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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-01-20

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM says revalued drachma will boost` economy and workers' income
  • [02] Turkish foreign minister hails Papandreou's visit to Ankara
  • [03] PASOK deputies complain over lack of information concerning parliament committee
  • [04] Greece supports Romanian bid to join NATO, EU
  • [05] Britain, Greece find agreement on EU reform issues
  • [06] Athens says no change in stance on Cyprus resolution
  • [07] Greece urges more active EU involvement in Cyprus efforts
  • [08] Tsohatzopoulos, Hasikos discuss Greece, Cyprus defense cooperation
  • [09] Rokofyllos to attend SI in Portugal
  • [10] Justice minister flatly denies resignation rumours
  • [11] Simitis to address National Committee for Human Rights
  • [12] Greek stocks remain under pressure
  • [13] SECI announces Thessaloniki bureau
  • [14] EU raps Greece over unemployment
  • [15] Bonds end mixed in lacklustre trade
  • [16] Drachma noses down vs euro
  • [17] No change to penalty rates amendment, Papantoniou says
  • [18] Greece a pioneer in quality shipping, Soumakis says
  • [19] Transport minister winds up Israel visit
  • [20] Deadline extension given for Calcemento sale to Blue Circle
  • [21] Interamerican General Insurance to apply for bourse listing
  • [22] British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce holds luncheon
  • [23] No evidence Turkish government has changed its stance on Cyprus problem
  • [24] Russian ambassador pays farewell to President Clerides
  • [25] Cyprus ratifies protocol for abolition of death penalty
  • [26] Greece is Austrian tourists' top destination
  • [27] Agrotica 2000 focuses on Balkans
  • [28] Fuel prices
  • [29] Delegation to investigate community school problem
  • [30] International drug trafficking ring broken up
  • [31] 10-year-old infected with HIV virus
  • [32] 'Anarchist Struggle' group claims car torching
  • [33] Car bomb in Crete causes serious damage, no injuries
  • [34] Taxi strike, cold snap contributes to Athens traffic chaos
  • [35] Wednesday's newspaper headlines

  • [01] PM says revalued drachma will boost` economy and workers' income

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    The boost to the Greek economy from the recent 3.5 percent revaluation of the drachma's central parity against the euro will contribute to a rise in the incomes of Greek workers, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said in response to a parliamentary question on Wednesday.

    "As in the case of the government's policy of stabilization and growth of previous years, which led to a rise in workers' incomes, the revaluation of the drachma will give a boost to the Greek economy, leading to a further rise in incomes," he said.

    The revaluation, which means that incomes will be 3.5 percent higher when the drachma is incorporated to the euro than if the previous parity had been maintained, will also mean a benefit of 1.3 trillion drachmas for the country when the sum of deposits, investments in bonds and monetary circulation, amounting to 36.2 trillion drachmas, is converted at the new parity of 340.75 drachmas, Simitis said.

    The prime minister dismissed criticism of a reduction in competitiveness as a result of the revaluation.

    "Competitiveness today is not determined so much by price as by quality, technology, the linkage between internal and external market, infrastructure, public services and a series of other factors," he said.

    [02] Turkish foreign minister hails Papandreou's visit to Ankara

    ANKARA, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister George Papandreou said here Wednesday that Greece, Turkey and the European Union "desire dialogue between Ankara and Athens", while his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem hailed his visit as being one of "historical significance."

    Papandreou arrived in Ankara for a four-day official visit, the first by a Greek foreign minister in 38 years. The visit comes only a month after Greece dropped objections and allowed Turkey to be accepted as a candidate for European Union membership.

    Papandreou said that he conveyed "the greetings and love of the Greek people to Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, Mr. Cem and the Turkish people." "We should act in the direction that the two peoples want," Papandreou said.

    Welcoming Papandreou, Cem said "the first to offer their help in the tragedy experienced by Turkey with the earthquake on August 17 was the Greek government and all the Greek people", adding that "the first to telephone to me after the earthquake was Mr. Papandreou." Cem said "the earthquakes in Turkey and Greece showed that the two peoples were closer than they thought", but warned that "we should be careful in our relations."

    Cem expressed hope that such visits will be continued in the future and stressed that the last visit by Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias in 1988 had taken place in the framework of a Joint Greek-Turkish Policy Committee meeting.

    Delegations headed by the two foreign ministers will start talks at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, while the signing of four cooperation agreements is expected at noon and will be followed by a joint press conference.

    [03] PASOK deputies complain over lack of information concerning parliament committee

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Ruling socialist PASOK party deputies Theodoros Pangalos and Yiannis Kapsis complained on Wednesday over the lack of information concerning Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee and, on the occasion of Foreign Minister George Papandreou's visit to Ankara, expressed displeasure because the Committee had not been briefed earlier.

    Former prime minister and main opposition New Democracy party Honourary President Constantine Mitsotakis agreed with them, terming their claim "fair" and adding that "our national issues are at a turning point."

    Kapsis said many things are happening concerning major foreign policy problems and stressed that "I feel ashamed not to know where we are taking Cyprus." The Committee's President Karolos Papoulias replied that Papandreou will brief the Committee on his return from the visit.

    Referring to recent statements by Papandreou that the ideas of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash may have certain good elements, Pangalos said "this is very important. If they have certain good elements we should know about them."

    Attending, Alternate Foreign Minister Christos Rokofyllos said that for the foreign ministry's leadership and the government in its entirety there was no question of a confederation for Cyprus and neither the foreign minister nor any other government official had spoke of a confederation, since the government was bent on the principle of a bicommunal and bizonal federation.

    [04] Greece supports Romanian bid to join NATO, EU

    BUCHAREST, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Romania's accession into NATO, Greek-Romanian defence cooperation and conditions in the Balkans were the focus of discussions between visiting Greek Deputy Defence Minister Dimitris Apostolakis and his Romanian counterpart Ion Mircea Plancu.

    Apostolakis stressed Greece's support for NATO and European Union enlargement and Romania's accession to both bodies.

    On his part, Plancu noted that Romania's cooperation with Greece on defence issues will aid his country to enter NATO and thanked Greece for its support in its bid to join European institutions.

    The two deputy ministers decided the creation and operation of bilateral joint committees of officials on defence issues, which will examine the possibility of cooperation in the maintenance of C-130 transport aircraft recently purchased by Romania.

    The committee will also examine the possibilities for co-production and purchase of training aircraft produced by the Romanian industry; cooperation in the production of helicopters; air defence systems; wireless communications systems for land defence forces; logistics; airborne defence management; simulator usage; development of information and control defence systems among many other fields of possible cooperation between the two countries.

    Speaking during a press conference, following the meeting, Plancu said that Romania is very interested in the Balkan Stability Pact, noting, however in response to a question by ANA, that the case of Yugoslavia's province, Kosovo, "is not one of border change". On his part, Apostolakis said that the Greek government's stand remains that stability in the Balkans means that Yugoslavia should not be left out of the stability programmes.

    [05] Britain, Greece find agreement on EU reform issues

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Greece and Britain's European Affairs Ministers on Wednesday conferred at length on issues related to the European Union's intergovernmental conference on reforming community institutions ahead of the EU's enlargement.

    British Minister for Europe Keith Vaz also met earlier with Foreign Minister George Papandreou, before the Greek minister left on his Turkish visit, and with National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papandoniou.

    His talks with Alternate Foreign Minister Christos Rokofyllos centred on examining issues to be brought forward for discussion at the intergovernmental conference.

    Vaz said that there were quite a few points on which Greece and Britain were in agreement. "The disagreements are so few that they don't even fill a page," he said.

    Britain, he added, supported Greece's decision to apply for entry to the euro zone but Britain had yet to decide whether it, too, would apply for inclusion in economic and monetary union.

    Responding to reporters' questions, Vaz said that the British side had all the "respect and admiration" for Greece's stance at the recent EU Helsinki summit on the issue of Turkey's candidacy status.

    "Turkey has quite some way before it yet, before talks on its accession to the EU can begin," Vaz added.

    He said Turkey was required to first deal with a series of political and economic issues, meeting all the criteria laid down at a previous EU summit in Copenhagen.

    "Both Britain and Greece can work together and with other partners so as to ensure these prerequisites are met," Vaz said.

    Rokofyllos said Greece accepted Turkey's candidacy for membership in the EU in the belief that the deadlock between the two countries had to be overcome.

    This move was to the advantage of both peoples, he said.

    "We did it for a democratic Turkey, a European Turkey which will be a better neighbour and more constructive interlocutor, both for us and for all of Europe," he said

    Rokofyllos and Vaz's talks will continue during a dinner to be held by the Greek minister in honour of his British guest.

    [06] Athens says no change in stance on Cyprus resolution

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Athens said on Wednesday that there had been no change in its policies on a resolution of the Cyprus issue and that there would not be any change.

    "I will reiterate that the policy we are following on dealing with the Cyprus issue remains the same," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

    "We have to use the framework of the decisions of the United Nations, the summit agreements which have been made earlier, in the attempt to ensure a resolution. It is in this direction that the Cypriot and Greek governments are moving."

    Reppas, responding to reporters' questions following comments in an article written by former foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos, denied that any government official had put forward any proposal for a different approach on a resolution of the Cyprus issue

    Pangalos cited an article appearing in an Athens daily earlier this month by a close aide to the prime minister and to an alleged comment by Foreign Minister George Papandreou in a recent newspaper interview.

    Reppas said that a statement attributed to the foreign minister during an interview with a newspaper, in which he is quoted as saying that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's ideas are interesting, was mistaken and that the word 'not' had been omitted.

    "The phrase Mr. Papandreou used is 'Denktash's ideas are not interesting'," Reppas said. He said the newspaper had printed a correction.

    [07] Greece urges more active EU involvement in Cyprus efforts

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Greece on Wednesday stressed the need for the European Union to become more actively involved in efforts to find a solution to the division and occupation of Cyprus.

    The comments came from Alternate Foreign Minister Christos Rokofyllos, who spoke after meeting with Leonardo Matias, the EU Portuguese presidency's special representative for Cyprus, in Athens as part of his tour of the region.

    Rokofyllos outlined the Greek stance on Cyprus' accession process and asked Matias to relay to the EU presidency the need for the EU's more active participation.

    The Greek minister stressed the need for all activity by international factors - and particularly the European Union - to be conducted within the framework for the finding of a solution outlined by the United Nations Security Council resolutions.

    These resolutions set out clearly the need for the consolidation of a bizonal, bicommunal federation with one sovereignty, guaranteed territorial integrity and independence.

    [08] Tsohatzopoulos, Hasikos discuss Greece, Cyprus defense cooperation

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Greek Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his visiting Cypriot counterpart Socrates Hasikos on Wednesday discussed the joint Greek and Cypriot defence cooperation in light of new prospects of European security and defence systems, following the decisions of the EU summit in Helsinki.

    Tsohatzopoulos expressed his optimism that regardless of the outcome of the upcoming elections in Greece this year, the two countries will formulate the preconditions aiming at such results.

    On his part, Hasikos noted that despite the fact that negotiations toward the peaceful resolution of the Cyprus problem are ongoing, the "mechanisms" for the strengthening of defence should not cease.

    He reiterated, however, that maintenance of defensive mechanisms are not an end in themselves, but the peaceful course toward the final resolution of the Cyprus problem.

    The Republic of Cyprus was invaded by Turkish forces in 1974, which since then occupy 37 per cent of the inland republic against international law and United Nations resolutions.

    [09] Rokofyllos to attend SI in Portugal

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Alternate Foreign Minister Christos Rokofyllos leaves for Portugal on Saturday, to stand in for Prime Minister Costas Simitis at the meeting of the Socialist International's presidium.

    The Greek prime minister is a vice-president of the Socialist International.

    Earlier, Rokofyllos will pay a visit to Budapest for bilateral talks and meetings with high-ranking officials. The leading issue on the agenda of the talks is the situation in the Balkans.

    Rokofyllos represents Greece at the meeting on Monday of the European Union's General Affairs Council, the first under the Portuguese EU presidency.

    On the completion of the meeting on Tuesday, Rokofyllos will leave for talks with the Slovak government in Bratislava.

    [10] Justice minister flatly denies resignation rumours

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis received Justice Minister Evangelos Yiannopoulos on Wednesday for a scheduled meeting focusing on upgrading of the country's courthouses and correctional facilities.

    Asked afterwards if the premier had requested his resignation, Yiannopoulos said such speculation is no more than "rampant lies", while adding that no such prospect was discussed. Yian-nopoulos further referred to Simitis' statement that "anyone slandered has the right to seek judicial recourse."

    The veteran politician and one-time president of the Athens Bar Association has been involved in several court cases over the past years as the plaintiff in various slander and defamation lawsuits he has brought against detractors. The latest suit was brought against Athens superprefect Theodoros Katrivanos, himself a veteran politician, who more-or-less questioned Yiannopoulos' wartime resistance record. The verdict swung in favour of the minister, although jurists ruled that Katrivanos was also "provoked".

    Other issues discussed at the one-hour meeting between the PM and the justice minister were the temporary suspension of Council of State sessions as well as the operation of two new drug detoxification centres near Thebes, expected to open in about two months.

    Simitis also promised to visit the newly constructed appellate court building in central Athens on Feb. 16.

    [11] Simitis to address National Committee for Human Rights

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Thursday will address the members of the National Committee for Human Rights at a session it will hold at the Zappeion Mansion.

    According to sources, the prime minister will refer to the global dimension of human rights which knows no ethnic, racial, linguistic, religious or social differences and to the protection of human rights through a complete institutional framework.

    He will also stress the importance of non-governmental organisa-tions as a basic lever for every modern policy for human rights as well as to the activation of society for their protection and consolidation.

    [12] Greek stocks remain under pressure

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Equity prices remained under strong pressure on Wednesday pushing the general index back to the 5,000 level on the Athens Stock Exchange.

    Analysts said the sharp fall in the last few sessions was excessive and that they were unable to justify the market's negative reaction. They said that the market has already discounted a fall in domestic interest rates and that a renewed rise in international oil prices rekindled fears of higher inflation in the country.

    The general index dropped 3.26 percent to 5,067.31 points, off the day's lows of 5,048 points. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 2.89 percent to 2,644.85 points while the FTSE/ASE MID 40 ended at 940.09 points, off 3.30 percent. Turnover was a moderate 223.26 billion drachmas.

    The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended at 1,597.55 points, down 4.25 percent.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 292 to 34 with another three issues unchanged.

    Kyriakoulis Yachts, Daring, Parnassos, Eltrak and Atemke scored the biggest percentage gains, while Kreka, Rocas, Eskimo and Ergo Invest suffered the heaviest losses.

    Techniki Olympiaki and Panafon were the most heavily traded stocks.

    [13] SECI announces Thessaloniki bureau

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    The Southeast European Cooperative Initiative, a US initiative to support business activity in the region, will launch one of its three offices in Thessaloniki next week, Vassilis Takas, the president of the Federation of Northern Greece Industries (SBBE) said on Wednesday.

    Speaking during a press conference, Takas said SECI's offices will be located at the SBBE's building in Thessaloniki and that the agency has already hired a director.

    SECI's two other bureaus will be based in Istanbul and Venice.

    Takas said SECI's business support bureaus' main mission was "to encourage the private sector's participation in the financial and social development of the region, creating a regional view that would support private investments in all Southeast European states".

    More specifically, their mission will be:

    - to monitor decisions taken by SECI's Business Council.

    - to promote business opportunities in Southeast Europe.

    - to consult and support entrepreneurs.

    - to draft development proposals for the region and provide technical support in institutional reform matters.

    - to shape private sector positions and proposals and to submit them to the Business Council.

    - to support Business Council's positions at various international or non-governmental organisations active in the region.

    - to promote the Business Council in an international environment.

    - to promote and expand the Council's existing network based on priorities and procedures taken.

    - to constantly inform the Council's members on matters related to economic development.

    Takas said initial funding for the bureaus' operation would be made by local agencies. SBBE will fund Thessaloniki's office, Istanbul's Stock Exchange will fund SECI's office in Turkey and Venice's Export Trade Centre will fund SECI's office in the northern Italian city.

    The three bureaus are expected to operate as coordinating agencies with close cooperation between them. They would promote three basic interrelated actions, namely, promotion of business opportunities; offering expert information to investors, and, scientific, technical and institutional reform support.

    The three offices will also be linked through a common website on the Internet.

    Takas said efforts were been made to create one more bureau in Thessaloniki with the aim to coordinate SECI's initiatives

    [14] EU raps Greece over unemployment

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    The European Union's executive Commission has recom-mended to Greece that it should improve its action to combat unemployment.

    "The European Commission has asked Greece to reform its public employment services and ugrade its statistical system. It has also underlined the need to monitor and apply measures to promote employment," said EU Employment Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou.

    In 1999, Greece had carried out programmes to tackle unemployment entitled "Youth in Professional Life" and "Back to Work", but had yet to notify the Commission of the outcome, Diamantopoulou told the European parliament.

    The Greek Commissioner was replying to a question tabled by Eurodeputy Mihalis Papayiannakis of the Coalition of the Left and Progress party.

    "Greece must intensify its efforts in monitoring and evaluating employment programmes," Diamantopoulou added.

    She said that the Commission would be watching how Greece implemented EU recommendations on access to vocational training, access by women to the labour market, and long-term programmes for the unemployed.

    Papayiannakis told parliament that Greece had the second highest unemployment rate in the 15-nation bloc at 11.3 percent.

    The country had also posted the highest growth in joblessness and ranked lowest in terms of spending on unemployment at less than 1.0 percent of gross domestic product.

    Finally, it was unclear how Greece had used EU funding of around 950 billion drachmas from the European Social Fund, allocated to combat unemployment, Papayiannakis said.

    [15] Bonds end mixed in lacklustre trade

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Bond prices in the domestic secondary market ended mixed in uneventful trade on Wednesday with turnover sharply down, reflecting fatigue in trading abroad.

    The market was lacklustre in the wake of a jump in previous sessions followed by profit-taking.

    Fuelling enthusiasm in recent sessions was an upward revaluation on Saturday of the drachma versus the euro in the European exchange rate mechanism.

    On Wednesday, the benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 6.60-6.61 percent from 6.59 percent a day earlier and roughly 6.51 percent in the two previous sessions.

    The yield spread over German bunds held just below the psychological 100 basis point level before edging up to 101 basis points in after hours trade. The spread was 96 basis points on Tuesday from 93-96 basis points in the two previous trading days.

    On Monday, the yield spread over German bunds had fallen to below the 100 basis point barrier for the first time, remaining there for two straight sessions.

    Turnover through the central bank's electronic trading system was 103 billion drachmas from 226 billion drachmas a day earlier and over 300 billion drachmas on Monday. Sell orders accounted for 60 billion drachmas of the total.

    Requested by Greece, the drachma's revaluation in the exchange rate mechanism was approved by the European Union.

    The parity shift will aid a reduction in interest rates across the board, but the market has already priced in a 0.75 basis point cut in the central bank's key rates, analysts said.

    A deeper rate cut would be needed to give the secondary bond market more impetus, and the time was now ripe for profit-taking, the analysts said.

    On Wednesday, the central bank did not intervene in the interbank market, saying that market liquidity was tight. A change in its intervention rates might have signalled an across-the-board rate cut.

    Players have retained their interest in long-term paper that recently had been dumped in favour of mid-term securities. Analysts have forecast an overall decline in domestic paper due to uncertainty over price levels in markets abroad and the fact that players have already discounted Greece's entry into the euro zone, which means the expectation is unlikely to drive prices up any further, especially after Saturday's anticipated revaluation.

    [16] Drachma noses down vs euro

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    The drachma edged down against the euro in the domestic foreign exchange market on Wednesday but crept up versus the dollar. In the two previous sessions, demand had driven up the drachma against the euro with sentiment still robust after the European Union approved a 3.5 percent upward drachma revaluation in the exchange rate mechanism. The demand was met by commercial banks, and the central bank did not step into the market.

    Under the weekend revaluation, the drachma's central parity was set at 340.750 to the euro from 353.109. The currency's trading band remains at 15 percent either way, and its new intervention points are 391.863 drachmas to the euro (ceiling) and 289,638 drachmas to the euro (floor).

    At the central bank's daily fixing on Wednesday, the euro was set at 330.760 drachmas from 330.650 drachmas a day earlier and 330.770 drachmas on Monday.

    Also at the fix, the US dollar was set at 327.110 drachmas from 327.820 drachmas in the previous session and 326.990 drachmas on Monday.

    [17] No change to penalty rates amendment, Papantoniou says

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    The government will not change an amendment submitted in Parliament on Tuesday evening regarding banks' penalty rates on overdue loans, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said on Wednesday.

    Papantoniou stressed that despite the government's legislative intervention to reschedule debts resulting from penalty rates, past deals and settlements should be negotiated between debtors and banks.

    He also defended the government's proposals by saying that 95 percent of borrowers have repaid their loans despite current high interest rates, while he stressed the need to ensure a balanced banking system.

    "We must be moderate and find a golden mean," Papantoniou said.

    He hinted, however, that a similar formula could be used to deal with debts in the agricultural sector.

    On his part, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the government was adamant in pursuing its policy regarding penalty rates.

    In an unrelated development, commenting on the country's course towards participating in Economic and Monetary Union, Reppas said Greece was very close to EU's agencies and that the country has achieved nominal convergence, leaving real convergence to be achieved.

    "We moved forward rapidly and that's something unheard of, even for EU countries," Reppas said.

    Meanwhile, main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis reiterated his demand for an immediate and effective solution to the issue of penalty rates, following a meeting with representatives of union leaders, officials from various chambers as well as consumer and borrowers' rights groups.

    "The government until yesterday (Tuesday) declared that it won't hear of discussion (on the issue), but in the evening it took back its words and the amendment. We advice the government and those responsible to finally, even if late, listen to the people that have fallen victim to this shamelessness with the penalty rates..." he said.

    [18] Greece a pioneer in quality shipping, Soumakis says

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Greece is a pioneer in quality shipping and will support any new measures to protect human life, cargoes and the marine environment, Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Souma-kis said on Wednesday.

    Referring to the ERICA tanker oil spill off the French coast and to measures expected to be agreed at an EU Council of Ministers meeting on March 28, Soumakis said that "Greece cannot stay at the rear, nor protect ships that do not adhere to legal preconditions".

    Soumakis described the stance of the International Maritime Organisation, a private agency, towards Greece as "hostile" because it did not include a second Greek bureaucrat in its technical committees.

    Soumakis noted that "competitiveness comes through quality" and said that the discussions agenda between the government and shipowners remained open.

    His comments were made ahead of a meeting between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and the Union of Greek Shipowners on Thursday.

    [19] Transport minister winds up Israel visit

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Greek Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis wound up his official visit to Israel on Wednesday, following meetings with Israeli ministers of transport, Yitzhak Mordehai, and telecommunications, Eliyahu Ben Eliezer.

    Both sides discussed a wide variety of issues, including possible cooperation on a bilateral and regional level. A Greek delegation led by Mantelis also met with Israeli private sector executives active in the transports and telecoms fields.

    Economic alliance between Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Israel reported in the offing.

    Israel, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey are planning to set up an economic alliance, the Israeli "Globes" financial newspaper reported on Wednesday.

    The initiative is being promoted by Greek Transport and Communications Minister Tasos Mantelis, who is visiting Israel, and counterpart Yitzhak Mordechai, according to the paper.

    The report says the two ministers agreed to set up a bilateral standing committee which will initially determine sectors for cooperation and will then proceed to draft schemes of interna-tional participation.

    Greece is also reported to have shown interest in Israel's participation in major infrastructure projects, particularly in the transport sector, planned for the Olympic Games of 2004 in Athens.

    The two ministers also agreed on an economic project symbo-lising peace in the Middle East, in which Turkey will also participate, "Globes" claims. The longer-term intention is to include Egypt, Syria and Lebanon after peace is consolidated in the Middle East.

    [20] Deadline extension given for Calcemento sale to Blue Circle

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    An extension to finalise a deal transferring Calcemento International - the parent company of Greece's major cement manufacturer AGET Heracles -- to British giant Blue Circle Industries (BCI) was announced on Wednesday by Calcemento's parent companies, Compart SpA and Calcemento SpA.

    According to the two Italian companies, the extension was given in order to allow completion of the transfer of Calcemento International's shares following the approval of Greek regulatory authorities.

    "BCI is the best solution for AGET Heracles and its employees, as the knowledge and abilities of one of the international leaders in the sector will be harnessed to promote the competitiveness and development of one Greece's most significant industries," Compart and Calcemento said. Both firms added that they want a quick transfer of Calcemento International to BCI.

    [21] Interamerican General Insurance to apply for bourse listing

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Interamerican General Insurance company has applied for listing on the Athens Stock Exchange.

    The company, which is wholly owned by Interamerican Life, estimates a turnover of 22.8 billion drachmas and pre-tax profits of 7.5 billion drachmas for 1999, up 18 percent and 190 respectively from the previous year.

    Interamerican has 210 sales points and 4,800 salesmen.

    [22] British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce holds luncheon

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    The British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce is to hold a luncheon on February 15 in honour of Dame Sheila Masters, President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of London and Wales.

    The luncheon will be held at the Hilton Hotel at 1300 hours.

    Dame Sheila will deliver a speech in English entitled "Stock exchanges - a view from London."

    Invitations may be purchased from the Chamber at 25 Vassilis Sophias Avenue, Athens. Further information on tel. 7210361.

    [23] No evidence Turkish government has changed its stance on Cyprus problem

    NICOSIA, 20/01/2000 (CNA/ANA)

    Cyprus government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said on Wednesday that there was no evidence that the Turkish government had changed its stance on the Cyprus problem.

    He also expressed hope that Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou's visit to Ankara will be in the true context of the EU Helsinki conclusions and will set out Turkish relations on a new basis, which will allow Turkey to change its policy on the Cyprus problem.

    Asked if there was any evidence that the Cyprus problem will be discussed during Papandreou's talks in Ankara, Papapetrou said there was nothing that indicated a shift in Turkish policy.

    Papapetrou said "after Helsinki, it will be difficult for Turkey to avoid, sooner or later, a discussion on the Cyprus problem".

    Asked if there were any expectations regarding Papandreou's visit to Turkey, Papapetrou said "I do not want to create any excessive expectations, but our hope and wish is that these meetings, during Papandreou's visit, will be in the context of the true meaning and message sent by the agreement of Helsinki and will set Turkish relations further, deeper, on a new basis, which will enable a change in Turkey's policy on the Cyprus problem".

    Asked if the governments of Greece and Cyprus had agreed that Papandreou should raise the Cyprus question during the talks, Papapetrou said "the two governments exchanged views regarding Papandreou's visit to Ankara, but I have nothing to announce".

    The Cypriot official expressed the hope that Turkish Foreign Minister Ismael Cem's visit to Athens on February 5-7, which will coincide with second round of UN-led proximity talks on Cyprus due to start on January 31 in Geneva, would promote such Turkish positions, that will "create the hope of a breakthrough in the Cyprus problem".

    Regarding Cem's intentions to talk to Greek Cypriot reporters during his visit to the Greek capital, Papapetrou said that this is "very positive" and that "it strengthens the dialogue and the contacts on the society level, for which the Greek side in general, both in Greece and Cyprus, has nothing to fear".

    [24] Russian ambassador pays farewell to President Clerides

    NICOSIA, 20/01/2000 (CNA/ANA)

    Russia proposed to the UN a year ago the restoration of a Greek Orthodox site in the Turkish-occupied part of the island and a Moslem one in the free areas of the Republic.

    This was revealed here Wednesday by the Russian Ambassador to Cyprus Georgi Mouradov after a farewell meeting with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides.

    Speaking to the press, Mouradov said his three-year stay in Cyprus as Russian Ambassador which ends soon has been "very important" regarding the strengthening of relations between the two countries.

    He said he reassured President Clerides of his country's firm stance on the Cyprus question which provides for a settlement based on the UN resolutions and wished for "a just and viable solution based on the UN Charter"

    Responding to a question on the UN-led second round of Cyprus proximity talks scheduled to begin on January 31 in Geneva, he said Russia will send its representative on Cyprus to Geneva.

    Mouradov pointed out that in the past Russia had presented ideas on the core issues of the Cyprus problem and the demilitarisation of the island.

    "We know that a number of Russian ideas are utilised by the UN and lately we heard about the restoration of Apostolos Andreas (Monastery) and the Hala Sultan Mosque, an idea Russia suggested last year".

    The project to restore the Apostolos Andreas Monastery in the eastern tip of the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus and the Hala Sultan Mosque, near Larnaca, was recently announced by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

    The projects is monitored by the UN Office for Special Projects (UNOPS) and the US will provide a good part of the necessary funds.

    [25] Cyprus ratifies protocol for abolition of death penalty

    NICOSIA, 20/01/2000 (CAN/ANA)

    Cyprus has ratified the protocol for the abolition of the death penalty, which will come into effect on February 1, 2000.

    The Republic's Permament Representative to the Council of Europe, Ambassador Christoforos Yiangou, on Wednesday submitted the ratification document of the sixth protocol of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom, which refers to the abolition of the death penalty.

    The document was submitted in the presence of the Deputy Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Hans Christian Kruger.

    This protocol in the first legal document in international law which legally binds the parties to abolish the death sentence.

    [26] Greece is Austrian tourists' top destination

    VIENNA, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Greece again topped the list of Austrian tourists' preferences for holidays in 1999, while the number of Austrian tourists who visited Greece last year amounted to 600,000, according to data announced on the occasion of Thursday's opening of the International Tourism Exhibition "Holidays 2000" in Vienna.

    The figure sets a new record and, related to Austria's population of 7.8 million people, gives it first place regarding foreign tourist arrivals in Greece. The number of Austrian tourists visiting Greece has more than tripled over the past 10 years, since they numbered 180,000 in 1988 and 600,000 at present.

    Meanwhile, the head of the Greek Tourist Organisation's (EOT) office in Austria Vasso Kaparou expressed optimism that this year's tourist period will follow an upward trend for Greece, as was the case in 1999. She based her optimism on the fact that Greece offers the Austrian tourist everything he expects from his summer vacation, while prices and services provided in the country are in harmony.

    [27] Agrotica 2000 focuses on Balkans

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    The Agrotica 2000 international exhibition of agricultural equipment and supplies, which is scheduled for January 26-30, will host four official state participations, those of Albania, Bulgaria, Italy and Poland. The total number of participants is 1226, of which 566 are Greek and 660 foreign, from 36 countries.

    Vasilis Kourtesis, president of Helexpo SA, the organisers, told a press conference on Wednesday Agrotica 2000 is the first exhibition since the company became autonomous from the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair organisation, and the most important such event concerning the agricultural sector in the Balkans.

    Helexpo will from now on undertake the organisation of all sectoral exhibitions and conferences.

    [28] Fuel prices

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Gasoline and heating oil rose on Wednesday as diesel prices fell following the customary weekly price-setting by the government.

    Specifically, super and unleaded rose by 4.8 drachmas per litre, while heating oil edged up slightly by 0.7 drachmas per litre. Conversely, the price of diesel fell by 4 drachmas per litre (for quantities of more than 1,000 litres).

    In the greater Athens area and Thessaloniki prefecture super will sell for 228.7 drachmas per litre and unleaded for 211.6 drachmas per litre. Prices are in effect for one week.

    [29] Delegation to investigate community school problem

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Representatives of Greece's education and foreign affairs ministries and of the parliamentary committee for Greeks abroad will visit Munich to investigate claims by Greek community members of the unsuitability of school premises.

    The development comes after mediation between Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis with Education and Religious Af-fairs Minister Gerasimos Arsenis and the parliamentary committee

    Representatives of the parents of Greek primary and junior secondary school students in the Munich area took over the premises of the local Greek consulate last Friday to demand consular authorities take immediate action to change their children's school premises.

    The protestors said they would continue the sit-in until a solution is found to the problem of excessively high levels of a carcinogenic substance in the school building's insulation.

    According to the protestors, their children have suffered from a high incidence of allergies and fainting fits, due to findings of between 6,000 and 11,000 nanograms of PCB per cubic metre.

    Permissable levels of PCB range from 0-300 nanograms. Readings of 300-3000 nanograms, according to prevailing legislation, require authorities to detect the source of the pollution.

    About 700 Greek community children attend the school, which is shared with a German technical school with 1,700 students. Munich suffers from a chronic shortage of school premises.

    Niotis has also addressed a letter to the concerned parents, assuring them of the Greek government's support for their demand.

    [30] International drug trafficking ring broken up

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Six foreign nationals have been arrested on charges of smuggling substantial quantities of heroin from Albania into Greece, following coordinated drug stings in Athens.

    Police on Wednesday announced that three Iranians, two Iraqis and an Albanian were arrested, all charged with smuggling heroin into the country and also supplying illegal aliens with forged documents, including passports.

    According to reports, 462 grams of heroin, two precision scales, 1.28 million drachmas, 1,446 US dollars, some 3,000 German marks and 11 mobile phones were found in their possession and confiscated.

    The suspects were identified as Valahedin Rahme, 33, Azad Hassan, 32, Feredin Merkan, 35, Masazi Kerimi, 36, Abdul Narhevan, 45, and Abdul Hiki, 36.

    Additionally, 32 passports of various European countries, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Iran, Japan and China were confiscated, all believed to be stolen and destined for sale on the black market after being forged. A police source told ANA that authorities had received a tip-off a month ago that an Iranian-Iraqi drug smuggling ring was funneling large quantities of heroin onto the greater Athens area, mostly in central Athens, through Iranian and Iraqi peddlers.

    An investigation reportedly pointed to a suspect identified as Salahedin Famet as the ringleader. Police said Famet had been arrested in June 1999 while using the name "Salahedin Abdullah" on suspicion of drug trafficking, although he was only charged with the illegal possession of two pistols. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison before appealing the ruling and escaping deportation because of his Kurdish origin.

    Police again located the suspect and placed him under "discreet surveillance", which led to incriminating information on the ring's activities being collected and a subsequent sting operation in three different areas of the Greek capital -- Thisseio, Ambelo-kipi and Gyzi - occurring simultaneously.

    [31] 10-year-old infected with HIV virus

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    A 10-year-old boy suspected of having been raped by a 14-year-old in a central Greek town where both youths reside has been diagnosed as HIV positive, with subsequent media interest leading to a local prosecutor's investigation of the case.

    According to reports, a judicial probe was ordered into the circumstances surrounding the pupil's infection with the deadly HIV virus and the uncovering of possible criminal liability.

    The town where the 10-year-old resides was identified as Platykambos, located in central Greece near the city of Larissa. The pupil is reportedly a foreign national, while no further information was released, as the youth is a minor.

    [32] 'Anarchist Struggle' group claims car torching

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    A group calling itself "Anarchist Struggle" on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the torching of a former police officer's car in an Athens suburb.

    Unidentified callers telephoned the Athens afternoon daily ELEFTHEROTYPIA and private FLASH radio station and claimed responsibility, on behalf of the group, for the torching of a car belonging to retired policeman Paraskevas Karamitsos, 63, in the Daphni residential district about an hour after midnight Tuesday.

    The fire spread to a second car parked nearby, causing serious damage to both vehicles.

    The callers said the group demanded the release of all those arrested during recent violence at the Athens Polytechnic.

    Eleven youths were charged in connection with street violence that erupted after a demonstration by secondary school pupils and teachers on January 14. Five of the youths were charged with felonies including violation of the law on explosives and arson during the violence, in which police used tear gas to disperse masked attackers hurling rocks and molotov bombs. Two ve-hicles were torched. Members of a group of around 20 youths were arrested after they briefly occupied the grounds of the Athens Polytechnic building to evade the tear gas. Among mis-demeanour charges filed against the remaining six were distur-bing the peace and resisting authority.

    In an unrelated incident, unknown persons set fire at dawn Wednesday to a taxi parked in the Kolonos residential district, causing serious damage to the vehicle.

    [33] Car bomb in Crete causes serious damage, no injuries

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    A powerful explosion blew apart a car parked at a Souda, Crete, supermarket on Wednesday, causing damage to stores and homes but no injuries, police said.

    Police said the blast was caused by a substantial amount of dynamite placed underneath a car parked in the supermarket's outdoor parking area. According to initial reports from an investigation under way, the dynamite was probably planted as part of a vendetta to settle some personal score.

    The vehicle was completely destroyed by the explosion with some pieces flung as far as 200 metres away. The hood and bum-per bar was found on the roof of a neighbouring house and the steering wheel and front wheel in the courtyard of a cafeteria, police said.

    The force of the explosion blew out the windows of a shipping company, and the doors of a neighbouring house. Cracks appeared in the walls of homes neighbouring the site.

    [34] Taxi strike, cold snap contributes to Athens traffic chaos

    Athens, 20/01/2000 (ANA)

    Heavy morning rain and the second leg of a 48-hour taxi strike contributed on Wednesday to making life more difficult than usual for commuters into the city centre.

    Many commuters resorted to their own vehicles, instead of public transport, on seeing the early rain and cold, causing more congestion than usual.

    The taxi drivers' strike, held to press the transport ministry to crack down on bogus drivers, will end at 5 a.m. on Thursday.

    About 50 drivers held a protest at the transport ministry early on Wednesday.

    The sudden cold and rain which hit Attica on Wednesday meant snow chains for drivers in the outer reaches of the prefecture.

    Snow chains are already a feature of travel in most parts of northern Greece.

    [35] Wednesday's newspaper headlines

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS (Mitsis): "ND leader Costas Karamanlis and Athens mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos reach agreement" during Tuesday's lunch - Co-leaders, they decide jointly for the party and elections - Next week, Karamanlis to meet with Stephanos Manos".

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS (Rizos): "Children contract AIDS from rape".

    AKROPOLIS: "The government trapped on elections issue".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Agreement for Karamanlis-Avramopoulos common course - The rapprochement changes the political scene".

    ATHINAIKI: "Rift between Archbishop Christodoulos and Prime Minister Costas Simitis - Prosecutor's intervention" over the Archbishop's charges of corruption among state functionaries.

    AVGHI: "The government topsy-turvy over the penalty interest rates".

    AVRIANI: "End to bank loan-sharking".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "This is the news from the Avramopoulos-Karamanlis lunch: Beef for Dimitris, fish for Costas".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Spyros Kyprianou uncovers the methodizing over the Cyprus issue - The former Cyprus president lashes out against Athens and Ankara".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Ankara intransigent, the foreign ministry also notes".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The government put a brake on the amendment on penalty interest late Tuesday night in parliament".

    ESTIA: "Simitis celebrates four years tomorrow - He was sworn in as prime minister on January 20, 1996".

    ETHNOS: "They're breaking the codes and stealing cars equipped with immobilizes".

    EXOUSIA: "Karamanlis-Avramopoulos gentlemen's agreement".

    KATHIMERINI: "EMU entry an injection of optimism for the Greeks".

    LOGOS: "Avramopoulos the protagonist of the developments".

    NIKI: "Gale-force winds for two million people owing penalty interest".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Decision-provocation on cotton cultivations".

    STO KARFI: "PASOK leading by 7 percentage points in Athens and other regions, opinion polls to be published soon show".

    TA NEA: "They're backing down on the penalty interest, after the storm of reactions in parliament".

    TO VIMA: "They eat and drink, but do not decide - Behind-the-scenes deliberations and the two lunches - What Karamanlis and Avramopoulos discussed".

    VRADYNI: "United for the victory - Karamanlis-Avramopoulos reach agreement - They jointly decided on the modernization of New Democracy - Open line of communication and cooperation for victory in the next general elections".

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