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Macedonian Press Agency: News in English, 00-02-01
From: The Macedonian Press Agency at http://www.mpa.gr and http://www.hri.org/MPA.
 UN SECRETARY GENERAL SPEAKS TO MPAGeneva, 1 February 2000 (10:45 UTC+2)
In spite of the additional claims tabled by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan wants to believe that he will achieve "progress" in the on-going second round of proximity talks presently held in Geneva between the President of the Republic of Cyprus Glafcos Clerides and the head of the island's occupied territory.
Responding to a question tabled by the Macedonian Press Agency, Mr. Annan stated that the process is a "difficult and complicated" one, albeit adding that he continues to hope that there is potential for a comprehensive solution to the issue by the end of the year.
Specifically, Mr. Annan stated that the talks are focusing on four core issues: security, distribution of powers, property and territory. However, he continued, Mr. Denktash tabled additional matters.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is having separate meetings with President Clerides and Mr. Denktash in the presence of special adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, who will take over the supervision of the talks today.
Referring to the news black out enforced during the duration of the talks, the UN chief neither refuted nor confirmed reports of Mr. Denktash having demanded recognition of the island's occupied part, contrary to UN resolutions, claiming that this is "the only reality".
Mr. Annan also stressed that the only way to reach a settlement is through a continuous hard discussion with the spirit of give and take and a will to compromise.
He stressed that all issues are on the table and he cannot prejudge the outcome of the proximity talks.
 GREECE ELATED OVER ECOFIN APPROVALAthens, 1 February 2000 (10:45 UTC+2)
European Union finance ministers (ECOFIN) approved in Brussels yesterday Greece's 1999-2002 plan to align its economy with the rest of the EU.
Minister of National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou stated that the decision marks "a decisive step towards the country's entry into the final phase of economic and monetary union."
Hoping to join the 11-member euro zone on January 1, 2001, Greece plans to apply for membership in March, with the EU due to decide whether or not the country qualifies at an EU summit in Lisbon on June 19.
 PMs OF GREECE, ALBANIA, FYROM IN PRESPESThessaloniki, 1 February 2000 (10:46 UTC+2)
The prime ministers of Greece, Albania and FYROM, will declare a "Balkans Park" in the area of Prespes Lakes tomorrow, World Wetlands Day, a Greek initiative aimed at the creation of an international protected region in the Balkans.
The park will extend into the territory of the three countries and will constitute a large, integrated natural reserve, according Undersecretary of Environment Theodoros Koliopanos.
Messrs. Costas Simitis, Ilir Meta and Liuptco Georgievski will issue a joint proclamation which will set out a series of activities aimed at maintaining the quality of the waters of the lakes, protecting wildlife and bio-diversity, the need to develop an integrated and sensitive approach to tourism in the area and the improvement, maintenance and promotion of traditional architecture and Byzantine and post-Byzantine monuments in the region.
The lakes of Mikri Prespa and Megali Prespa are situated in a mountainous, largely forested area which attracts a vast number of migratory birds, as well as having the richest biodiversity in Greece. They represent Greece"s largest national park.
 ELECTION RUMORS PERSIST, BUT PM STILL SILENTAthens, 1 February 2000 (13:20 UTC+2)
As rumors of early elections continue to persist and mount, Prime Minister Costas Simitis is expected to reveal his intentions within the week, most likely following the ruling PASOK party's (over which he presides) ideological conference this weekend.
Prior to the conference, Mr. Simitis is to address the PASOK Executive Bureau today, while he will chair a cabinet meeting on Friday.
Yesterday, Simitis officially notified the president of the Hellenic Parliament Apostolos Kaklamanis that PASOK proposes Stephanopoulos for president, and will vote for him on February 8.
 THE US CONSULATE IN THESSALONIKI IS BEING REINFORCEDThessaloniki, 1 February 2000 (18:11 UTC+2)
US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns presented Jeremy Keller, head of the Economic and Trade Cooperation Office of the United States in Thessaloniki to minister of Macedonia-Thrace Yiannis Magriotis during their meeting today.
Mr. Burns pointed out that the US Trade Office in Thessaloniki will cover the whole Balkan region and announced that the US consulate will be reinforced with two officials from the Athens embassy.
The US ambassador congratulated Greece and the Greek government for its very important assistance in the Balkan Stability Pact and for the fact that the Greek forces help in maintaining peace in Kosovo, Albania and Bosnia.
 THE ECOFIN DECISION CONFIRMS THE POLICY FOLLOWED SO FARAthens, 1 February 2000 (18:11 UTC+2)
The ECOFIN decision confirms the policy followed so far and after the successful developments in the efforts made one can say that Greece is just a breath away from joining the European Economic and Monetary Union, EMU stated Greek government spokesman Dimitris Reppas.
When asked to comment on the terms accompanying the decision (suggestions for tight revenue policy - changes in the social security system) Mr. Reppas pointed out that terms are set for each country and that the post-EMU era will be managed by the governing socialist party of PASOK because it has the confidence of the Greek people.
 REPPAS ON THE ANNAN STATEMENTSAthens, 1 February 2000 (18:11 UTC+2)
Greek government spokesman Dimitris Reppas characterized as promising and positive the statement made by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan according to which, the Cyprus problem will be resolved by the end of the year.
Mr. Reppas stated that such a statement is promising and that it is a form of pressure on Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
 REPPAS ON THE CEM VISIT TO ATHENSAthens, 1 February 2000 (18:10 UTC+2)
The visit of Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem will contribute to the efforts to preserve and renew the climate of a better rapprochement between the two countries, stated Greek government spokesman Dimitris Reppas.
Mr. Reppas added that Greece has expressed its interest and will toward this end and the same must be done by Turkey in order to have a good communication between the two countries.
 GAINS OF 3.04% IN THE ATHENS STOCK EXCHANGEAthens, 1 February 2000 (17:18 UTC+2)
Gains of 3.04% were recorded in the Athens Stock Exchange today. The general index closed at 5.141,83, while the volume of transactions was over 210,7 billion drachmas.
The Athens Stock Exchange regained its confidence as a result of ECOFIN's positive stance regarding Greece's new convergence program for the period 1999-2002. Also, the psychological state of the investors was improved after the statements made by minister of national economy Yiannos Papantoniou according to which, Greece will meet all the Maastricht criteria by mid February.
 RELATIONS BETWEEN GREECE AND BELGIUM ARE EXCELLENTAthens, 1 February 2000 (17:17 UTC+2)
The excellent relations between Greece and Belgium were confirmed by Greek parliament speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis and Belgian ambassador to Athens Claude Rigmenans who met in Athens today.
Mr. Kaklamanis referred to the very close cooperation of the two state parliaments and the common goals the two countries must set within the EU framework in order to have not just an economic union but a society with a political face and social structures that will continue to move the European people.
The Belgian ambassador praised Greece for its progress in the economic and diplomatic sector and agreed that the two countries must develop common strategies within the framework of the European Union, while he showed a special interest in the Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue.
 PAPANTONIOU: THE PERIOD FROM THE FILING TO THE APPROVAL OF THE APPLICATION FOR THE EMU MEMBERSHIP IS CRUCIALAthens, 1 February 2000 (17:16 UTC+2)
The period from the filing to the approval of the application for Greece's EMU membership is politically crucial, stated minister of national economy Yiannos Papantoniou.
Mr. Papantoniou pointed out that Greece must base its candidature to join the EMU on convincing arguments, while the framework within which the economic policy will be exercised in the period after the EMU must be set.
The national economy minister stated in a press conference that according to the convergence program approved by ECOFIN yesterday, the growth rate will reach 4% in the next three years, inflation will be at about 2%, while there will be a zero deficit in 2001.
On the likelihood of early elections, the minister of national economy pointed out that the decision will be made by the prime minister.
 SOFIA WAS READY TO SURRENDER THE BULGARIAN JEWS TO THE NAZIS DURING WWIIThessaloniki, 1 February 2000 (17:16 UTC+2)
Bulgaria was ready to surrender to the Nazis all the Jews living in its territory during WWII and the Bulgarian prime minister had signed such an agreement with the German army commander. However, the agreement was not implemented because in the meantime the armistice had been signed.
The revelation was made to MPA by Thessaloniki's Jewish Community general secretary Alberto Hawel commenting on the rejection of Bulgaria's demand to be awarded a distinction of merit because it had saved the Jews living in its territory during WWII.
Bulgaria's demand was rejected in the international conference on the Holocaust held recently in Stockholm, Sweden. A significant role in the rejection of the Bulgarian demand was played by the interventions of the Athens based Central Jewish Council president Moses Konstantinis and Mr. Hawel. In the conference, the Greek Jews had the discreet support of the FYROM Jewish delegation.
Bulgaria had asked to be rewarded for saving the Jews living in its territory during WWII hiding the fact that it had given up to the Nazis more than 5.000 Jews from the then Bulgarian held Eastern Macedonia and Thrace as well as the FYROM region.
 EIGHT TURKISH STUDENTS VISITED PRESIDENT STEPHANOPOULOSAthens, 1 February 2000 (17:15 UTC+2)
Eight students from Ankara, who are visiting Greece at the invitation of Greek students, met with president Kostis Stephanopoulos at the presidential building in Athens earlier this morning.
Mr. Stephanopoulos characterized as important the contacts of Greek and Turkish students and expressed the hope that more such steps will be made in the effort to build the Greek-Turkish friendship.
 PAPANDREOU BRIEFED THE PRESIDENT ON THE POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTSAthens, 1 February 2000 (17:15 UTC+2)
Foreign minister Giorgos Papandreou briefed president Kostis Stephanopoulos on issues of foreign policy, the Helsinki EU Summit meeting, the developments in the Balkans, the contacts he had with US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem as well as the Greek-Turkish agreements he signed in Ankara.
Greece is making careful steps within the new framework of principles formed by the Helsinki EU Summit, stated Mr. Papandreou, adding that the Greek foreign policy moves within a framework of principles which is the only one that can secure good neighborly relations and stability in the Balkan region.
Foreign minister Giorgos Papandreou will speak tomorrow before the foreign affairs and defense parliament committee, while he will have a meeting with US assistant secretary of state Thomas Pikering who is expected in Athens.
 ECOFIN SAYS YES BUT WARNS AGAINST INFLATIONBrussels, 1 February 2000 (13:20 UTC+2)
Although it has approved the country"s revised convergence program, the European Council of Finance Ministers (ECOFIN), it nevertheless cautioned Greece of inflationary pressures.
The ECOFIN"s opinion stated that "the Council considers that within the high growth environment projected in the convergence program, particular effort must be made by Greece to ensure that the progress made towards disinflation acquires a lasting character."
Furthermore, it warned that "the Greek authorities must be ready to tighten fiscal policy further from 2001 if inflation pressures emerge."
The EU"s monetary affairs commissioner Pedro Solbes also appeared confident of Greek EMU membership by stating that "if all goes well, Greece can introduce the euro at the start of 2001."
 CAMPAIGN FOR RETURN OF MARBLES STILL STRONGLondon, 1 February 2000 (12:28 UTC+2)
A three-member delegation from the Australian Committee for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece is presently in London where it will submit a memorandum to the British parliament calling for the repatriation of the ancient monuments.
The high-profile committee, which includes two Australian former prime ministers, deputies, congressmen and intellectuals, has launched a public campaign with widespread media coverage, and its next step is to put pressure on the British government.
The committee, which is presided by Emmanuel Kominos, is to visit the British Museum today where the Marbles are being kept.
According to Mr. Kominos, the delegation will submit a relevant memorandum to the House of Commons committee for cultural affairs.
 KOSOVO: LACK OF PROGRESS AND GREEK CONCERNWashington, 1 February 2000 (17:18 UTC+2)
The US newspaper "Washington Times" published a correspondence from Geneva signed by Andrew Borowic according to which, Bernard Kuschner, head of the UN political administration in Kosovo, is likely to resign as no progress is being made in adopting a long-term policy for the region.
In the report it is also mentioned that Greece, a reluctant NATO member during the air strikes, is concerned that a further division of the region is possible to lead to the incorporation of Kosovo and part of FYROM into a greater Albania, while Germany which is interested mainly in incorporating the former eastern European countries into the European structures is unwilling to finance the reconstruction of the Balkans. The report concludes that this development could lead the Balkans to ever greater poverty.