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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-09-14

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, 14/09/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis: Greece must improve its anti-quake protection
  • Greek, foreign rescue teams lauded by political leadership
  • EU FMs call for proposals over quake relief towards Greece
  • Tsohatzopoulos receives Israeli unit
  • Dukakis: Clinton visit a chance for progress on Cyprus issue
  • Gov't opens quake aid account at central bank
  • Greece details measures to aid quake victims
  • Stocks break through 6,000 pts, hit new record
  • Banks offer to aid quake victims
  • National Bank of Greece prepares for Wall Street entry
  • Capital markets commission okays IPO, imposes penalties
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis: Greece must improve its anti-quake protection

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday completed a series of meetings with opposition party leaders over the repercussions of last Tuesday's devastating 5.9 Richter earthquake in the greater Athens area, which killed at least 127 people.

Mr. Simitis, who wound up his round of consultations with party leaders with a morning meeting with main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis, said Greece was a particularly seismogenic area which, according to scientists, was in a period of increased seismic activity. He added that additional measures would be taken to better shield the country in the future.

The premier said a bill had been tabled in Parliament introducing a system of insurance against the "destructive mania" of earthquakes, adding that other measures would also be taken.

He said everyone must cooperate in the effort to better shield against natural disasters - from citizens, to engineers and contractors, teachers - whom he said must train children in handling earthquakes.

Mr. Simitis announced a joint initiative would be launched by the government, political parties and local government on measures that are necessary to better organise the country in handling disasters.

Rebuffing opposition allegations of delays, Mr. Simitis said the state apparatus had functioned "well and quickly". Compared with the state apparatus' reaction in previous earthquakes, he said, tents and emergency aid had been distributed and inspections had taken place much more quickly.

Naturally, he added, "difficulties arise daily, which we overcome".

He attributed delays in the payment of a 200,000 emergency bonus to quake victims to "bureaucratic difficulties in the local goverment", adding that he himself had telephoned the local authorities to speed up the process.

Anti-seismic building regulations will be toughened if necessary, Town Planning Minister Costas Laliotis said yesterday, citing two measures for more stringent checks on building plans.

Mr. Laliotis said the ministry had decided to establish the institution of a certified engineer, who would inspect the building plans designed by private engineers.

He also said a register of private building constructors would be introduced, a move which has long been sought by the Technical Chamber of Greece.

Mr. Laliotis said that the "tent cities" would disappear in six to eight weeks and the thousands of people left homeless from last Tuesday's earthquake in the Greek capital would be relocated to trailer and prefabricated homes.

Greek, foreign rescue teams lauded by political leadership

A committee set up to promote the cause of Greek and Turkish friendship said yest erday it would award the Greek and Turkish rescue teams their "Abdi Ipekci Peace and Friendship Prize".

The Athens branch of the committee said the Greek branch of Doctors of the World organisation would also receive the prize, for rushing to provide relief to the victims of the devastating Aug. 17 earthquake in Turkey.

President Kostis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos yesterday received members of Greek and foreign rescue teams as search efforts wound down.

Among the rescue crews still working on Sunday were Germans (17-man), Turks (71), French (48 and 11 sniffer dogs), Israelis (30), Russians (five and two dogs), Swiss (seven) and Cypriots (17).

Mr. Stephanopoulos thanked the rescue teams for their determined attempts to save people buried under tonnes of rubble.

Greek and Turkish rescue workers exchanged the flags sewn on to their uniforms.

The Greek president, thanking them on behalf of the Greek people, called on Ankara and Athens to "walk the road of peace and friendship".

EU FMs call for proposals over quake relief towards Greece

The European Union Foreign Ministers' Council yesterday expressed its condolences over last Tuesday's earthquake in the greater Athens area, calling on the European Commission to prepare proposals for financial aid towards Greece.

According to reports, the Union's contribution to quake relief for Greece will emanate from funds of an existing natural disaster relief fund, already in place.

In addition, monies allocated to Greece through the community framework support funds will be re-routed to disaster relief, as was done following a disastrous quake in Italy.

To date, no official statements have been made as Greece has not completed a total damage estimate, however, Greek diplomatic sources said aid will reach a total of 150 billion drachmas.

Tsohatzopoulos receives Israeli unit

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday received the Israeli defence ministry's rescue squad, commending the unit's members for their efforts following last Tuesday's earthquake.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos noted that the common organisational aspects of both the Greek and Israeli rescue squads comprise the cornerstone for a permanent bilateral cooperation, especially in efforts to protect citizens following natural disasters.

The head of the Israeli squad, Gen. Gabai Ofir, expressed his solidarity to the Greek citizens hit by the quake, adding that he was totally satisfied by the cooperation between the Greek and Israeli rescue squads.

In a related development, 3,198 soldiers were participating in the relief efforts, the defence ministry announced. Military personnel have also pitched 3,389 tents to date, as well as several mobile units.

Finally, damages caused by the earthquake to military installations were listed at 22 billion drachmas.

Dukakis: Clinton visit a chance for progress on Cyprus issue

US President Bill Clinton's visit to Turkey and Greece in November will provide an important chance for progress in the Cyprus problem, former Democratic Party presidential candidate Michael Dukakis said in Thessaloniki yesterday.

The former governor of Massachusetts, who lost to George Bush in 1988, noted that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash was "a serious problem" in efforts to find a solution.

"Clinton has committed himself more than any other president to this issue, " Mr. Dukakis told a press conference in the northern Greek port city.

He admitted that no real progress in resolving the dispute had been achieved but said that the Clinton visit would an occasion to provide this.

Mr. Dukakis said he based his opinion on the fact that some conditions for the improvement of the climate in Greek-Turkish relations have been created, while the "human aspect" following the mutual aid in quake relief efforts in both Greece and Turkey.

A 10-point plan for Cyprus put forward by Washington is a good basis for a resolution, he said.

He expressed hope that President Clinton would exert pressure on Turkey and, Ankara in turn on Rauf Denktash, so as to overcome his intransigence. Larissa.

Mr. Dukakis was the keynote speaker yesterday night at a function organised by Anatolia College. Other speakers included Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos and US ambassador Nicholas Burns.

Gov't opens quake aid account at central bank

The government has opened an account for quake relief to victims at the central bank, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said in a statement yesterday.

The account number at the Bank of Greece is: 234365/5 Members of the public or businesses may deposit donations in the account through any bank in Greece, the statement said.

Donations may also be made through the branches of Greek banks abroad.

When the repercussions of the earthquake have been dealt with, a detailed breakdown of how the funds were spent will be released, the statement said.

Greece details measures to aid quake victims

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday detailed measures approved by the government to assist victims of a fatal earthquake that hit Athens and the northern suburbs last week.

Key measures are as follows:


A grant of two million drachmas to families that lost relatives in the quake or have relatives with injuries that will lead to disability * A grant of two million drachmas to families whose homes collapsed in the quake
A rent allowance of 80,000-120,000 drachmas monthly to families obliged to rent new premises after the temblor until their original homes are rebuilt or repaired
For repairs to homes that collapsed or are ready to collapse the sum of 130,000 drachmas will be allocated per square metre. A third of the amount is free with the remaining two thirds in the form of a 15 year interest free loan. A similar measure wil l be applied to business premises. For homes that only need repairs, a sum of up to 65,000 drach-mas per square metre will be allotted, again with one third in the form of a grant and the same loan arrangement for the other two thirds
Pensioners who suffered in the quake will receive 120,000 drachmas
The Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) will give three million drachmas to spouses or children who lost a working spouse or parent in the quake, or if the spouse or parent has injuries leading to disability
The unemployed will receive 150,000 drachmas
Staff of companies forced to close by the quake or suspend operations will receive 200,000 drachmas, rising to 500,000 drachmas if their home is deemed uninhabitable
Deadlines for tax statements, payments of Value Added Tax, and tax debts are extended to December 31. The payment of debts to the state are also extended to December 31 with the opportunity of repayment in 48 monthly installments with no surcharges or fines
Deadlines for contributions to the Social Insurance Foundation are extended for six months, with September 1 as the starting date. Payments will be in 48 equal installments
Businesses and non-profit making organisations will receive five year interest rate subsidies on loans to restore equipment, goods, raw materials and trucks.

Stocks break through 6,000 pts, hit new record

The Athens Stock Exchange overtook the 6,000-point barrier for the first time in its history yesterday as high liquidity continued to support a rally that started at the beginning of the year.

The general index ended 5.09 percent higher at 6,032.85 points, its 49th record in 1999.

It now stands 120.38 percent up from the start of the year.

Turnover yesterday was heavy at 527.94 billion drachmas on 61,417,116 shares traded.

Buying interest was heavy in all sectors, but strongest in the construction and leasing sectors, and in the parallel market for smaller capitalisation stocks.

Yiannis Dimopoulos, a trader at Nuntius Securities, told the Athens News Agency: "A sharp correction in the market is unlikely in the near term and the prolonged rally of prices may only be halted in a violent manner".

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (+5.47 pct), Insurance (+1.17 pct), Construction (+8.0 pct), Miscellaneous (+2.86 pct), Leasing (+8.0 pct), Investment (+6.90 pct), Industrials (+4.20 pct) and Holding (+2.97 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 6.32 percent higher while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks jumped 5.02 percent to 3,180.21 points.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 300 to nine with only one issue unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 26,700 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 26, 500, Commercial Bank at 31,700, Titan Cement at 38,800, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,622, Intracom at 30,320, Minoan Lines at 8,925, Panafon at 9,850 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,850.

Banks offer to aid quake victims

Greek banks yesterday announced a package of measures to assist people and businesses hit by last week's strong earthquake and offered to help with the reconstruction of areas that were damaged.

Theodore Karatzas, the president of the Union of Greek Banks, announced the measures following a meeting of the union's board.

The measures include:


support for citizens hit by the earthquake through the extension of mortgage, personal and consumer loan payment deadlines by up to six months
support for citizens and businesses by extending payments on loans up to six months from the deadline
support for citizens and businesses by lowering personal, consumer and business loan rates by two percentage points until December 31, 2000, and freezing enforced action for a period of six months.

Mr. Karatzas also announced that Greek banks would cover the cost of separate reconstruction projects totalling more than three billion drachmas.

The projects would be determined following consultations with the government and local authorities.

To fund the scheme, National Bank of Greece will earmark 600 million drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank 400 million, Agricultural Bank 300 million, Commercial Bank 300 million, Ergobank 200 million, ETBA 200 million, Eurobank 200 million, Piraeus Bank 200 million, General Bank 100 million, Egnatia Bank 100 million, Attica Bank 80 million, Dorian Bank Telesis 65 million and Aspis Bank 50 million drachmas.

Mr. Karatzas said that all Greek Cypriot banks operating in Greece (European Popular Bank, Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank) would contribute to the reconstruction effort along with major foreign banks in the country (Citigroup, Bayerische Hypo und Vere insbank, ING Bank, ABN Amro Bank, BNP, Barclays Bank, Midland Bank, Societe Generale and American Express).

National Bank of Greece prepares for Wall Street entry

National Bank of Greece, a blue chip on the Athens bourse, expects to complete preparations for listing on the New York Stock Exchange by the end of October or early November. The president of National Bank's shareholders association, George Karachristos, said yesterday that entry would be effected through the sale of around 3.0 percent of existing stock, and not through a share capital increase.

Mr. Karachristos added that profits of the National Bank of Greece Group this year were seen topping 300 billion drachmas with capital gains exceeding 900 billion drachmas.

Capital markets commission okays IPO, imposes penalties

The capital markets commission yesterday announced the approval of an initial public offer prospectus from Varvaressos SA Naoussa Spinning Mills to gain listing on the Athens Stock Exchange.

The committee also approved operating licenses for Marfin Momentum Investment and Astra Investment, and imposed penalties on Agricultural Bank of Greece Mutual Funds and Xios Mutual Funds for the illegal publication of yield figures. It also announced sanctions against Hanwa Mutual Funds for its failure to warn investors in a pamphlet of risks linked to returns.

WEATHER

Overcast weather is forecast in most parts of Greece today with scattered showers in the southern Ionian Sea, the Peloponnese, the southern Cycladic islands and Crete. Winds northerly, light to moderate. Mostly fair in Athens with temperatures from 19-30C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 17-28C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          313.373
Pound sterling       505.920
Japanese yen (100)   294.594
French franc          49.378
German mark          165.606
Italian lira (100)    16.728
Irish Punt           411.265
Belgian franc          8.029
Finnish mark          54.476
Dutch guilder        146.979
Danish kr.            43.598
Austrian sch.         23.538
Spanish peseta         1.946
Swedish kr.           37.736
Norwegian kr.         39.581
Swiss franc          201.505
Port. Escudo           1.616
Can. dollar          212.090
Aus. dollar          205.319
Cyprus pound         558.893
Euro                 323.898
(C.E.)
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