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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-08-12

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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>

NEWS IN ENGLISH

ATHENS, GREECE, 12/08/1999 (ANA)


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NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece experiences last solar eclipse of the millenium

After 63 years, one month and 22 days, Greece experienced again a total solar eclipse, the last of the millenium, which swung across much of the northern hemisphere yesterday.

The previous total solar eclipse visible by the residents of Greece was in June 19, 1936, while the next one will be on March 19, 2006, visible here only from the island of Kastelorizo.

The phenomenon was visible in Greece beginning at the Ionian island of Corfu at 12.40 pm and ended at 3.34 pm.

Maximum shielding of the sun by the moon was 95 per cent at the northeastern town of Didymoteicho.

In Athens it was 82 per cent at 2.10 pm.

"Solar eclipses do not have any other influence on the earth beyond the shadow and a small temperature drop," Athens National Observatory researchers said, adding that "no particular activity or radiation increase is noted, the reason being the sun's great distance from the moon which prevents it from affecting any traction or gravity forces."

The scientific significance of the phenomenon is owed to the interest for decoding the sun's secrets contained in the solar diadem, which is normally overshadowed by the one-million-times more powerful light of the solar centre.

The National Observatory on Mt. Penteli used a video-camera, a solar telescope and a special light screen to register and photograph the phenomenon, while at the highest point of the solar eclipse by 82% at 2.10 p.m. the temperature inside the room with the solar telescope dropped by two degrees Celcius.

Nevertheless, despite studies of the solar eclipses by the ancient Babylonians and the Chinese, only the ancient Greek astronomers and physicists like Aristarchos, as far back as the 2nd century B.C., correctly characterised the phenomenon as natural.

Onassis Foundation not to appeal court Swiss court ruling

The Athens-based trustees of the fortune to be inherited by the only heir to the Onassis shipping fortune issued an announcement yesterday stating their decision not to continue an eleven-year long legal battle concerning the administration of the vast as sets.

The only heir to the Onassis ship-ping fortune, 14-year-old Athina Roussel, will inherit an estimated US$600 million on her 18th birthday.

The teenager - the only child of Onassis' late daughter Christina and her ex-husband, French businessman Thierry Roussel - lives in Switzerland with her father, his Swedish wife and their three children.

The four Greek trustees and Roussel, who comprise the five-member board of directors of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, have long been at odds over the management of the assets.

In March this year, the Guardianship Authority of Oberengadine, Switzerland decided to remove administration of the patrimony from the board of trustees and assign it to Lucerne-based auditing firm KPMG Fides.

In doing so, the Guardianship Authority also decided to respect the last wishes of Christina Onassis in her handwritten will, namely that Thierry Roussel be excluded from the administration of the minor's assets. The grounds for the Authority's decisio n was that Athina's patrimony was at risk "because of serious disputes between the Greek members of the board and Roussel" which created a conflict of interest.

The Athens-based trustees responded by accusing the Authority of "unjustified enmity towards Greece, the Foundation and the Greek administrators".

The trustees on March 15 filed an appeal with a Swiss first instance court against the decision of the Guardianship Authority which was subsequently rejected.

In yesterday's statement, the trustees said they had filed the appeal in order to establish KPMG's suitability to administer the fortune. "Our investigation showed that, contrary to artfully circulated press reports, KPMG is not a corporate giant with e normous capital and a huge turnover, but a small company which has bought the title "KPMG" and states that it applies its methods... This is why we persisted with our appeal, which however was rejected. The fact remains that KPMG lacks the ability in law to exercise administration or even take responsible decisions.

Administration will be exercised by some unknown third party who will be free to make irresponsible decisions, while KPMG will merely provide advice with no responsibility," the statement said.

The trustees said the basis of the Swiss Authority's decision was erroneous, adding that according to Christina Onassis' will, decisions relating to the administration of the fortune were to be taken by majority and "Roussel never occupied himself with the administration and moreover proved to be unsuitable in administering even his own businesses".

They also criticised the first instance court's view that since administration of the fortune had been removed from the trustees, the latter had no right to judge their replacement.

"On matters regarding the assets of minors, courts should ex officio take into account all the evidence presented. The (Swiss) court did not," the trustees said.

"Under these conditions," the statement continued, "the members of the board of directors of the Onassis Foundation expressed the wish that we discontinue the unenviable and fruitless legal battle". For this reason, the trustees added, "we decid ed unanimously not to file an appeal" (against the ruling of the Swiss first instance court).

"Following these developments, we have given the necessary instructions for the smooth handing over of the assets... As of August 2, 1999 responsibility for the administration has been undertaken by KPMG Lucerne," the statement said.

Athens mayor says presidency rumours exaggerated

Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, who has been the object of speculation over the election of the next President of the Republic, yesterday refused to be categorically drawn on the issue.

Speaking to the press, he said "our country has a president of the Republic who is worthy, respected and especially beloved. All that has been reported over the past few days and the premature election-talk are not at all positive and useful to the inst itution."

Earlier, when asked, the mayor said that the rumours were greatly exaggerated.

Soccer star Georgatos transfers to Inter in 2.5 bln dr deal

Olympiakos Piraeus soccer club yesterday announced the transfer of international Grigoris Georgatos to Italian giants Inter Milan in a deal worth 2.5 billion drachmas to the Greek club. The talented 27-year-old midfielder will be signing a four-y ear contract with Inter for what is reported to be an annual salary of 400 million drachmas.

In addition, Olympiakos will receive the proceeds from a friendly game with the Italian team.

It is the highest ever transfer fee for a Greek soccer player to a foreign club.

Equity prices edge to new record high

Equity prices overcame a wave of profit taking to end yesterday's session to new records supported by strong buying interest in shares of the banks and industrials sectors.

The general index ended 0.13 percent higher at 4,591.34 points, its 36th record closing this year, but off the day's highs of 4,639 points.

Banks, Industrials and Miscellaneous outperformed the market to end 0.74, 0.50 and 3.39 percent higher respectively. Other sector indices ended as follows: Leasing (-0.25 pct), Insurance (-1.21 pct), Investment (-0.32 pct), Construction (-0.83 pct) and Holding (-1.95 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks rose 0.91 percent while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chips and heavy traded stocks fell 0.07 percent to 2,573.79 points.

Turnover was 208.377 billion drachmas with 29,403,222 shares changing hands. Decliners outnumbered advancers by 184 to 97 with another 14 issues unchanged.

A total of 18 shares ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit up, while another six ended at the day's limit down. Eurobank, Mohlos were the most heavily traded stocks, while Eurobank, Commercial Bank and Papastratos led the day's turnover. National Bank of Greece ended at 21,700 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 21,400, Ergobank at 29,900, Commercial Bank at 32,800, Titan Cement at 31,490, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,910, Intracom at 22,500, Minoan Lines at 5,850, Panafon at 7,800 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,505 .

Minoan Lines ship orders

Minoan Flying Dolphins yesterday announced the placement of an option order of two more highspeed ferries with Australian shipyards Austal. The new ships will be delivered in 2001.

Minoan Flying Dolphins has already signed a contract for the construction of three highspeed ferries with Austal shipyards and the new option order was due to be finalised by March 2000.

The new order would enable the company to expand its services in the Aegean Sea, a company statement said. Delivery of the first highspeed ferry was expected in April 2000, three months ahead of schedule.

Minoan Flying Dolphins said the new ship would be put in service in the Cyclades islands before next Easter. The ship will carry 620 passengers and 75 vehicles at a maximum travelling speed of 45 knots.

The two other highspeed ferries were expected in June 2000 in time to become operational for the next tourist season. The biggest ferry will have a length of 92 metres (the largest in Mediterranean) and could carry 1,050 passengers and 200 vehicles.

The cost of the investment will total 86.4 million US dollars. Minoan Flying Dolphins also said it examined its expansion in the Adriatic Sea routes with new highspeed ferries travelling at more than 40 knots.

Record number of tourists in Rhodes

A record number of tourists have arrived on the southeastern Aegean island of Rhodes and a further increase is expected, the Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) reported yesterday.

Specifically, official data collected by EOT show that 82,953 tourists are at this time on the island, compared to 77,441 during the same period last year, while 110 charter flights are expected over the next few days.

Of the 82,953 tourist only 4,729 are Greeks as their numbers have declined from last year's 5,348 of a 77,441 total. The reason for the decline sited was the poor ferryboat service and lack of planning on the part of Greek tourists.

This seven per cent increase regards only those tourists being hosted in facilities were EOT collects data, however unofficial data indicate that the number of tourists vacationing on Rhodes at this time exceed 120, 000.

Bonds flat in dull trade

Secondary market bond prices ended flat in light trade yesterday, with turnover reaching just 10 billion drachmas. The benchmark 10 year bond showed a yield of 6.78 - 6.80 percent, with the spread above German bunds ranging between 182 and 184 basis poin ts.

At the central bank's daily fix, the drachma crept up against the euro, being set 326.66 from 326.85 in the previous session. Also at the fix, the dollar rose to 305.46 from 303.90 a day earlier.

WEATHER

Fine weather with soaring temperatures is forecast throughout the country today with few local clouds developing in the afternoon hours in the Northern Ionian sea, Epirus and Macedonia. Three to four degrees cooler in the coastal regions. Winds mostly weak, turning to northwesterly and moderate in the west. In Athens temperatures will soar to 41C. Slightly cooler in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 26-38C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          301.469
Pound sterling       486.338
Japanese yen (100)   262.682
French franc          49.429
German mark          165.779
Italian lira (100)    16.745
Irish Punt           411.694
Belgian franc          8.038
Finnish mark          54.532
Dutch guilder        147.131
Danish kr.            43.565
Austrian sch.         23.563
Spanish peseta         1.948
Swedish kr.           36.708
Norwegian kr.         39.158
Swiss franc          202.353
Port. Escudo           1.617
Can. dollar          200.424
Aus. dollar          196.019
Cyprus pound         558.238
Euro                 324.235
(C.E.)
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