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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-07-16

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, 16/07/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Police raid frees bus hostages, hijacker killed
  • Athens willing to support Draskovic proposal for transitional gov't
  • Greek-Slovenian military cooperation the focus of ministers' talks
  • Magriotis talks with head of FYROM liaison office, Arsovski
  • Athens bourse okays Piraeus Bank bid for Ergobank
  • Stocks rally in late reaction to good news
  • NY proclamations condemn continuing Turkish occupation on Cyprus
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Police raid frees bus hostages, hijacker killed

Police yesterday afternoon shot dead the Albanian hijacker that had held up to eight hostages in an intercity bus for some 30 hours since Wednesday just outside the town of Florina.

Exhaustion and a young conscript held hostage in the second bus hijacking by an Albanian in less than two months assisted the police commandos in resolving the crisis.

All five remaining hostages escaped unscathed.

According to reports, the 20-year-old conscript stormed the ski-masked hijacker as he dozed off just after 7:15 p.m. in the late afternoon heat, and as the intercity (KTEL) bus was stopped 10 kilometres outside the northwest Greek community of Palestra. One report quoted police as saying they even supplied the army private, Nestoras Kokkalis, with two grenade pins the previous night as part of a rescue plan.

Following the conscript's initial move to grab one of the hand grenades, police commandos stormed the bus, grabbing the other grenade, while a police sharpshooter apparently hit the suspect from outside the vehicle. One of the two grenades was thrown outside the bus and exploded.

Just before the raid, authorities said the suspect was handed between 15-20 million drachmas - he initially demanded 250 million drachmas - which he later threw out of the vehicle. He also took out the pins from the two grenades, but was subsequently persuaded "to relax" by two psychologists in constant contact with him.

The Albanian national, who had previously identified himself as "Aleksander Nana", hijacked the bus in Polykastro, near Thessaloniki, on Wednesday with some 50 passengers on board. No confirmation of the man's identity has so far been given, although police are certain that he was using an alias.

Prime Minister Costas Simitis expressed satisfaction on the end of the hostage situation, and congratulated police and the ministers who handled the crisis.

Public Order Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis also thanked the special police forces who carried out the raid, adding that the incident would be investigated in depth.

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said he would decorate Pvt. Kokkalis, the off-duty soldier who played a crucial role in the resolution of the crisis.

Main opposition New Democracy spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos also expressed satisfaction with the successful outcome to the hijacking and congratulated the police forces who carried out the rescue plan, adding that the government ought to adopt all appropriate measures to prevent such unpleasant situations.

He said his party was willing to support any such measures.

Coalition of the Left and Progres (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos also expressed his satisfaction with the rescue of the hostages.

Police had also launched a "sweep" in the area as a precautionary measure in the event that the hijacker had accomplices in Florina, following his insistence that the bus pass through the town.

Television camera crews were kept at a distance from the bus in order to isolate the hijacker and avoid giving him the sense of being a television protagonist, as had occurred during an almost identical bus hijacking by another Albanian in late May. In the previous hijacking, an Albanian armed with an assault rifle and a hand grenade led a KTEL bus around northern Greece before crossing into Albania at the Krystallopigi border post. The hijacker and a passenger/hostage were killed during a botched rescue attempt by Albanian police.

Authorities told ANA that the hijacker in yesterday's incident had been told he would not be allowed to cross into Albania.

Athens willing to support Draskovic proposal for transitional gov't

Athens is willing to support a proposal for the formation of a transitional government in Belgrade, and put forward by the leader of the Serbian Renewal Party, Vuk Draskovic, FM George Papandreou announced yesterday.

"The Greek government is willing to support this prospect and mediate with (Yugoslav President) Slobodan Milosevic in order to make possible a smooth transition," he said after talks with Mr. Draskovic, who is visiting Athens.

The Serbian politician proposed the replacement of Mr. Milosevic with a political figure belonging to the party of Milo Djukanovic, the president of Montenegro, Yugoslavia's other federated republic.

"This transitional scheme could work as a steam engine for Serbia's democratisation. Acccording to our constitution, all power is in the hands of the federal government. The only solution, therefore, for maintaining the federation is this government to be headed by a political personality from Montenegro, which has a democratic record unlike Serbia's," Mr. Draskovic said. Mr. Papandreou also said Greece would propose to the European Union's General Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday the phased lifting of sanctions imposed on Yugoslavia during the war.

"A condition for the granting of aid in the humanitarian field and for reconstruction in crucial sectors, such as electrical power and energy, will be the provision of guarantees that Serbia will follow the path of democratic changes," he said.

Mr. Draskovic later met with former New Democracy prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis, who also announced his agreement with his proposals for Yugoslavia to exit the current crisis.

"Mr. Draskovic can play a very positive role. The situation is very unpleasant and requires special care. The Greek government must undertake an initiative, as Greece knows the problems of the area better than the Americans and Europeans," Mr. Mitsotakis said.

Greek-Slovenian military cooperation the focus of ministers' talks

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday met with his Slovenian counterpart, Francs Demsar, for talks focusing on the Kosovo issue, Slovenia's NATO and EU prospects as well as bilateral defence cooperation.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, both ministers underlined that Greece and Slovenia had not been and did not become part of the Kosovo problem, but by virtue of their policies contributed to a resolution of the crisis.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos reiterated that Greece was opposed to resolving such crises by military means and underlined the need for security policies to be promoted based on the fundamental principle of respect for existing borders.

He added that security in the region must be viewed as a whole, something that required the support of the international community.

"The Balkans Stability Pact constitutes the basis for tackling the problem, " Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said, adding that Slovenia was participating in this effort without being a party to the crisis itself.

Mr. Demsar noted that the Kosovo crisis had not arisen just recently but began 10 years ago, while he expressed a hope that it would soon be resolved.

Slovenia's objective for the next decade, Mr. Demsar said, was to join the European Union and NATO. The two defence ministers signed a military cooperation agreement which will be finalised in the autumn at a meeting of Greek and Slovenian military ex perts.

The agreement provides for joint exercises, officer training and the exchange of information.

At noon, Mr. Demsar was received by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.

Today he will fly to Thessaloniki and visit the military's multi-national training centre. The Slovenian minister will also visit the all-male monastic community of Mount Athos and the 181st air defence squadron.

Magriotis talks with head of FYROM liaison office, Arsovski

Macedonia-Thrace Minister Yiannis Magriotis had talks in Thessaloniki yesterday with the head of FYROM's liaison office in Greece, Ljupco Arsovski.

Talks focused on the Balkans Stability Pact, a programme for the reconstruction of the Balkans and the relevant proposals submitted by Skopje to the European Union.

Mr. Arsovski stressed the need for the construction of a rail link between Monastiri and Florina to facilitate the movement of goods to other Balkan countries.

He also referred to a problem which has arisen from the implementation of the Schengen Pact, namely, that owing to the time-consuming formalities and procedures involved, less visas were being issued for entry to Greece.

Mr. Arsovski asked Mr. Magriotis to seek ways to overcome the problem, saying this would greatly assist the economic development of the towns and cities of the region as well as tourism to Greece, given that a large number of FYROM citizens would like to spend part of the summer south of their border.

Athens bourse okays Piraeus Bank bid for Ergobank

The Athens Stock Exchange yesterday approved a prospectus submitted by Bank of Piraeus for a share swap offer that would give it control of Ergobank.

The offer, which was announced on July 9, is the award of 3.75 shares in Bank of Piraeus plus 15,000 drachmas in cash for each Ergobank share.

On Wednesday, the Latsis Group improved its initial hostile offer for the target bank, proposing 2.4 shares in EFG Eurobank, a member of the group, plus 17,000 drachmas in cash for one Ergobank share.

EFG Eurobank is due to give a news conference today to explain its latest offer.

Ergobank's management had opposed the Latsis Group's hostile takeover bid, the first ever in Greece, but supported a merger offer and later counter- bid from Bank of Piraeus, which it advised shareholders to accept.

Stocks rally in late reaction to good news

Equity prices rebounded spectacularly yesterday pushing the Athens Stock Exchange above the 4,300-point level, only 41.22 points off its record close of 4,350.13 points on July 5.

Traders said investors reacted favourably, although with some delay, to a new bid by the Latsis Group to acquire Ergobank, and to Moody's decision to upgrade Greece's credit rating.

The general index ended 1.60 percent higher at 4,308.91 points, off the day's highs.

Turnover was 167.348 billion drachmas with 22,991,316 shares changing hands.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (+3.51 pct), Leasing (-0.36 pct), Insurance (+0.62 pct), Investment (-0.10 pct), Construction (-0.35 pct), Industrials (-0.38 pct), Miscellaneous (-0.79 pct) and Holding (-1.80 pct). The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks rose 0.15 percent while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips jumped 2.29 percent to 2,546.83 points.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 156 to 131 with another 11 issues unchanged.

NY proclamations condemn continuing Turkish occupation on Cyprus

New York City's council has issued a proclamation condemning the continuing Turkish occupation of the northern third of Cyprus, pointing out that Ankara has deployed US-made military equipment in the occupied areas.

An estimated "200 million US dollars worth of American military equipment is deployed by the Turkish government in its illegal occupation of Cyprus,", the proclamation states, noting that the "expense of maintaining Turkish troops in Cyprus equals half of America's more than 500 million US dollars of annual foreign aid to Turkey."

The proclamation was handed to Greek Cypriot organisations and Cyprus' consul general by Council Speaker Peter Vallone, during an event on Wednesday to mark the dour 25th anniversary of the Turkish invasion.

"Turkish Cypriot leadership, with the encouragement and backing of the government of Turkey, has refused to respond in a positive manner to the UN Secretary General, frustrating all efforts for a negotiated solution," the proclamation adds.

The proclamation stresses that the "US strongly oppose Turkey's continuing occupation of Cyprus which is in contravention of numerous UN resolutions."

Mr. Vallone added that Washington should exert its influence to restore freedom and human rights on Cyprus.

Meanwhile, the governor of New York, George Pataki, will proclaim July 20, 1999 a "Justice for Cyprus Day" throughout the state.

The proclamation states that "whereas the citizens of the Empire State (New York), who have a long-standing tradition of acknowledging significant events of importance in history, recognise the noble cause of the Cypriot and Greek-American communities in their collective call for justice, and an end to the threat of war in the region and a return to the Republic's former glory and grandeur."

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather will prevail throughout the country on Friday with the possibility of scattered showers in the mountainous regions of mainland northern Greece.

Winds will be northerly, moderate to strong, turning gale force in the Aegean Sea. Fair in Athens where temperatures will range between 24-35C. Partly cloudy in the afternoon in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 22-31C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          315.387
Pound sterling       493.738
Japanese yen (100)   261.610
French franc          49.112
German mark          164.714
Italian lira (100)    16.638
Irish Punt           409.048
Belgian franc          7.986
Finnish mark          54.182
Dutch guilder        146.186
Danish kr.            43.319
Austrian sch.         23.412
Spanish peseta         1.936
Swedish kr.           36.704
Norwegian kr.         39.452
Swiss franc          200.672
Port. Escudo           1.607
Can. dollar          212.943
Aus. dollar          208.136
Cyprus pound         559.091
Euro                 322.152
(L.G.)
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