Reuters quoted Mr. Kranidiotis saying. Replying to reporters' questions, Mr. Reppas said Cyprus' accession to the EU had nothing to do with Turkey or Turkey's relations with the Community.

"The discussion on Cyprus' accession is going ahead as planned and cannot be undermined by the choices of third parties," Mr. Reppas said.

The spokesman added that Greece had no intention whatsoever to enter into any kind of negotiations on this issue.

Simitis attendance at ESP's Vienna summit announced

Prime Minister Costas Simitis will attend the Balkan summit to be organised in Vienna by the European Socialist Party (ESP) on July 22-23, it was announced yesterday.

The main issues on the agenda will be economic and social development, democracy and human rights and security in the Balkan region.

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos will also attend the Vienna summit in his capacity as ESP vice-president.

Olympiakos signs Zahovic

Olympiakos Piraeus has completed perhaps the most expensive transfer in the history of Greek soccer by signing 27-year old Slovenian attacking midfielder Zlatko Zahovic from Porto, Portuguese television media announced on Tuesday.

The transfer is estimated to cost four billion drachmas, about the same as Olympiakos' signing of Brazilian international Giovani Silva de Oliveira from Barcelona last week. Zahovic was signed for three years, with an option for one more.

New 2004 organising committee president to be announced on Friday

The prime minister will announce the name of the new Athens 2004 Olympics organising committee president on Friday to succeed Stratis Stratigis, who resigned last week.

PM Costas Simitis discussed the issue during two-hour talks yesterday with Culture Minister Elizabeth Papazoi.

According to reports, the return of Yianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the president of the candidacy committee which won the 2004 Games, is very likely.

Other candidates include Agricultural Bank Governor Petros Lambrou and the secretary general of the Union of Greek Banks, Yiannis Manos.

Replying to a question on the rates at which Olympic projects are being carried out, Ms Papazoi reiterated that the projects are one of the 27 programmes of "Athens 2004", adding that they are proceeding as normal.

Right policy mix needed to cut inflation, Papademos says

Lowering average inflation to 2.5 percent in 1999 will need the right mix of fiscal and monetary policies, Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters following a routine two-hour meeting with National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou to review inflation, Mr. Papademos said that rising oil prices were an unpredictable factor, but there was no leeway to reduce fuel tax.

Referring to measures being considered by the central bank on monetary policy, he said that a report on June's credit expansion would be ready in two weeks time.

The data would show whether or not supplementary measures were needed.

If any new measures to contain consumer and housing loans were taken, then banks, which should finance the cost of their business plans, would face higher costs, the central bank governor said.

Mr. Papademos reiterated that the central bank would not cut its interest rates until there was concrete evidence of a substantial fall in inflation.

Commenting on recent developments in the banking system, and in particular a fierce battle to acquire Ergobank, the central bank governor said the Bank of Greece was closely monitoring developments and the possible repercussions on institutions involved in the takeover battle.

He said that the Bank of Piraeus' offer for Ergobank incorporated a stock swap that reflected current market conditions.

Mr. Papademos said, however, that the central bank would evaluate Bank of Piraeus' bid to acquire a 50.1 percent stake in Ergobank on the basis of the former's capital adequacy, if the offer was accepted.

Both banks are listed on the Athens Stock Exchange.

Outcome of banking takeover battle by August 4

The outcome of a struggle between Bank of Piraeus and EFG Eurobank for the acquisition of Ergobank will be known by August 4 following a decision yesterday by the Athens Stock Exchange.

The bourse's board extended the deadline for a response by shareholders to Bank of Piraeus' offer in order to leave more time for study of its details.

The share swap arrangement proposed was a counter-offer by Bank of Piraeus to EFG Eurobank's hostile takeover bid for Ergobank.

Ergobank's management supports Bank of Piraeus' share swap proposal, and has advised its shareholders to spurn that of EFG Eurobank.

As a result of yesterday's bourse decision, the two banking groups have until July 29 to make any fresh offers.

Bank of Piraeus has offered 3.75 of its shares plus 15,000 drachmas in cash for each Ergobank share.

EFG Eurobank offered 2.2 of its shares plus 4,000 drachmas in cash for each share of the target bank.

All three banks involved in the takeover bid are private and listed on the Athens bourse.

Stocks fall with players on the sidelines

Equity prices ended yesterday's session moderately lower reflecting a reluctance by investors to open new positions in the market ahead of developments in a takeover battle between EFG Eurobank and Bank of Piraeus to acquire Ergobank.

All three banks are listed on the Athens Stock Exchange.

The general index ended 0.42 percent lower at 4,241.71 points supported by small gains in the banks index, which ended 0.33 percent higher.

Turnover was 157.515 billion drachmas with 23,833,917 shares changing hands.

Other sector indices ended as follows: Leasing (-1.98 pct), Insurance (- 0.30 pct), Investment (-0.67 pct), Construction (-2.46 pct), Industrials (- 0.98 pct), Miscellaneous (-0.40 pct) and Holding (-0.29 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 0.19 percent higher while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips fell 0.21 percent to 2,489.84 points.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 190 to 102 with another seven issues unchanged.

Car sales in Greece up 50.2 pct in June

The sale of new cars in Greece rose by 50.2 percent in June against the same month of 1998, the Union of European Car Industries said yesterday in Brussels.

The rise was the highest among the European Union's 15 member states, whose average was 11.1 percent.

The most popular car manufacturers in Europe on the basis of sales were Volkswagen, followed by General Motors and Peugeot.

State telecom okays Bulgaria deal

The board of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) yesterday unanimously endorsed a deal for the listed corporation and KPN of the Netherlands to purchase 51 percent of BTK, Bulgaria's state telecom.

The deal, forged on July 9, includes rights to Bulgaria's second mobile phone licence.

The cost of the purchase is 510 million dollars. OTE and KPN are planning to invest another 200 million dollars to expand the network.

Winner named for Egnatia Way project

A consortium comprising domestic engineering contractors Michaniki, Avax, Athena and Mohlos was named yesterday as the winner of a tender to build a section of the Egnatia Way.

The 15-kilometre section links Anthohori and the Metsovo junction. It includes the construction of five tunnels totalling around 7.5 kilometres in length.

The Egnatia Way is a major highway being built to link the country's northeast and northwest. The road is being tendered in sections.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather will prevail throughout Greece on Wednesday with the possibility of scattered showers in the mountainous regions of Macedonia and Thrace. Winds will be northerly, light to strong, turning gale force in the Aegean Sea.

Fair in Athens where temperatures will range between 23-37C.

Partly cloudy in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 22-34C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          316.904
Pound sterling       493.004
Japanese yen (100)   260.598
French franc          49.135
German mark          164.790
Italian lira (100)    16.646
Irish Punt           409.238
Belgian franc          7.990
Finnish mark          54.207
Dutch guilder        146.254
Danish kr.            43.338
Austrian sch.         23.422
Spanish peseta         1.937
Swedish kr.           36.926
Norwegian kr.         39.706
Swiss franc          201.024
Port. Escudo           1.608
Can. dollar          214.034
Aus. dollar          210.086
Cyprus pound         559.607
Euro                 322.301
(L.G.)
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