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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-07-28

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, 28/07/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis inspects Greek detachment in Kosovo town of Urosevac
  • Miller: G8 initiative will not replace UN in resolving Cyprus issue
  • Kranidiotis: Decision to base EU agency in Thessaloniki final
  • First round of initial Greek-Turkish contacts completed
  • Kranidiotis on Milosevic role in Yugoslavia
  • Stocks slump below 4,500 points
  • OTE-KPN temporarily suspend negotiations to purchase BTK majority
  • Shipowners, seamen forge wage pact
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis inspects Greek detachment in Kosovo town of Urosevac

Greece desires peace and cooperation in the Balkan region and wherever a problem exists it will offer its assistance to have it resolved, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said here yesterday.

Speaking to reporters after inspecting the Greek peacekeeping force in Kosovo during a four-hour visit, Mr. Simitis said:

"The presence of the Greek force entails a double message in that Greece desires peace and cooperation prevail in the region and wherever a problem exists it will offer its assistance to have it resolved".

The prime minister, accompanied by National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and Press Minister Dimitris Reppas, arrived in Urosevac aboard two helicopters which were escorted by two US Apache helicopters after entering the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Mr. Simitis said the decision on the reconstruction of Yugoslavia is a decision by the European Union and does not depend on political developments in Yugoslavia.

Mr. Simitis appeared dissatisfied with the process of disarming the so- called "Kosovo Liberation Army" (UCK) rebel force and, replying to a relevant issue, said its disarming is not proceeding at the desired rates.

He said the Greek force will be reinforced with a mechanised company and a sanitation company.

Mr. Simitis discussed the issue of reinforcing the Greek force with the KFOR commander, British General Michael Jackson, at a dinner given by the Greek commander. Mr. Simitis said Gen. Jackson considers the reinforcement of the Greek battalion necessary .

The Greek force, currently housed in a disused oil and natural gas pipe producing factory, one of the biggest in the Balkans, as Mr. Simitis said, will be transferred to a camp with prefabricated houses which will probably start being built as of next week.

Mr. Simitis said his impressions concerning the presence of the Greek force is that good cooperation exists with the authorities, the international peacekeeping force's command, as well as with the US brigade, part of which is composed of the Greek batt alion. He congratulated all on what is being done in Urosevac.

Referring to the situation prevailing in the troubled Serbian province, Mr. Simitis said it is easy for one to ascertain the gloomy reality of war and its consequences.

"There are signs of neglect, unemployment, the non-existence of administration and of the state, the non-existence of an economy, while very often there are not even the rudimentary means in such sectors such as health and treatment. For these reasons the presence of the peacekeeping force is of great importance in the region of Yugoslavia, as well as that of the Greek force in the region of Urosevac," he said, adding that there is already a major difference between the present situation and the situati on found by the 501 battalion when it deployed itself there a month ago.

The commander of the 501 battalion said aid provided by the Greek force is primarily medical and humanitarian. Medical and pharmaceutical aid has been provided for 500 people so far, while 160 tonnes of humanitarian aid has been distributed to 31 villages.

On arrival in Kosovo, Mr. Simitis was welcomed by the Greek ambassador to Belgrade Stathopoulos and the commander of the 501 battalion.

Addressing earlier the Greek troops in Urosevac, Mr. Simitis said: "A great effort will be needed to reconstruct the region and deal with the outstanding problems of democracy and development, and in this effort too, Greece will be present".

"If peace smiles once again in the Balkans, it will smile thanks to our efforts also," Mr, Simitis said.

Commenting on Greece's role during the Kosovo crisis, the premier said the result had been that the country was today part of efforts to resolve the problem and not part of the problem itself.

He said however that despite the peace now prevailing in the region "it would be a dangerous illusion to believe that the problem has been dealt with, that the situation has been normalised, that the page has turned conclusively".

Mr. Simitis said the situation in the region would remain "fluid" for an indeterminate period of time which would be marked by tensions and instability as well as frictions and even "clashes" at a regional level.

The prime minister told the troops that their presence in Kosovo was a concrete example of Greece's interest in the region "and our people's solidarity with our neighbours".

Mr. Simitis also referred to the responsibility of the European Union for the Kosovo crisis, saying that if the EU had been "more perspicacious, bolder and had a specific courageous and comprehensive strategy for the Balkans, it would have been able to prevent the crisis and the conflict would have been averted". Mr. Simitis and Mr. Tsohatzopoulos returned to Athens last night. On Friday, the premier and the defence minister will fly to Sarajevo to attend a meeting of mostly European leaders on Balkan r econstruction and stability.

The Balkan Stability Pact summit in the Bosnian capital will be attended by leaders of the 15-member European Union, nine non-EU countries in the region, the US, Russia, Canada and Japan.

Miller: G8 initiative will not replace UN in resolving Cyprus issue

Outgoing US State Department special envoy for Cyprus Thomas Miller said yesterday that the G8 initiative for the island republic was not replacing the United Nations but aimed at focusing the international community's attention on Cyprus in a way that no single country could.

Mr. Miller, on a farewell visit to Athens before taking up his new post as US ambassador to Bosnia, held talks here on Monday with Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis over the Cyprus issue, Greek-Turkish relations and the situation in the Balkans.

He told a press conference yesterday that Washington was "making every possible effort to make it useful" for the Greek and Turkish Cypriots to sit down at the negotiations table.

Mr. Miller noted that the communique adopted by the G8 group called on the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities to enter into talks "without terms and conditions", making it clear that "all issues are on the negotiating table".

Regarding the UN Security Council resolutions on the Cyprus issue, Mr. Miller said he did not see them as "conditions" but rather as a "catalyst which gives inspiration to the talks".

"The Security Council resolutions are part of the history of the Cyprus problem and linked with the present situation on the island," Mr. Miller said, adding in reply to questions that the US position in favour of a "bizonal, intercommunal federation, with a single sovereignty has not changed, and will not change".

Asked how the talks could be made "attractive" for the Turkish side, which has so far said it would not take part, Mr. Miller referred to three points:

First of all, he said, the Turkish side "may consider that the Cyprus issue is not a major problem, but the rest of the international community believes the opposite".

Second, he noted that "the two sides have legitimate interests and concerns" and a settlement of the problem was in their mutual interest, adding that "in a negotiation, no side can attain 100 per cent of its aspirations".

Third, he said that "if we all agree that we desire serious negotiations, we must try to create the appropriate environment and conditions for the negotiations to be successful", and noted as an example "the problems faced by the Turkish Cypriot busines smen from the embargo on Turkish Cypriot products".

Mr. Miller said it would be good if the embargo were lifted, but admitted that that would be "very difficult to happen before a commencement of negotiations".

The US official said he was "more optimistic today than in the past", and noted the "positive messages" being conveyed from the process of the Greek- Turkish dialogue at senior foreign ministry officials level that opened Monday in Ankara.

"It is not so much the issues that are being discussed as the fact that the will and disposition exist to begin solving the problems," Mr. Miller said.

On relations between the European Union and Turkey, Mr. Miller said that "after the negative, for Turkey, decisions" of the EU leaders at the Luxembourg summit, "there have been some encouraging elements" from the Cologne summit and afterwards.

He further said that top US diplomat Richard Holbrooke, the former US special presidential emissary for Cyprus whose appointment as the new US ambassador to the United Nations is pending Senate approval, continued to be "quite involved" in the Cyprus issue in the background, and reaffirmed US President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madleine Albright's "strong interest" for a solution of the Cyprus problem.

Kranidiotis: Decision to base EU agency in Thessaloniki final

Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis said yesterday that the decision to base the organisation for the reconstruction of the Balkans in Thessaloniki was final and beyond all doubt.

Mr. Kranidiotis was speaking in Thessaloniki after talks in the port city in preparation for the procedure for the establishment of the organisation's headquarters.

The decision to base the agency in Thessaloniki was taken recently by European Union leaders on the sidelines of an EU-Latin American summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Mr. Kranidiotis said the European Parliament's negative opinion on the basing of the organisation in Thessaloniki has no effect on the final decision.

Commenting on the importance of the development, Mr. Kranidiotis said "headquarters means that the decision-making centre and central services of the organisation will be in Thessaloniki".

"In addition to the Balkans Reconstruction Organisation, the Stability Pact will also unfold in the region with Thessaloniki hosting part of its activities", Mr. Kranidiotis said.

"The Stability Pact is something different from the Reconstruction Organisation. It is a pact among countries worldwide aiming at assisting with the reconstruction of the region and it will include three axes, security, human rights and the economic de velopment of the region. All its activities will be coordinated by a single body, mainly meeting in Brussels, but also in Thessaloniki which will host its Secretariat", he said.

"The economic reconstruction process for Kosovo and the wider region will commence in September and 250 million euros will be allocated during the first phase", Mr. Kranidiotis said, stressing that "prospects will not be very promising in the absence of a generous financial assistance".

Macedonia-Thrace Minister Yiannis Magriotis, who participated earlier in the talks with Mr. Kranidiotis, said Thessaloniki already had a good infrastructure in place and had suitable buildings available for housing the agency's services.

The actual choice of the buildings to be used will be made by organisation officials, Mr. Magriotis said, adding that this would take place sometime in the next few days.

First round of initial Greek-Turkish contacts completed

Greek and Turkish diplomats yesterday completed in Ankara their first round of contacts - agreed by the two countries last month with a view to promoting rapprochement - with an exchange of views on organising dialogue over issues of cooperation in trade.

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Sermet Atancali described the talks as positive and constructive. Discussions will continue in Athens tomorrow on issues of fighting crime and other activities that could be descrbied as "terrorism".

The two countries' foreign ministers, George Papandreou and Ismail Cem, will have the opportunity to evaluate progress on the sidelines of the Sarajevo summit on Friday.

Meanwhile, diplomatic sources expressed a view that the dialogue replaces the "rhetorical conflict" and the "continuous friction" which prevailed in Greek-Turkish relations, particularly after the capture of Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, in Kenya earlier this year.

The government noted that the Greek-Turkish dialogue had begun in a positive climate on issues concerning trade, the environment and tourism.

Acting government spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said the talks had been held in a positive climate but declined to make any other statement.

Kranidiotis on Milosevic role in Yugoslavia

Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis called Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic an "autocratic nationalist" during a press conference in Thessaloniki yesterday on the issue of reconstructing the Balkans. Mr. Kranidiotis added that Mr. Milosevic "could act differently and benefit his country and the region." "However, be as it may, democracy should be restored in Yugoslavia and free elections should be held," he said, adding that "it is up to the Yugoslav people who they will have as their leader."

Stocks slump below 4,500 points

Equities finished lower yesterday, dragged down by jittery trade in the heavily weighted banking sector that stemmed from uncertainty over the future of Ergobank, the target of a takeover bid by two other listed banks.

The general index ended 1.82 percent lower at 4,425.4 points from 4,507.76 points a day earlier.

Turnover was 217.5 billion drachmas from 199.676 billion drachmas in the previous session. Changing hands were 29,634,880 shares.

Profit-taking was seen in banks, which spread to other sectors.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-2.28 pct), Leasing (+0.30 pct), Insurance (-5.01 pct), Investment (-2.47 pct), Construction (-3.55 pct), Industrials (-1.23 pct), Miscellaneous (-3.73 pct) and Holding (+1.65 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 1.26 percent lower. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips dropped 1.84 percent to finish at 2,573.31 points.

Of 298 shares traded, declines outpaced advances at 202 to 72 with 4 issues unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,500 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 21, 500, Bank of Piraeus at 8,950, Ergobank at 37,750, Titan Cement (common) at 30,405, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,920 and Intracom (common) at 20,950 drachmas.

OTE-KPN temporarily suspend negotiations to purchase BTK majority

Talks leading to a final purchase agreement for a controlling interest in Bulgaria's telecoms utility by a consortium comprised of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) and KPN of the Netherlands have been temporarily suspended.

According to reports from Sofia, there was a difference of opinion between Bulgarian government officials and the OTE-KPN side over the monopoly status of BTK in the telecoms sector until 2002, something apparently agreed to in a July 9 protocol signed by the two sides.

The same reports noted that there were also differences over the amount of stock the OTE-KPN side was willing to purchase for 502 million US dollars.

According to the protocol, the Greek-Dutch joint venture agreed to purchase 51 per cent of BTK's stock for the above amount.

Shipowners, seamen forge wage pact

The Panhellenic Seamen's Union, Union of Greek Shipowners and Union of Passenger Ship Owners yesterday agreed on a new collective labour agreement for 1999, including staggered pay rises.

Under the terms of the pact, seamen will retroactively receive a pay increase of 3.5 percent from January 1 to June 30.

A second rise of 4.5 percent will be paid from July 1. Cruise ship workers will receive 4.0 percent from January to June, and 5.0 percent from July to December.

WEATHER

Fair weather is forecast throughout the country on Wednesday with scattered cloud and possibility of showers in eastern Macedonia, Thrace and the islands of north and eastern Aegean. Winds will be northerly, northwesterly, moderate to strong in the seas. Fair weather in Athens, with temperatures between 23C and 34C. The same for Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 21C to 31C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          303.721
Pound sterling       482.707
Japanese yen (100)   260.291
French franc          49.141
German mark          164.810
Italian lira (100)    16.648
Irish Punt           409.288
Belgian franc          7.991
Finnish mark          54.214
Dutch guilder        146.271
Danish kr.            43.291
Austrian sch.         23.425
Spanish peseta         1.937
Swedish kr.           36.613
Norwegian kr.         38.636
Swiss franc          201.361
Port. Escudo           1.608
Can. dollar          201.019
Aus. dollar          195.265
Cyprus pound         557.484
Euro                 323.965
(L.G.)
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