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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 98-02-26

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 1426), February 26, 1998

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


  • [01] Cyprus,Greece diplomatic effort for island republic's EU course
  • [02] ... Meeting with Clerides
  • [03] Gov't optimistic on Maastricht criteria
  • [04] PM comments on plant producing artificial kidney filters
  • [05] Battle over 'kokoretsi' heats up at Commission
  • [06] Athens terms Turkish proposals "repetitive"
  • [07] ... Turkish reaction
  • [08] State Dep't welcomes latest round of Greek and Turkish proposals
  • [09] Mideast peace efforts
  • [10] Independent deputy to cooperate with PASOK Parliamentary group
  • [11] New Democracy unsettled again
  • [12] Pangalos states opposition to double standards for Iraq
  • [13] Israel criticises Pangalos statements over Israeli-Turkish relations
  • [14] Low pensions to increase in parity with inflation
  • [15] One-day strike closes schools
  • [16] Minion dept. store given opportunity to survive
  • [17] Contract signed for Florina power plant
  • [18] Egnatia Motorway to near completion by end of 2001
  • [19] Greek state telecom to launch mobile phones this week
  • [20] Ergobank reports 27 pct profit jump in 1997
  • [21] Bank of Piraeus has 83 pct profit jump in 1997
  • [22] Greek stocks slip in edgy trade
  • [23] Athens main post office launches electronic operations
  • [24] Athens Hoteliers' pavilion at Milan exhibition
  • [25] Better tourism season for '98 forecast
  • [26] V. Papandreou responds to tabled questions on casinos
  • [27] National marketing effort for Greek wines
  • [28] Satisfaction over restoration of monuments

  • [01] Cyprus,Greece diplomatic effort for island republic's EU course

    Nicosia, 26/02/1998 (ANA - A. Podymata/CNA)

    The foreign ministries of Greece and Cyprus decided here yesterday to undertake an international campaign to promote their positions regarding the Cyprus question and the island republic's European Union course.

    Delegations headed by Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and visiting Greek Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis had talks lasting for more than two hours focusing on future tactics, in view of anticipated renewed efforts for a Cyprus sett lement and the start of accession talks next month.

    "We decided to revitalise our working groups, which deal with the Cyprus problem and Cyprus' accession course, to study issues arising from the membership talks," Mr. Kranidiotis said.

    He said the two countries agreed to undertake "a major diplomatic campaign to all European countries and the candidate states to promote our positions and views." Mr. Kranidiotis noted that already Cyprus' course for accession is acting as "a cataly st and Turkey recognises that Cyprus is not alone."

    Both Mr. Kasoulides and Mr. Kranidiotis stressed that EU accession talks with the government of Cyprus will open on March 30-31 and said this fact cannot be questioned.

    They also reiterated that Turkish Cypriots are welcome to participate in the EU talks, provided they are part of the official delegation and there is no recognition of the illegal regime unilaterally established in 1983 in the areas of Cyprus occupied by Turkey since 1974.

    Mr. Kasoulides said a formula for the participation of the Turkish Cypriots will be worked out before the accession talks begin, after consultations with the Greek-Cypriot political party leaders, the Greek government and EU officials.

    "We would like to see our invitation to the Turkish Cypriots accepted and have them with us in the negotiating team," the minister added.

    The Greek foreign undersecretary said Turkish Cypriot participation in the accession talks would prove "useful" but pointed out that Turkish Cypriots themselves should work in good faith for a mutually beneficial goal through a process which would respe ct them and which they would not be able to undermine.

    Mr. Kranidiotis stressed that Cyprus' accession to the EU "cannot be isolated from the EU enlargement process and it is linked with the accession of other candidate countries."

    "We do not believe it is possible to proceed with the accession of certain countries, if Cyprus is not included among them," Mr. Kranidiotis added.

    Referring to the Cyprus problem, the Greek foreign undersecretary said there is convergence of views between the two governments, and added "we decided on the tactics and the policy we shall follow".

    Conditions for an immediate and concerted international effort in support of the UN efforts exist, he said, noting that all those who wish to assist the UN Secretary General should direct their attention to Ankara.

    Replying to a question about reaction to a Cyprus government decision to buy the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missile system, Mr. Kasoulides and Mr. Kranidiotis defended the republic's inalienable right to bolster its defences.

    Mr. Kranidiotis pointed out, however, that the Greek government fully backs a proposal put forward by President Glafcos Clerides in 1993 for the demilitarisation of the island.

    The Greek foreign undersecretary also said that issues relating to "the Aegean and Greek-Turkish relations are not connected to the Cyprus issue".

    However, he pointed out "rela-tions between Greece and Turkey cannot be normalised unless there is a solution to the Cyprus problem." Mr. Kranidiotis stressed Greece wants to improve relations with Turkey, which must be based on international law and co nventions.

    The agenda for President Clerides' first visit to Athens since his re-election was also discussed at yesterday's meeting.

    Mr. Clerides will be going to Athens on March 10 for a meeting with Premier Costas Simitis.

    [02] ... Meeting with Clerides

    Nicosia, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Mr. Kranidiotis was earlier received by President Clerides, with their meeting focusing on the Cyprus problem and the island republic's European course.

    Speaking after the meeting, Mr. Kranidiotis said he congratulated Mr. Clerides on his re-election for a second five-year term and conveyed to him an invitation by Mr. Simitis to visit Athens on March 10.

    He added that he had "a very interesting exchange of views" with the president, noting that "certain decisions concerning future policies" were also discussed.

    Asked whether a final proposal on the issue of Turkish Cypriot participation in the Cyprus-EU accession talks has been completed, Mr. Kranidiotis answered negatively. "We exchanged ideas and we will continue our discussions. A proposal will be formed after a serious and in depth study of the issue", he said, pointing out that a final proposal should be ready before accession talks start on May 31.

    During his stay he will also meet with Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Chrysostomos, Ambassadors of EU member-states in Cyprus, US ambassador Kenneth Brill, National Guard Commander Lt. Gen. Nikolaos Vorvolakos and former Foreign Minist er George Iacovou.

    In a related development, Mr. Kranidiotis also held separate meetings with House President Spyros Kyprianou, Democratic Rally party president Nikos Anastassiades and New Horizons party president Nikos Koutsou.

    In a statement after the meetings, Mr. Kranidiotis announced that after the meeting between Cyprus President Clerides and PM Simitis in Athens, visits to Athens by all the political party leaders of Cyprus for talks will be scheduled in the coming weeks or months.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Gov't optimistic on Maastricht criteria

    Brussels, 26/02/1998 (ANA- M. Spinthourakis)

    reece hopes to show that the performance of its economy in 1998 will meet the terms and conditions set by the Treaty of Maastricht for participation in the common European currency.

    Reliable sources said yesterday this target will be included in the official text the Greek government -as all other EU governments for their respective economies- will submit to the European Commission tomorrow, containing the final data for the economic performance in 1997.

    The report, which will be finalised during a special meeting at the National Economy ministry today, will attempt to show that Greece will attain the basic criterion of the fiscal deficit, which, according to estimates, after 7.6 per cent in 1996, and 4 .2 per cent of GDP last year, is projected to fall further to 2.5 per cent in 1998 (the Maastricht criterion being 3 per cent).

    It will also show a falling trend in the national debt, decreasing from 112 per cent of GDP in 1996, to 109.5 per cent in 1997, and projected 107 per cent in 1998.

    Finally, the Greek government further considers that while not aiming to integrate the drachma in the common European currency by January 1, 1999, falling inflation and the maintainance of the parity of the drachma within the margins stipulated by the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) prove that the Greek economy is capable of attaining the Maastricht criteria by the end of 1998.

    [04] PM comments on plant producing artificial kidney filters

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis offered assurances last night that the privatisation course of a plant producing artificial kidney filters in Larisa will not be reversed.

    Mr. Simitis, who was replying to a question by Larisa deputy Andriani Loule, said the unit no longer has the possibility of concluding programmed contracts with the state, neither can imports in its favour be restricted.

    He further said it no longer has the preconditions necessary to compete with about 20 enterprises which are active in the same sector.

    Mr. Simitis predicted that the unit will be privatised in the next few months and will function competitively as a business unit.

    Ms Loule had disputed that there had been a feasibility study for the unit's privatisation for which, as she said, two billion drachmas had been invested.

    [05] Battle over 'kokoretsi' heats up at Commission

    Brussels, 26/02/1998 (ANA - P.Pantelis)

    Greece might eventually win the battle over one of two of its favourite delicacies, "kokoretsi" and "kefalaki", as the European Commission fears consumption may contribute in spreading "mad cow" disease to humans.

    The optimistic development is based on a new decision, taken yesterday by the European Commission, on the relevant directive.

    The decision provides for more animal intestines to be banned, but at the same time postponed its impementation to June 1.

    It was also decided that the commission's directive allow for exclusion in certain member-countries where no outbreaks of "mad cow" disease have been reported.

    The Commission will decide on the countries to be excluded by the end of the year, in which period the directive will not apply in countries that have requested to be excluded from the ban.

    Greece is on the list of such EU countries, along with Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Spain, with the United States being on the list of non-EU countries not wishing to ban consumption of intestines.

    [06] Athens terms Turkish proposals "repetitive"

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greece yesterday dismissed a long Turkish foreign ministry statement slamming Athens for its rejection, on Tuesday, of proposals made by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem on improving relations between the two neighbouring counties.

    "We cannot see how useful this long-winded statement could be, especially when it concerns repetitions," Foreign Ministry spokesman Costas Bikas said in a statement.

    "Greece, while not conducting secret diplomacy, does not engage in diplomacy through the media either," he added.

    "Our positions are known. Greece yesterday (Tuesday) made proposals for peace and stability and Turkey is now before its political responsibilities," Mr. Bikas concluded.

    The Greek ambassador to Ankara on Tuesday delivered the rejection of the Turkish proposal, containing a reiteration of the need for the neighbouring country to recognise the jurisdiction of the International Court at The Hague and refer any disputing of Greek sovereignty to it.

    [07] ... Turkish reaction

    Turkish foreign ministry spokeman Necati Utkan had told a news briefing earlier that "Greece has again shown the world its disposition of maintaining tension in the Aegean and leaving its problems with Turkey unresolved."

    "Greece is the only country which refuses dialogue," he added.

    Mr. Utkan also accused Greece of "deception by trying to appear as a supporter of the application of international law."

    "Turkey's persistent initiatives have shown to all Greece's misleading stand," he said.

    The foreign ministry statement, reported by the Anadolu newsagency later, warned that Greece would "pay itself for its preference for the strategy of tension," adding that it "has assumed in advance and before history the responsibility for any undesira ble accident that might arise in the Aegean".

    Earlier yesterday, Turkey's new ambassador to Greece Ali Tinaz Tuygan said Greece's response to the Turkish five-point plan for improving bilateral relations was being studied by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem who would reply through diplomatic cha nnels.

    Mr. Tuygan was speaking after his first courtesy call on Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou. Asked whether Turkey was considering taking recourse to the International Court of Justice in The Hague over its disputes with Greece, as Athens has p roposed, the ambassador replied:

    "As you are aware, and Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz himself said on March 24, 1996, Turkey does not rule out any method. We will have to sit down and discuss all the problems. In the Aegean the problems are interrelated, therefore we will have to see jus t which method is the most appropriate for resolving these problems. These are issues we have to discuss."

    [08] State Dep't welcomes latest round of Greek and Turkish proposals

    Washington, 26/02/1998 (ANA - T. Ellis)

    The US sees the latest sets of proposals by Ankara and Athens as a welcome effort towards finding the best method to resolve diferences between the two countries, State Department spokesman James Foley said in reply to questi ons by the ANA yesterday.

    "We understand that both sides have expressed their intention to proceed to a settlement of bilateral tension", he said.

    "Although we realise that the two sides have differing views as to what the best method should be to achieve progress, merely the fact that they were exploring methods to go forward is a positive indication.

    "We are determined to support our allies, Greece and Turkey, in their effort to attain true security and cooperation in the region", said the spokesman.

    [09] Mideast peace efforts

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday stressed Greece's support for a "more substantial role by the European Union in the Middle East peace process". Foreign Ministry sources said the remark was made by Mr. Papandreou during a meeting with chief of the Diplomatic Representation of Palestine in Athens, Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah, also attended by Athens Prefect Dimitris Efstathiadis.

    The sources said the meeting was cordial, and the two men discussed the "traditional, good and friendly relations between Greece and the Palestinian Authority".

    They said Mr. Abdullah called for Greece's support of the Palestinian positions at the EU ministerial council meetings.

    The signing of a protocol of cooperation between the Prefectures of Gaza and Athens was also announced yesterday.

    [10] Independent deputy to cooperate with PASOK Parliamentary group

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Independent deputy Yiannis Karacostas announced his decision yesterday to cooperate from now on with ruling PASOK's Parliamentary group after meeting Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

    Mr. Karacostas, a deputy from Aetoloakarnania prefecture, was elected to Parliament in 1996 with the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) but was expelled from that party last year.

    Mr. Karacostas did not rule out the possibility of joining PASOK, stressing that in time he will decide.

    "I am watching the work of the PASOK government, which is in the direction of confronting the crisis on all issues preoccupying the country's political life," he said.

    In a written statement, Mr. Simitis expressed satisfaction over his meeting with Mr. Karacostas.

    "I received independent deputy Ioannis Karacostas today. Mr. Karacostas provided me with specific ideas and proposals on the government's work, on the major changes the country and our society need. His observations were useful and constructive. Our government is promoting the major task of modernising the country. This effort certainly does not concern one government. It does not only concern one party. For this reason I will continue similar meetings for an exchange of views with persons of the wider political and social spectrum," the statement read.

    [11] New Democracy unsettled again

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Former New Democracy prime minister Constantinos Mitsotakis yesterday took yet another shot at party leader Costas Karamanlis over his decision to exclude him from top level party meetings, except when national issues are discussed.

    Asked if the party was going backwards, he said, "it's not going forward for sure".

    Sources said later that Mr. Mitsotakis was holding successive meetings with party deputies and keeping all his options open, including making a clear break with the party leader and forming a new political scheme.

    Mr. Karamanlis's aides, meanwhile, were expressing surprise at what they described as the excessive reaction to Mr. Mitsotakis's exclusion from party organs, noting that this first became known 20 days ago, when six prominent party members were expelled.

    Sotiris Hatzigakis, a close aide of one of those expelled, former minister Giorgos Souflias, hinted that conditions for the formation of a new political scheme had matured, saying that "the division in the party is a fact due to the leadership's stand on the expulsions. The party is inescapably shrinking. These facts and changes at the world and the internal social level are giving rise to the conditions for radical changes in the political scene".

    Former party leader Miltiades Evert declined to comment on the latest developments when questioned.

    [12] Pangalos states opposition to double standards for Iraq

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos last night expressed hope that Iraq will cooperate with the UN, so that domestic conditions may improve and positive measures, such as the exportation of Iraqi oil in return for foodstuffs and medicines, be implemented.

    Speaking in parliament, Mr. Pangalos reiterated that Greece's policy was against the proliferation of biological, nuclear and chemical weapons, and for this reason Athens stood for the destruction of any such weapons held by Iraq.

    Responding to a question regarding Israel's possession of such weapons, Mr. Pangalos said he was against the prevalence of double standards, with some countries possessing such weapons without being harassed and others being subjected to international sanctions.

    [13] Israel criticises Pangalos statements over Israeli-Turkish relations

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    The Israeli foreign ministry yesterday summoned Greece's ambassador in Israel to lodge an official protest over Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos' recent reference to Israeli-Turkish relations as an "alliance of wrongdoers".

    Mr. Pangalos made the statements during a visit to Egypt earlier in the week with regard to joint Turkish-Israeli military exercises.

    Mr. Pangalos said he did not accept the description of these ties as a partnership of legitimate interests which threaten no third party whatsover.

    The Israeli foreign ministry statement said that Israel "rejects both the tone and the substance of the Greek foreign minister's comments. Israel has repeatedly explained that her cooperation with Turkey is not directed against any third party. Portraying these relations otherwise, as Minister Pangalos has done, can in no way contribute to the fostering of stability and an atmosphere of peace in this region".

    Israeli foreign ministry official Yoav Biran, noting the improvement over recent years in Israeli-Greek relations, reaffirmed Israel's "hope that the bilateral ties and shared interests between Israel and Greece would continue to improve".

    "It is regrettable that the comments of Foreign Minister Pangalos are not consistent with this aspiration," the statement read.

    [14] Low pensions to increase in parity with inflation

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greeks on monthly state pensions below 200,000 drachmas will be awarded a 3.7 per cent increase as of January 1, 1998, a rate corresponding to official projections for average consumer price inflation in 1998.

    National Economy Ministry officials said that pensioners with monthly pensions exceeding 200,000 drachmas will receive a 2.5 per cent increase which is equivalent to projections for the annual inflation rate in 1998. The government's incomes policy for 1998 foresees pay rises of 2.5 per cent for public sector workers.

    The measure was decided yesterday at a broad meeting held at the Maximos Mansion under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

    Speaking to reporters afterwards, Labour and Social Security Minister Miltiades Papaioannou said the 3.7 per cent increase represented the sum of inflation anticipated for 1998, estimated at 2.5 per cent, the 1 per cent increase in national productivit y and 0.2 per cent as a corrective amount for the difference from inflation in 1997. For pensions above 200,000 drachmas, he said the government decided that only the anticipated inflation of 2.5 per cent will be given.

    The entire agreement is covered with a corrective amount clause to be given in 1999 if inflation exceeds 2.5 per cent.

    Mr. Papaioannou said all pensions of the Farmers Pension Fund (OGA) will increase by 3.7 per cent as of January 1, 1998.

    It was further decided that benefits for handicapped people will increase by 10 per cent and Mr. Papaioannou stressed that they have now reached a satisfactory level.

    Social security funds of the self-employed people could increase to pensions up to 9 per cent on condition they also raised contributions accordingly and showed their economic potential with an appropriate study.

    By contrast, the government rejected certain basic claims tabled by pensioners, such as equating pensions with 20 daily wages paid to an unskilled labourer, the readjustment of pensions paid by special funds (banks, public utilities) and a decrease in the participation of the insured in the cost of medicines.

    In a statement after the meeting, the President of the Federation of Social Security Fund (IKA) Pensioners Diamantis Mavrodoglou said that for hundreds of thousands of pensioners yesterday's announcements by the government mean an increase from between 65-130 drachmas a day.

    Mr. Mavrodoglou said pensioners thought the meeting was "fruit-less" and were considering a nationwide mobilisation in March.

    In a statement, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) termed the pension increases given by the government a "mockery" and "crumbs."

    "The crumbs given by the Prime Minister as an increase in the pensions of thousands of pensioners constitute a mockery which could only come from a Prime Minister of the plutocracy," KKE said.

    The Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) said that what pensioners need is substantial support and not increases which provoked their endurance and common logic.

    The Democratic Social Movement party (DHKKI) said that although it is aware that most pensioners are facing a serious problem of survival, the government is giving them increases between 2.5-3.7 per cent on the pretext of the supposed decrease in deficits.

    In a related development, Mr. Simitis said the rationalisation of the welfare state to better serve those who are in greater need constitutes a priority for the government.

    Mr. Simitis said available resources are not used for general increases which widen inequalities but are focused on care for pensioners with the greatest needs.

    He said there was no question of readjusting the pensions of special funds (banks and public utilities) because they are in the red and this would mean a departure from incomes policy.

    Mr. Simitis further said that instead of linking minimum pensions to 20 daily wages of an unskilled labourer, the government has chosen the extension of the Social Solidarity Bonus to pensioners over 60 years of age (from 65) and to special categories of pensioners regardless of age.

    [15] One-day strike closes schools

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Primary and secondary schools were closed yesterday as the country's teachers held a 24-hour strike in protest over new staff evaluation methods. Protest marches were held in Athens from Kanningos Square to the education ministry near Syntagma Square, in Thessaloniki and eight other towns around Greece. Meanwhile four youths bringing up the rear of a teachers' protest march in central Athens threw makeshift bombs made of gas canisters at a state-owned vehicle parked outside the National Library. The car, used by the Athens University rector, was seriously damaged by fire. The four youths escaped arrest.

    [16] Minion dept. store given opportunity to survive

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    The department store MINION is now likely to avoid bankruptcy, following yesterday's last-minute meeting between employees, owners, the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and Labour Undersecretary Christos Protopapas.

    An agreement was reached with the firm representing the store's creditors to request from an Athens court to postpone Minion's bankruptcy and allow the store to operate until March 17.

    On that day, the court will examine an application for the store to be included in beneficial provisions of law 1896/90 regarding loss-making companies.

    This will mean that a part of debts will be floated as shares and the remainin will be settled.

    [17] Contract signed for Florina power plant

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    The Public Power Corp. (DEH) yesterday officially announced the signing of a final contract with a consortium for construction of a power plant in Florina.

    The 330MW plant is regarded as a project of major national importance.

    The consortium includes the following companies: Rao Gazprom, Promitheas Gas SA, Technopromexport, EVT GmbH and ABB Kraftwerke.

    Construction of the plant is estimated to take four and a half years, and when ready it will employ a large number of employees, reaching up to 4,000.

    According to reports, the new power plant will fully comply with the latest environmental requirements and standards, and will also be able to supply the region with steam for heating.

    [18] Egnatia Motorway to near completion by end of 2001

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Most of Greece's Egnatia highway,spanning the north of the country from east to west, will be built by the end of 2001, officials told a news conference yesterday. Six hundred and twenty kilometres of the highway's total of 687 kilometres will be finis hed or under construction at end-2001.

    Egnatia SA, which is responsible for the project, is committed to having 430 kilometres completed in 2000-2001.

    Reviewing the projects were two officials of Egnatia SA - its president Dimitris Fatouros and an adviser on the road's eastern stretch, Giorgos Penelis.

    Already completed are 122 kilometres of the road, which will ease transport for goods and passengers to the expanding port of Igoumenitsa in the northwest, and aid access to the country's borders. By the end of this year, another 427 kilometres will be under construction.

    [19] Greek state telecom to launch mobile phones this week

    Athens, 26/02//1998 (ANA)

    The Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) will launch a mobile telephone service this week through its Cosmote subsidiary, a company spokesman said.

    Distribution of the new phones will begin to the first 50,000 subscribers over the next two or three days, the spokesman said.

    More than 120,000 of Cosmote's mobile phones will be sold by the end of the year, according to company estimates.

    In a promotion to mark the launch, Cosmote offered the first 50,000 phones free of charge for six months. Another offer is expected in mid-May.

    [20] Ergobank reports 27 pct profit jump in 1997

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Ergobank, a private listed commercial bank, reported a 27 percent jump in 1997 pre-tax profits and provisions to 58 billion drachmas.

    The group's pre-tax profits totalled 63 billion drachmas last year, a rise of 27 percent from 1996.

    Ergobank's shareholders' equity was 113 billion drachmas in 1997, an increase of 57 percent from 1996. Total assets were 1.4 trillion drachmas.

    Deposits were 26 percent higher, rising to 1.0 trillion drachmas last year, and lending increased by 26 percent.

    Ergobank also reported a 49 percent return on capital. The bank's workforce totalled 2,500 employees at 122 branches. Its customers were 715,000 depositors and 60,800 borrowers.

    Ergobank's board will propose to shareholders a dividend payment of 810 drachmas per share.

    [21] Bank of Piraeus has 83 pct profit jump in 1997

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    The Bank of Piraeus,a listed commercial bank, reported an 83 percent jump in pre-tax profits for 1997 to 9.8 billion drachmas from 5.3 billion a year earlier.

    The bank's deposits were 230 billion drachmas, a rise of 62 percent on the previous year.

    Lending totalled 144 billion drachmas to show a 55 percent increase. Total assets were 319 billion drachmas, up 70 percent.

    The bank's board will propose to shareholders a rights issue totalling 15 billion drachmas and distribution of two new shares for every 10 old.

    The proposal will be discussed at the bank's annual general meeting on April 30.

    [22] Greek stocks slip in edgy trade

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greek equities resumed their downward course in slim trade yesterday after a spectacular rebound on the Athens Stock Exchange in the previous session.

    Traders said a lack of follow-through buying led to early profit-taking in a market still wary of developments in domestic money markets.

    The general index closed 0.34 percent lower at 1,423.41 points. Sector indices were mixed. Banks fell 0.09 percent, Insurance eased 0.24 percent, Leasing soared 4.06 percent, Construction rose 0.32 percent, Investment fell 0.78 percent, Industrials were 0.65 percent off, Miscellaneous dropped 1.76 percent and Holding eased 0.52 percent.

    The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 2.16 percent higher reflecting demand for issues with a greater potential for returns.

    The FTSE/ASE blue chip index fell 0.22 percent to end at 787.67 points.

    Trading was thin with turnover at 13.6 billion drachmas. Broadly, decliners narrowly led advancers by 105 to 103 with another 23 issues unchanged.

    Athinea, Allatini, Viokarpet, Singural, Ideal and Papoutsanis scored the biggest percentage gains at the daily 8.0 percent upper volatility limit, while Sportsman, Hatzioannou, Ergas and Thessaliki suffered the heaviest losses.

    National Bank of Greece ended at 20,580 drachmas, Ergobank at 14,080, Alpha Credit Bank at 15,400, Delta Dairy at 2,850, Titan Cement at 13,290, Intracom at 14,600 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 5,595.

    [23] Athens main post office launches electronic operations

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Hellenic Post Offices (ELTA) yesterday launched a new electronic system at their main outlet in Athens that will reduce waiting to 10 minutes at peak times, and provide special services for people with special needs. The two moves are part of a 200-millio n drachma overhaul of the main post office that began in June.

    Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis, who inaugurated the reopening of the post office, said the electronic system, which was initially operating on an experimental basis, could serve more than 25,000 customers.

    Part of the overhaul was to provide special booths and corridors for people with special needs, especially the blind, he said.

    [24] Athens Hoteliers' pavilion at Milan exhibition

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    The Athens Hoteliers' Union yesterday announced that it will participate at a Milan tourist exhibition, in cooperation with the Athens prefecture's tourism promotion agency.

    Hoteliers will participate with their own pavilion at the exhibition. According to the group, "EOT (the Greek National Tourism Organisation) has not understood the meaning and the complexity of the issue and insists on promoting (tourism) in the country as a unified destination..."

    [25] Better tourism season for '98 forecast

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    A report by the Institute of Economic Research and Forecasts (ITEP) expects 1998 to post an increase in tourism, predicting that overnight stays in Greek hotels will rise by 10 per cent. The report, presented yesterday, says that the British pound's appre ciation will especially help attract more British tourists this season, without hoteliers having to drop prices.

    [26] V. Papandreou responds to tabled questions on casinos

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Development Minister Vasso Papandreou told Parliament last night that the government intends to bring about amendments to the law governing casinos.

    Replying to a relevant question by PASOK deputy Ioannis Mangriotis, Ms Papandreou said efforts are being made to improve the situation, adding that "all these activities also create side-effects."

    However, she explained that a new law is not possible, but amendments to be initiated for ratification will concern operational issues for casinos, admission for certain categories of employees, working hours etc. She further said that the law anticipat es strict controls by the Economic Crime Squad and security services. Mr. Mangriotis expressed satisfaction over Ms Papandreou's statements on amending the regulation on the operation of casinos, but stressed the measures should be applied soon because "we will experience explosive events."

    [27] National marketing effort for Greek wines

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    The wine central branch cooperatives yesterday announced efforts to create a national marketing policy for wine and wine-making. Cooperatives' president Christos Markou added that the 4th professional wine exhibition (Oinorama '98), which will take place at the Olympic Stadium in Athens from March 12-15, is the only such attempt to promote Greek wine both in the foreign and domestic markets.

    [28] Satisfaction over restoration of monuments

    Athens, 26/02/1998 (ANA)

    Members of the "Initiative of the 12 Committee" addressed a letter to Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos expressing their satisfaction over a decision to restore several monuments, both Christian and Moslem, in Greece and Turkey.

    The committee had requested from Prime Minister Costas Simitis last autumn the government's assistance for the restoration of a mosque in Athens - the Fetixe Cami.

    End of English language section.

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