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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 98-02-17

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Greek Press & Information Office, Ottawa Canada <>

ATHENS NEWS AGENCY BULLETIN (No 1418), February 17, 1998

Greek Press & Information Office
Ottawa, Canada
E-Mail Address:


  • [01] Greece, Russia stress need for diplomatic solution to Iraqi crisis
  • [02] ... Greek-Turkish relations
  • [03] ... Balkan co-operation
  • [04] ... Meetings with Stephanopoulos, Simitis
  • [05] Primakov Press Conference
  • [06] Primakov answers questions before trip to Greece
  • [07] Pangalos politely rejects Cem proposals
  • [08] ... Cem's proposal
  • [09] ... Turkish foreign ministry spokesman
  • [10] Burns on Greek-Turkish relations
  • [11] Greek deputies sign petition for Kurdish leader's release
  • [12] Joint military exercises discussed by Tsohatzopoulos in Egypt
  • [13] Seminar on EU for Palestinian diplomats
  • [14] Government congratulates Clerides on re-election
  • [15] ... Karamanlis
  • [16] Gov't, PASOK meeting focuses on DEKO policy
  • [17] PASOK Secretary rejects farmers proposals
  • [18] ... Gov't
  • [19] ... Karamanlis, KKE
  • [20] EU farm ministers' council criticizes Commission decisions
  • [21] Papantoniou: Greece will fulfill Maastricht criteria
  • [22] ISO-9001 certificate for DEH training directorate
  • [23] Greek rates drop in T-bill tender
  • [24] Greek central gov't debt slips to Dr 39.04 trillion in '97
  • [25] Greek stocks end down in flat trade
  • [26] Russia wants closer economic ties with Greece
  • [27] Greek shipping forex falls 2.7 pct in October
  • [28] Greece to study labor relations in private sector
  • [29] Greece to host conference for Mediterranean NGOs
  • [30] Businessman donates collection to state
  • [31] Alia admitted to hospital

  • [01] Greece, Russia stress need for diplomatic solution to Iraqi crisis

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said yesterday that all political possibilities for a settlement of the crisis over weapons inspections in Iraq had not yet been exhausted and there were still steps which could be taken to avert military action.

    "Greece and Russia do not consider the use of force to be expedient... since this would have serious repercussions in the broader region," Mr. Primakov told a press conference after talks with Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos on the first day of a three -day official visit here.

    He stressed, however, that both Greece and Russia agreed that the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq must be neutralized.

    Mr. Primakov said the 90-minute talks between the Greek and Russian delegations, headed by the two foreign ministers and attended also by Foreign Under-secretary Yiannos Kranidiotis, included a detailed discussion of the situation in Iraq.

    Russia's foreign minister described as "an encouraging first step" the prospect of a visit by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Baghdad. He added however that Mr. Annan must not go to Iraq with ultimatums but to try and secure conditions which would enable UN inspectors to do their job and to persuade Baghdad to neutralize its weapons of mass destruction.

    Replying to reporters' questions, Mr. Primakov said he was not in a position to know what biological and chemical weapons had been stockpiled by Baghdad, reiterating that he would not like to see force used against Iraq.

    "Because a (military) strike of this type, in the case that there are large stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, would considerably affect all neighboring countries," he added.

    Asked about the sale of Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Nicosia, Mr. Primakov said that the missiles would be delivered to Cyprus in accordance with the contract signed and on the dates agreed.

    He said the only possibility for the deal not to go ahead would be if the entire island republic was completely demilitarized.

    Mr. Primakov stressed that the S-300 missiles were defensive weapons.

    "They are not ground-to-ground missiles, but ground-to-air," he said, adding that Russia would like to see the Cyprus problem resolved and was willing to do much in this direction.

    [02] ... Greek-Turkish relations

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Mr. Primakov said he favored a peaceful resolution "to all the differences between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean" adding that, after his talks with Mr. Pangalos, he believed Greece shared this view. He said his country's position vis-a-vis the situation in the Bosphorus was that the regime should be maintained as provided for in the Montreux Treaty.

    "We are opposed to a change in the status," Mr. Primakov said, adding, however, that he did not think there would be any changes. "At the moment there appear to be constructive aspects in Turkish positions".

    Asked by a Russian reporter about NATO and European Union positions on the Iraqi crisis, Mr. Pangalos said that there was no agreement on a policy of militarily dealing with the problem.

    He said a recent letter from French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine "sets out certain proposals which are close to ones I and Mr. Primakov have".

    [03] ... Balkan co-operation

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Mr. Pangalos said that the issue of Balkan co-operation had also been discussed in the context of present developments in the region and that Mr. Primakov had agreed with him that efforts should continue to overcome obstacles from any side.

    One of the ways to overcome obstacles, he added, would be to create a more specific program of action. Mr. Primakov said both countries were concerned about stability in the Balkans and were prepared to do everything possible to promote cooperation between Balkan countries in the political, economic and social sectors.

    Yesterday's talks between the Greek and Russian delegations focused on major international problems, bilateral relations and co-operation between Athens and Moscow in the Balkans and the Mediterranean.

    Mr. Pangalos described Greek-Russian relations as "excellent", while his Russian counterpart said they were developing very well. Noting that the talks had been "fruitful and interesting", Mr. Primakov said there was a fair degree of proximity between the views of the two sides with regard to developments in the region.

    [04] ... Meetings with Stephanopoulos, Simitis

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Mr. Primakov later met with President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

    No statements were made after the separate meetings. The Russian FM also held talks with main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis at ND's headquarters.

    Mr. Primakov also met with Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, while he later met with Athens Mayor Demetris Avramopoulos.

    The two men discussed issues regarding the capitals of Greece and Russia, while Mr. Avramopoulos presented the Russian FM with a commemorative medal.

    Finally, Mr. Primakov and his Greek counterpart are due to visit today Mount Athos and two Russian monasteries in the autonomous monastic community.

    Later in the day Mr. Primakov is due to meet Macedonia-Thrace Minister Philippos Petsalnikos.

    [05] Primakov Press Conference

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    In a press conference at a downtown Athens hotel last night, Mr. Primakov described his general impression from talks with the Greek leadership as "excellent", and stressed that there was considerable room for forging closer bilateral ties, particularly on the economic and political level. He added that both countries sought the promotion of stability in the Balkans and the Middle East.

    The Russian foreign minister also said that his country's views on a solution to the Iraqi crisis coincided with those of Greece. Regarding Cyprus he stressed that Russia desired a peaceful solution to the problem in "a single state", and also said he was in favor of a peaceful resolution of Greek-Turkish differences.

    He placed great emphasis on the provision of natural gas to Greece, stressing that both government and opposition were in favor of the project's completion.

    Ties with Greece are based on the historical context linking the two countries, he ended.

    [06] Primakov answers questions before trip to Greece

    Moscow, 17/02/1998 (ANA - D. Constantakopoulos)

    Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said here on Sunday that Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles sold to Cyprus and due to be deployed on the island republic later in the year were a purely defensive weapons system.

    Questioned over Turkey's threats of military action in the event the missiles were deployed on Cyprus, Mr. Primakov told ANA in an exclusive interview that "our position on the contract to supply the Republic of Cyprus with the missiles is well known, and they know it very well in Turkey, too".

    "First of all, we are talking about a routine commercial agreement that concerns the supply of defense weaponry," Mr. Primakov said. At the same time, he added, "Russia has always been in favor of demilitarization of Cyprus... as part of an overall Cyprus settlement, which would rule out the need for supplying any weaponry to Cyprus".

    He dismissed Ankara's claims that Greece and Russia were planning to "dissolve the southern wing of NATO", noting "one must have a very active imagination to suspect us of such intentions."

    He said efforts in Turkey to raise fears of "an imaginary Russian threat in the eastern Mediterranean is beyond even elementary reasoning", adding "but we look positively on the positions taken by certain representatives of the Turkish leadership who are in favor of abandoning the position of using violent means with regard to the S-300 missiles issue."

    Questioned on Greece's and the European Union's proposal to Turkey that Ankara bring any claims it had against Greece before the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Mr. Primakov said:

    "From what I understand, as regards The Hague, the issue concerns the delineation of regions in the Aegean Sea. As everyone knows, international law, the UN Charter, provide a wide range of means for the peaceful solution of international differences - talks, mediation, compromise, recourse to regional organizations. It goes without saying that, among those means, an important role is attributed to the UN's main judicial body, the International Court at The Hague".

    "One should further keep in mind that the UN Charter also reinforces the principle of freedom of choosing the means for peaceful resolution, and that recourse to the International Court, in conjunction with its Charter, is determined by the clearly expressed agreement of all the sides involved in a dispute," Mr. Primakov said.

    Turning to shipping restrictions in the Bosphorus Straits that Turkey intended to introduce, Mr. Primakov expressed hope that "Ankara will remove those points from the changes to the Navigation Rules - which Turkey unilaterally adopted - that contravene the Treaty of Montreux", a 1936 pact ensuring free passage of vessels through the Straits.

    Mr. Primakov described as "note-worthy" the progress in Greek-Russian relations and said there were prospects for further improvement, at the same time praising the climate of confidence in the Athens-Moscow dialogue "in which no issues are taboo".

    That dialogue, he said, was the cornerstone for the development of bilateral economic relations. He said dialogue was gradually developing into Russian-Greek co-operation in international affairs, based on common approaches to a series of vital international matters including the consolidation of European security and the establishment of peace and stability in the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean.

    Mr. Primakov noted that this coming September would mark the 120th anniversary of the commencement of diplomatic relations between Greece and Russia.

    Moscow is "categorically opposed" to any military action against Iraq, but in no way questions the need to wipe out the Iraqi arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, he said.

    "We do not condone the use of violence against Iraq. The military scenaria would be totally unjustified from a political as well as pragmatic point of view," Mr. Primakov said.

    "But, so that there will be no misunderstanding, I must stress from the outset that in no instance do we dispute the need for full destruction of the Iraqi arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and the establishment of an effective international mechanism so that such an arsenal is not redeployed."

    At the same time, Mr. Primakov expressed the hope that a prospective visit by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Baghdad would mark a turning point in the crisis.

    France, Germany and Russia are pressing Mr. Annan to go to Baghdad to try to resolve the crisis, but UN diplomats said the UN chief had not yet received US support for such a mission.

    Mr. Primakov said that the problem that had arisen over inspections of presidential sites "should not overshadow the fact that the UN arms inspection committee is normally proceeding with its work in Iraq".

    Naturally, he added, the problem concerning the so-called Iraqi presidential sites needed to be dealt with, "but as the Russian President's special emissary to Baghdad has confirmed, these matters can be fully resolved through diplomatic means."

    Iraq has insisted that the controversial presidential sites - eight in all - are off-limits to UN inspectors and reject the idea that volatile chemical or biological agents could be stored in the buildings.

    "We should not forget that the Security Council resolutions speak of the need to preserve the dignity of the Iraqis and their legitimate interests regarding national security," Mr. Primakov added.

    "In a nutshell, attacks against Iraq would clearly be a disproportionate reaction to the difficulties that have arisen."

    "We see no basis for attacks with respect to international law, either. The Security Council decisions in 1990 allowed the use of violence against Iraq under specific circumstances -- the occupation of Kuwait. The situation now is qualitatively different," he said.

    Mr. Primakov refuted the view that only the use of violence could oblige Baghdad to comply with the Security Council resolutions. "I am certain that this could and should be achieved through diplomatic means," he said.

    [07] Pangalos politely rejects Cem proposals

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said yesterday that Greece had never refused high-level meetings with Turkey, while he himself met with his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem on several occasions recently and intended to do so again in the future.

    Mr. Pangalos was commenting on an interview by Mr. Cem published in Monday's edition of the Athens daily "Eleftherotypia" and the latter's five-point proposal submitted to Greece's ambassador in Ankara last week in the form of a verbal note.

    Expressing satisfaction at the friendly tone of both the interview and the proposal, Mr. Pangalos said Greece had never refused high-level meetings with Turkey. He stressed, however, that Greece would never enter into "overall" negotiations on Turkey's claims in the Aegean.

    Every time Turkey realizes it has reached an impasse, Mr. Pangalos said, it puts forward the same proposal.

    "It is not possible for Turkey to fail to understand the provisions of international law, as pointed out to Ankara by the international community, and to continue to propose things which are completely unacceptable," Mr. Pangalos said.

    "In response to the problems which Turkey is unlawfully creating in the Aegean, Greece has put forward a proposal of enormous significance. Athens has not said to Turkey 'withdraw your claims and demands', but rather it has shown Ankara the path of international law and international bodies of jurisdiction," he added.

    Mr. Pangalos noted that Greece had already accepted the general jurisdiction of the International Court and this meant that if Turkey had recourse to the court, Ankara too would have to accept its jurisdiction.

    In this case, he continued, Turkey would be able, without needless talks... to refer any issue it wanted to the International Court.

    Only on one issue could there be bilateral talks, Mr. Pangalos said, referring to the delineation of the Aegean continental shelf.

    "With respect to all other issues, let Turkey have recourse to the International Court," he added.

    Mr. Pangalos said the foreign ministry would reply to Mr. Cem's five-point proposal within the week in a verbal note, the essence of which would reflect his statements yesterday.

    Government spokesman Demetris Reppas said later that Greece's position on the entire spectrum of Greek-Turkish relations was "cle-ar, comprehensible" and being increasingly accepted by the international community as "the only way to resolve Greek-Turkish problems."

    Mr. Reppas said Mr. Cem's proposal would be examined at a meeting of the foreign ministry's political leadership, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Wednesday.

    [08] ... Cem's proposal

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    In his Eleftherotypia interview, Mr. Cem insisted on Ankara's view for bilateral dialogue to "resolve differences" between Greece and Turkey.

    Mr. Cem's statements point to Ankara's reluctance to accept international law as a way to "resolve differences" with Athens.

    The Turkish foreign minister appeared especially troubled over Mr. Pangalos' proposal to refer Ankara's claims in the Aegean to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. The Turkish FM asked for a more detailed formulation of those proposals.

    At the same time, Mr. Cem proposed that a meeting be held between him and Mr. Pangalos, ideally arranged through diplomatic channels, in order "to work without being influenced by public opinion".

    The Turkish minister appeared optimistic on the course of relations with Greece, although he was pessimistic regarding developments over the Cyprus problem, owing mainly to what he said was the non-recognition of the Turkish Cypriot pseudo-state in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus.

    [09] ... Turkish foreign ministry spokesman

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Meanwhile, in an Anadolu dispatch from Ankara, Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Necati Utkan said yesterday that Ankara's latest five-point proposal to Greece should be examined carefully by Athens.

    The spokesman said the initiative was very important, and incorporated "several important proposals and warnings regarding the necessity to refrain from behavior that could harm bilateral relations."

    He added that Turkey hoped to receive a positive response from Greece regarding the steps decided to be taken within the framework of the Madrid communiqui.

    [10] Burns on Greek-Turkish relations

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    US ambassador in Athens Nicholas Burns said yesterday that when asked about Greek-Turkish relations that "Greece has an able government and does not need anyone's support. We are friends with Greece and have an excellent co-operation with it."

    Mr. Burns, during a visit to ancient Corinth, commented on Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides' re-election. He said that negotiations will be easier between Greece, Turkey and the US, while the desired result is unification of the island republic.

    [11] Greek deputies sign petition for Kurdish leader's release

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    A petition signed by 35 Greek deputies demands the immediate and unconditional release by Turkish authorities of the leader of Northern Kurdistan's Democratic Party, Hamdi Turanli, alias Hemres Reso.

    Mr. Turandli, who suffers from cancer and is in need of constant medical attention, was arrested on Jan. 13 in Ankara and has been detained since.

    The petition drive for his release was organized by Amnesty International.

    [12] Joint military exercises discussed by Tsohatzopoulos in Egypt

    Cairo, 17/02/1998 (ANA - S. Trilikis)

    Joint naval and air force exercises in the next few months between Greece and Egypt were agreed to in talks between National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his Egyptian counterpart Hussein Tadawi here yesterday.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, currently on an official three-day visit to Egypt, held three-hour talks with Mr. Tadawi focusing on bilateral relations and developments in the wider region. The two ministers reached the joint conclusion that there is a need for collective security for countries belonging to the so-called "instability triangle" and consequently the further strengthening of their bilateral relations is necessary. They also agreed to joint aeronautical exercises in the next six months and to Greece's participation in multipartite exercises conducted in the eastern Mediterranean, and in which Egypt also participates.

    Co-operation between the defense industries of Greece and Egypt will be promoted, as well as exchanges of visits to Athens and Cairo by officers of the two countries' armed forces.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that the holding of joint aeronautical exercises between Greece and Egypt "constitutes a reply to all who think that they can exploit instability in the region for their own expediencies."

    He was referring in essence to joint exercises between Israel and Turkey, which were carried out in past months and which caused serious reactions in the Arab world.

    Referring to the agreement between Israel and Turkey, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the position of Athens and Cairo is common, since they assess that this agreement does not serve security in the wider region, because it is directed against the interests of Arab countries.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos and his Egyptian counterpart exchanged views on a possible military intervention by the United States in Iraq. They agreed that such a development will create serious problems since it will cause generalized instability in Arab countries with unforeseen consequences. Mr. Tadawi also expressed a view that, unfortunately, chemical weapons possessed by the Iraqi strongman are not Washington's target.

    Mr. Tadawi further extended to Mr. Tsohatzopoulos the Egyptian government's general assessments on the wider region which are concern in principle over developments on the Middle East issue and the possibility of further rapprochement between Arab countries.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and at the tomb of statesman Anwar Sadat. Late in the afternoon, he visited the Egyptian War Museum in Cairo. Today, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos will meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Amr Mousa.

    [13] Seminar on EU for Palestinian diplomats

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Foreign Under-secretary Yiannos Kranidiotis will inaugurate a seminar today on European Union issues for a group of 10 Palestinian diplomats.

    The seminar is organized by the foreign ministry in co-operation with the Greek Center for European Studies (EKEM) and will focus on the EU's organization, co-operation and policy on issues related to the Mediterranean.

    [14] Government congratulates Clerides on re-election

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    The Greek government yesterday congratulated Glafcos Clerides on his re-election as president of Cyprus.

    Mr. Clerides took 50.8 per cent of the vote in Sunday's run-off presidential election, against 49.2 per cent for his rival George Iacovou.

    Government spokesman Demetris Reppas reiterated the government's willingness for close co-operation, adding that Greece would always stand by the Cypriot people in their search for a resolution to their problems.

    President Kostis Stephanopoulos also sent a telegram to Mr. Clerides, assuring him of the Greek people's continued support for Cypriot Hellenism.

    "As a worthy champion of the just national struggles of the entire Cypriot people, you are called upon to defend their rights," Mr. Stephanopoulos said in the telegram.

    "Rest assured that you can always rely on the undivided support of the entire Greek people in efforts to find a just and viable solution of the Cyprus problem, based on the rules of international law," he added.

    [15] ... Karamanlis

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis also congratulated Glafcos Clerides and wished him well on his efforts for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue. Mr. Karamanlis reassured Mr. Clerides of his support for the island republic' s accession to the European Union during their telephone conversation.

    Former ND leaders Constantine Mitsotakis and Miltiades Evert also called Mr. Clerides and expressed their support.

    [16] Gov't, PASOK meeting focuses on DEKO policy

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    The government's determination to proceed with its policy of rehabilitating loss-making public utilities and corporations (DEKOs), including Olympic Airways, was reaffirmed last night during a joint meeting between the Inner Cabinet and ruling PASOK's political secretariat.

    [17] PASOK Secretary rejects farmers proposals

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Ruling PASOK party Secretary Costas Skandalidis yesterday rejected a proposal by farmers' Panthessaly Coordinating Committee (PASE) for a meeting of all opposition parties and the government to discuss problems in the agricultural sector. Mr. Skandalidis rejected the proposal for what he called "this pretext of dialogue" as being "pointless", since dialogue was already possible through the Agricultural Policy Council and at a European level.

    He criticized the form of protest chosen by farmers who have again begun to block the country's major roads saying "an open dialogue presupposes open roads".

    The PASE, which represents the most militant farmers in the country, temporarily lifted roadblocks yesterday morning as a goodwill gesture while its leaders met Mr. Skandalidis and opposition party leaders.

    Speaking on behalf of the committee, Evangelos Boutas said he had asked the government to provide solutions to those problems which it saw fit to resolve, stressing that farmers did not think in terms of "all or nothing".

    Mr. Boutas, who is also a Communist Party of Greece (KKE) deputy, said farmers would hold general assemblies later in the day to decide what action to take.

    Commenting meanwhile on farmers' protest action, main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said ND did not support "extreme" forms of labor action.

    [18] ... Gov't

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    The government wants continuous dialogue with all social groups, including the farmers, said government spokesman Demetris Reppas, adding "we must all accept a framework for dialogue in order for that dialogue to be effective".

    Mr. Reppas also rejected the proposal for a joint meeting between the government, opposition parties and farmers, saying that it was not possible for the role of the government to be substituted.

    "The (opposition) parties have their own role to play," he added. Mr. Reppas said satisfying some of the farmers' demands would be tantamount to causing the collapse of the economy and could create crises in Greece's relations with the European Union.

    Asked how the government would respond if farmers began blocking roads, the spokesman left all possibilities open.

    "The government will make use of all legal procedures because it cannot remain indifferent when society as a whole is immobilized," he said.

    Calling on farmers to assume their responsibilities, Mr. Reppas char-ged that there were some among the farmers of Thessaly, central Greece, who wanted "confron-tation".

    [19] ... Karamanlis, KKE

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis called for a meeting of political leaders to discuss the problems of agriculture after convening with farmers' representatives.

    "The initiative belongs to the prime minister," he said.

    He also referred to serious mistakes on the part of the government and incompetence in negotiations with the EU on farm products, also calling for an end to prosecutions of farmers for "obstructing traffic' in previous mobilizations.

    Earlier, commenting on the farmers' protest action, ND spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said the main opposition did not support "extreme" forms of labor action, adding that Mr. Karamanlis did meet on Sunday with the farmers' Thessaly committee which, however, was a body representing only localized interests.

    He also criticized the government on the grounds that although the problem was serious, it had neither initiated a nationwide dialogue nor did it have a specific strategy.

    After meeting Mr. Karamanlis, officials of the Pahhellenic Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives said they disagreed with certain demands of the Thessaly Committee, particularly the abolition of the law regarding farmers' pensions and a farmers' register.

    Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in a statement called on all other parties to demand the removal of riot police (MAT) from Thessaly, and criticized both government and opposition for rejecting the proposal for a direct meeting of farmers with all party leaders.

    Seventeen MAT platoons arrived in Larisa on Saturday.

    Meanwhile, two federations of farmers in Thessaloniki suspended action and withdrew from the roadblocks at Malgara and Halkidona.

    Earlier, their representatives said the minister's commitments regarding fuel and rice had been satisfactory. Others in central Macedonia suspended blockades in anticipation of the results of the meetings in Athens, while those in Pieria remained in place.

    [20] EU farm ministers' council criticizes Commission decisions

    Brussels, 17/02/1998 (ANA - P. Pantelis)

    Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas and his other EU counterparts in the farm ministers' council yesterday strongly criticized the European Commission for a 8-10 per cent reduction in the agricultural budget through decreases in a package of agricultural price supports.

    Mr. Tzoumakas said explanations offered by the Commission, claiming a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), were unsatisfactory and contained no political message to the farmers.

    He referred particularly to direct subsidies towards farmers for tomato, peaches and cotton - on which the legal service of the Commission is expected to rule - while regarding the vine sector he criticized the fact that the proposals excluded the possibility of planting vines for the production of quality wines with certification of origin.

    Mr. Tzoumakas said he also considered unacceptable the Commission's proposals on tobacco, as in one way or another they created serious difficulties for a traditional Greek product.

    He called for Community support for olive oil and tobacco until the year 2000, as for all products included in the agricultural section of the Agenda 2000 for EU enlargement.

    [21] Papantoniou: Greece will fulfill Maastricht criteria

    Brussels, 17/02/1998 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    Addressing the European Union's Council of Economic and Monetary Affairs meeting her yesterday, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said the Greek economy will be in a position to fulfill fiscal criteria set by the Maastricht Treaty, namely, to have a budget deficit of less than 3 per cent of GDP in 1998.

    Mr. Papantoniou outlined to his counterparts the basic principles of Greek economic policy which the government is applying consistently, emphasizing structural measures taken in the direction of restructuring public enterprises and organizations, state -run banks, the insurance system, etc.

    He added that in 1998 the permanent downward trend of the Greek public debt will be consolidated to enable the prospect of the drachma's accession to European Monetary Union (EMU) to become clearer since, as he said, it is the common position of the "15 " that all countries will be handled on the basis of the same criteria regardless of whether they will accede to the EMU from the beginning or at a later stage.

    Apart from the issue of economic policies, yesterday's Council also focused on the problem of the imposition of a decreased Value Added Tax on so-called services of high labor intensity. The target of this measure is to decrease unemployment. However, the "15" did not succeed in agreeing on a series of unsettled issues and the taking of relevant decisions was postponed for the future.

    The "Asiatic Crisis" was also discussed and it was ascertained that one of its main causes were the weaknesses of these countries' banking systems.

    International Monetary Fund (IMF) President Michel Camdessus said the "Asiatic crisis" will result in the slowing down of growth rates in the EU in the region of 0.2 per cent. In the case of Greece, the slowdown will be negligible, namely, in the region of 0.02 per cent of GDP, Mr. Papantoniou said.

    [22] ISO-9001 certificate for DEH training directorate

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    The Greek Standardization Organization (ELOT) has awarded the Public Power Corp.'s (DEH) training directorate the International Quality Certificate ISO-9001 for the following activities:

    Planning, development and implementation of training programs, studies and appraisal of insurance and health systems, as well as Procurement and Evaluation of Means for Individual Protection.

    DEH's directorate of training is the first department of a public utility in Greece which has established a quality maintenance system according to the international standard.

    It now hopes to provide its services in the field outside the organization.

    [23] Greek rates drop in T-bill tender

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greek money markets yesterday welcomed a fall in interest rates after the finance ministry's latest auction of Treasury bills.

    The ministry auctioned three-month T-bills worth 50 billion drachmas at 13.1 percent, down from 13.9 percent at its previous auction.

    It was the first drop in interest rates after a rising trend in the last two months.

    The auction was held with the participation of a newly created group of primary dealers in the domestic securities market.

    Finance ministry officials expressed their confidence that money market rates would resume their downward trend at a more rapid pace in the second half of the year.

    Finance Under-secretary Nikos Christodoulakis said the auction results were a good sign, and the prospect of lower rates was realistic.

    "The market acknowledges improvements in economic fundamentals," Mr. Christodoulakis said.

    [24] Greek central gov't debt slips to Dr 39.04 trillion in '97

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greece's central government debt eased slightly in 1997 to 39.04 trillion drachmas from 39.4 trillion in 1996, representing 119.3 percent of GDP from 120.2 percent the previous year.

    Finance Under-secretary Nikos Christodoulakis yesterday predicted that the state's borrowing needs would fall to 10.27 trillion drachmas in 1998 from 12.92 trillion in 1997.

    [25] Greek stocks end down in flat trade

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greek equities yesterday ended lower in subdued trading on the Athens Stock Exchange.

    Traders said the market was awaiting the results of a finance ministry Treasury-bill auction for a signal on the direction of interest rates.

    The general index closed 0.69 percent down at 1,482.73 points with most sector indices losing ground. Banks fell 1.05 percent, Insurance eased 0.05 percent, Investment dropped 0.02 percent, Construction ended 1.63 percent off, Industrials fell 0.26 percent, Holding eased 1.10 percent but Leasing and Miscellaneous bucked the trend to end 0.99 and 0.47 percent higher respectively.

    The parallel market index for small cap companies rose 0.34 percent. The FTSE/ASE blue chip index dropped 0.97 percent to end at 823.75 points.

    Trading was moderate with turnover at 12.5 billion drachmas.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 106 to 98 with another 21 issues unchanged.

    Ideal, Viochalco, Ergas and Athinea scored the biggest percentage gains at the daily 8.0 percent upper volatility limit while Radio Athina, Vis, Hellenic Technodomiki and Thessaliki suffered the heaviest losses.

    National Bank ended at 22,340 drachmas, Ergobank at 14,900, Alpha Credit Bank at 16,140, Delta Dairy at 2,935, Titan Cement at 13,700, Intracom at 15,350 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organization at 5,785.

    [26] Russia wants closer economic ties with Greece

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Visiting Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said his country wanted closer economic co-operation with Greece after talks with officials of the Prometheus Gas company, a Greek-Russian energy company.

    Mr. Primakov discussed the energy sector in southeastern Europe, including Prometheus' plans to build a natural gas system and electricity plants in the region.

    The firm's managing director, Demetris Kopelouzos, told reporters that Mr. Primakov "assured me of the Russian government's full support for the company's activities", particularly its participation in a consortium for the construction of an oil pipeline from the Black Sea port of Bourgas to Alexandroupolis in northern Greece.

    Prometheus Gas was set up in 1991 on an equal share basis by VEP Gazexport, an exporting company belonging to Gazprom of Russia, and the Kopelouzos group.

    [27] Greek shipping forex falls 2.7 pct in October

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greek shipping foreign exchange revenue dropped 2.7 percent in October last year to 191 million US dollars, the Bank of Greece said yesterday.

    Revenue was 196.3 million dollars in October 1996, the central bank said in a statement.

    [28] Greece to study labor relations in private sector

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greece's government is to turn its attention to the private sector after controversial changes it made to labor legislation for public enterprises, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said. In an interview to the Eleftherotypia daily yesterday, Mr. Papantoniou said the changes focused on working hours and would appear in a bill aimed at making the labor market more flexible.

    The changes would be on a smaller scale than those for public enterprises, and would have no impact on basic wages.

    Despite opposition the government would go ahead with its plan, Mr. Papantoniou said.

    "Only a strong and therefore competitive economy can form the foundation for a strong welfare state," he said.

    The government was not opposed to a 35-hour working week due to be adopted in France and Germany, but Greece would not yet follow suit due to fears the move would make the economy less competitive and increase unemployment, Mr. Papantoniou said.

    The government would implement the shorter working week if all European Union member states adopted the measure.

    The minister said social security reform was being approached in two stages with a small package of measures to be incorporated into a bill this year.

    A committee headed by the prime minister's adviser Platon Tinios was preparing a report on far-reaching reforms to be included in a larger package of measures due for completion by 2000. The bill would be submitted to parliament after national elections in 2000, he said.

    Mr. Papantoniou also announced that state-run Macedonia-Thrace Bank, Bank of Central Greece and Cretabank would be sold within the next six months. Agricultural Bank was being restructured.

    The government would have reached a final decision by March on changes to make to the ownership status of state Commercial Bank over Ionian Bank, which is currently a subsidiary.

    [29] Greece to host conference for Mediterranean NGOs

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greek Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday called on the country's non-governmental organizations to help organize a Mediterranean conference to be held in September in Olympia.

    Mr. Papandreou was speaking at a meeting in Athens of representatives of non-governmental organizations, ministry officials and representatives of the European Union's executive Commission.

    Speakers urged non-governmental groups to make use of around one billion ECU earmarked by the EU to help fund non-governmental organizations.

    [30] Businessman donates collection to state

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Nikos Metaxas, the founder of the Maris Hotel chain in Crete, has donated his private collection of 2,229 ancient artifacts to the Greek state, it was announced yesterday.

    The collection of artifacts - dating from 4,000 B.C. to 300 A.D. - was built up over a period of 40 years by Mr. Metaxas and his wife, Loula.

    It is expected to be housed in the Iraklion Museum, on Crete.

    The artifacts include 680 Minoan cameos, considered to be the largest private collection of such items in the world. Pots, tools, weapons, jewelry and pottery items - primarily from prehistoric Crete as well as the Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods are also included.

    Mr. Metaxas also accepted a proposal from the director of the Iraklio museum Alexandra Karetsou that he finance the publication of a book on the collection.

    [31] Alia admitted to hospital

    Athens, 17/02/1998 (ANA)

    Former Albanian communist strongman Ramiz Alia has been admitted to Thessaloniki's George Papanicolaou Hospital on Sunday for a series of cardiological tests, hospital sources said.

    They said the 72-year-old last communist president of Albania was admitted to hospital late on Sunday night after his arrival from Tirana.

    Cardiologist Stelios Kouroglou told the ANA that Mr. Alia underwent a coronary angiogram and fatigue test "and we found serious problems with the heart function".

    He said a medical council had been summoned "and we hope to know within the day whether Mr. Alia will undergo open-heart surgery."

    Mr. Alia had been in intensive care in an Albanian hospital after a heart attack two weeks ago.

    Mr. Alia's traveling expenses have been paid for by an anonymous benefactor, identified only as a Thessaloniki businessman, due to the former Albanian strongman's dire financial straits.

    Panayiotis Spyrou, the director of the hospital's cardiology unit, will oversee Mr. Alia's care.

    End of English language section.

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