|Saturday, 18 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-04-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greek urban dwellers begin massive exodus for Easter holiday
Athens, 28/04/2000 (ANA)Greek urban dwellers began on Thursday their traditional Easter exodus in epic numbers this year, via trains, planes boats and cars.
Olympic Airways flights were full, despite an increase in seat capacity in light of the holidays, Greek Railway Organization (OSE) tickets were exhausted even though there was an increase from 20 to 40 per cent in seating capacity for travel to and from the Peloponnese and Macedonia.
Even the least preferred intercity buses of KTEL ticket sales rose to such an unexpected high that extra buses were put into service and departed as soon as they were full.
The high drama of the weekenders, however, was once again reserved for travel to the islands via boats as port authorities issued an advisory requesting of passengers to avoid the port if they do not already have tickets as boats have been booked to capacity.
Last but not least, highway police have planned to facilitate travel on both highways leading out of Athens where traffic on Thursday was already above the average of years past during this time.
Thessaloniki residents, also, planned their escape for the Easter long weekend despite the rainy weather and the unseasonably low temperatures, heading mostly for the Halkidiki peninsula vacation spots. Many residents of the largest urban centers in northern Greece, planned their holiday in Istanbul, taking advantage of the thaw in Greek-Turkish relations, to visit the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate. Other destinations with record ticket sales were Italy, England and the islands of the Aegean and Ionian Seas.
 Easter messages issued by Patriarch, other Orthodox leaders
Athens, 28/04/2000 (ANA)Many of Orthodoxy's top ecclesiastical leaders issued Easter messages this week, in light of the Eastern Church's Holy Week and Easter Sunday over the weekend.
"Christ, resurrected from the dead, who became the first born of the deceased, is ready to bestow resurrection, the passage from death to life to all men who will entrust their lives in Him," Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos said in a message.
The Patriarch emphasized that through Christ's grace man can be saved, while he wished the Orthodox faithful the world over "Christos Anesti", the ancient Greek salutation meaning, "Christ has Risen."
On his part, the head of the Autocephalus Orthodox Church of Greece, Archbishop Christodoulos, referred to the meaning and substance of Holy Easter, namely, the resurrection of Christ, saying that "this may seem to the unbeliever or even agnostic simply as an illusion, because they hear only words, view certain unintelligible rites, interpreting them only superficially.
"For the believer, however, all of these are the true experience of a living Christ," Christodoulos said.
Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos noted on his Easter message that the "grandiose celebration of Christ's resurrection dawns hopeful, filling with joy every human heart - certifying that in the midwinter of life is succeeded by spring."
He adds: "This joyous day of our Lord's resurrection unfortunately finds our people continuing the uphill course towards Calvary. In our enslaved towns and villages the 'Christos Anesti' will again not be heard this year..." the Cypriot Archbishop said in a direct reference to the ongoing Turkish occupation of one-third of the island republic's territory.
Finally, Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania Anastasios stresses, among others, that "today we are celebrating the elevation of Jesus Christ above everything and everyone in honoring His resurrection."
President Stephanopoulos arrives in Patras for Easter holiday: President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos arrived in Patras, Peloponnese, on Thursday night to spend the Easter holiday with his family. He will visit the university hospital at Rio on Easter day to wish well to patients at the orthopedics clinic.
Premier Simitis arrives in Corfu for Easter weekend: Prime Minister Costas Simitis arrived in Corfu on Thursday along with his family to observe there the Easter weekend.
Speaking to journalists he said that he was very happy to be at the northwestern Greek island, calling it one of the most beautiful places in the country.
Along with Simitis, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou also arrived in Corfu with his family for his Easter holiday celebrations.
 US, Greek, Turkish FMs to meet in New York
WASHINGTON, 28/04/2000 (ANA)S State Department spokesman James Rubin announced on Thursday that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will meet with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem in New York next week.
"She is scheduled to travel to New York for that dialogue," Rubin said.
Rubin did not provide any details on the meeting, noting that he will be leaving the post of State Department spokesman.
 Greek Turkish FMs to receive award in New York
NEW YORK, 28/04/2000 (ANA)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem will be awarded the East-West Institute's "Statesman of the Year Award" on Tuesday in New York.
The institute decided to award Papandreou and Cem for their work in Greek-Turkish rapprochement, since the Aug. 17 earthquake in Istanbul and the Sept. 7 earthquake in Athens.
The award ceremony will take place during the investment conference "Moving towards an integrated Europe: Investment opportunities in Southeastern Europe", organized by the East-West Institute on that same day.
Along with the two foreign ministers, Greece's EKAM and Turkey's AKUT, search and rescue units, will also be awarded for their efforts to rescue survivors in both neighboring countries.
 EU downplays Reckers statement on Greek euro-zone entry
BRUSSELS, 28/04/2000 (ANA- G.Daratos)The European Union's executive Commission on Thursday downplayed statements a day earlier by Hans Reckers, a Bundesbank council member, that Greek euro-zone entry should be delayed by a year.
"We hear different commentators in different quarters express their opinions. At this stage we neither wish nor have anything to comment on," the Commission's press spokesperson said in reply to a reporter's question.
Sources at the Commission's general secretariat said that the European Central Bank's (ECB) board met on Thursday and gave its recommendation on Greek entry into the euro zone on the target date of January 1, 2001 to Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes.
The same sources said this was an unofficial move aimed at avoiding a divergence of opinion between the ECB and the Commission, which makes its recommendation on May 3.
The Commission's recommendation would be in Greece's favor, the sources said.
 German gov't official says Reckers' statement has no practical import
BERLIN, 28/04/2000 (ANA-P.Stangos)A statement by Hans Reckers, a Bundesbank council member, that Greek euro-zone entry should be delayed by a year has no practical import, an official of the German finance ministry told the Athens News Agency on Thursday.
The statement, made on Wednesday, would have no impact on the process of deciding whether or not Greece qualified for entry into the 11-member euro club, the official said.
The official added that the German government wished to see Greece join the euro zone "as soon as possible."
Reckers was expressing a personal opinion on Greece's entry, and was not speaking as a representative of the Bundesbank.
 Greek stocks end up in technical rebound
Athens, 28/04/2000 (ANA)Equity prices ended higher on Thursday reversing a three-day decline which pushed the market 5.64 percent lower on the Athens Stock Exchange.
Dealers said trading conditions were subdued ahead of a four-day Easter holiday in the market and described the change of direction to technical buying. Turnover fell to 75 billion drachmas to its lowest levels in the last 12 months.
The general index ended at 4,249.45 points, up 2.46 percent. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 2.04 percent higher at 2,405.91 points and the FTSE/ASE 40 index 3.38 percent up at 563.06 points.
The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks ended at 715.37 points, up 5.59 percent.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 309 to 29 with another eight issues unchanged.
Hellenic Telecoms, Commercial Bank, Alpha Credit Bank and ETBAbank were the most heavily traded stocks.
Derivatives prices change direction, end higher: Derivatives prices ended higher on the last trading session of a shortened week on the Athens Derivatives Exchange reflecting gains in the two benchmark indices, FTSE/ASE 20 and FTSE/ASE 40.
Turnover was a moderate 8.5 billion drachmas.
A total of 1,148 futures contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 20 index, worth 5.3 billion drachmas. The May expiring contract ended at 2,421 points, the June at 2,415, the July at 2,404 and the September contract at 2,380 points.
A total of 1,574 futures contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 40 index worth 3.2 billion drachmas. The May expiring contract ended at 557.50 points and the June contract at 547.75 points.
Bonds rise in buy-oriented trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market rose in moderate buy-oriented trade on Friday.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 6.01 percent from 6.15 percent a day earlier and 6.12 percent on Tuesday.
The paper's yield spread over German bunds was 81 basis points from around 82 basis points in the previous session and 78 basis points on Tuesday.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 83 billion drachmas from 157 billion drachmas a day earlier and 24 billion drachmas on Tuesday.
Of Thursday's total, buy orders accounted for 56 billion drachmas of turnover.
 Central bank again intervenes at fix
Athens, 28/04/2000 (ANA)The drachma on Thursday fell against the euro during trade and dropped against the US dollar at the fix in the domestic foreign exchange market.
The Bank of Greece intervened to nudge up the national currency, selling around 140 million euros after selling 450 million euros in the previous session.
At the central bank's daily fixing, the euro was set at 336.100 drachmas.
Also at the fixing, the US dollar was set at 365.400 drachmas.
 ASE-weekly review
Athens, 28/04/2000 (ANA)The Athens Stock Exchange was hit by combination of intensive speculation, negative climate among investors and low liquidity during the four-day week ahead of the Easter holidays.
News of an official legal prosecution on allegations of stock share manipulation and comments by a Bundesbank council member calling for a delay of Greece's EMU membership by one year, were the driving forces behind a sharp fall in equity prices during the week.
The Greek market's total capitalization value fell below 50 trillion drachmas, losing almost 30 trillion drachmas from its record highs in summer 1999.
Dealers and analysts, however, agree that several share prices looked extremely attractive at their current levels with their P/E ratios at their lowest levels in the last two years.
The general index ended the week 3.32 percent lower at 4,249.45 points. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 3.30 percent and the FTSE/ASE 40 index ended 5.29 percent lower.
Trading conditions were subdued with turnover shrinking to its lowest levels in the last 12 months on Thursday. The week's turnover totalled 369.22 billion drachmas, to a daily average of 92.305 billion drachmas, from 157.888 billion the previous week.
The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks suffered the heaviest weekly losses at -8.63%.
 Alpha Bank shows profit drop in first quarter
Athens, 28/04/2000 (ANA)Alpha Bank, the country's second largest commercial bank, on Thursday reported first quarter net profits of 29 billion drachmas, down from 58.7 billion drachmas in the same period of 1999.
The decline was due to exceptionally lucrative financial transactions conducted in the first quarter of last year due to market conditions at the time, the bank said in a statement.
Performance is expected to improve in the second quarter of 2000 due to declining interest rates, the statement said.
Alpha's legal merger with Ionian Bank, which it acquired in a privatization tender last year, has been completed and Ionian no longer trades separately on the Athens Stock Exchange.
The two banks' operational merger is due for completion by the end of August at the latest.
 EFG Eurobank gets stake in Romanian bank
Athens, 28/04/2000 (ANA)EFG Eurobank said on Thursday it had agreed to buy a stake in Banc Post SA of Romania, one of the largest commercial banks in the Balkan country.
Banc Post SA has a network of 130 branches, total assets of 365 million US dollars, and pre-tax profits of 14.4 million US dollars.
Under the terms of the agreement, Banco Portugues de Investimento of Portugal will also become a strategic investor in the Romanian bank.
The deal is part of a plan by EFG Eurobank, a member of the Latsis shipping, oil and banking group, to expand in the Balkans. It already holds a stake in Bulgarian Post Bank
 Quake measuring 5.1 on Richter scale hits Aegion
Athens, 28/04/2000 (ANA)An earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale was recorded just after 10 p.m. on Thursday, off the coast of Aegion, northern Peloponnese, 150 kilometers southwest of Athens, the Athens Observatory reported.
No injuries or damages were reported at press time.
The earthquake was felt on both sides of the Gulf of Corinth that is in the northern Peloponnese and mainland Greece.
The city of Aegion was again hit by a destructive earthquake in the summer of 1995, killing a number of people and causing serious damage to the city's infrastructure.
 Health minister visits Venizeleio hospital in Irakleio
Athens, 28/04/2000 (ANA)Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos made an unannounced visit to the Venizeleio hospital in Irakleio, Crete, on Thursday, a day on which it was not on duty, held talks with the hospital's president Haralambos Doulgerakis and toured the premises, as well as the wards for outpatients.
Papadopoulos, who did not conceal his displeasure, said "I can imagine that on days when the hospital is on duty there must be absolute congestion."
According to reports, Papadopoulos said the hospital requires speedy restructuring and promised to make efforts as soon as possible to have the outpatients' wards extended.
 Four people arrested in raid on synthetic drug laboratory
Athens, 28/04/2000 (ANA)Four people were arrested, including a Bulgarian chemist, and one man was wanted in a police raid on a hi-tech illegal synthetic drug manufacturing laboratory in Corinth, police said Thursday.
They said 20,000 amphetamine pills, hi-tech equipment, large quantities of chemical substances in unlabeled plastic barrels, and several large generators were confiscated in the raid Wednesday afternoon.
Amphetamine pills were found hidden in some of the generators, leading police to believe that the generators were used to convey the illegal synthetic drugs out of the laboratory, housed in an independent 200 sq.m. building inside the fenced in installations of the KOSMOFARM medicine and cosmetics industry in Kazarma, Corinth, owned by the brothers Nikolaos and Emmanuel Frestas.
Emmanuel Frestas, 57, was arrested in the raid, while a warrant was issued for the arrest of his 61-year-old brother Nikos.
Also arrested were chemist Laza Filkor, 44, a Bulgarian national, electrician Pavlos Karabinas, 69, and electronics expert Ioannis Saridakis, 44.
Police said the illegal laboratory produced large quantities daily of synthetic drugs over the past two years, and an investigation was underway whether more people were involved.
 French count donates Ottoman-era mansion to municipality of Rhodes
Athens, 28/04/2000 (ANA)French count Marc-Rene De Montalembert, whose ancestors belonged to the Order of the Knights Templar and also lived on the island of Rhodes, bought a big mansion next to the walls of the medieval city and established a foundation in memory of his son Marc De Montalembert, who lost his life while diving in the Aegean Sea in July, 1993, at the age of 21. The foundation will bear Marc's name.
Montalembert and his wife Manuela renovated the Ottoman-era mansion and donated it to the municipality of Rhodes to become a center where, as he said, "small groups of people will be able to exchange ideas and information, discuss and converse on various issues concerning Mediterranean cultures."
The purpose of the foundation is to promote the neighboring Church of Saint Mark, join the garden behind and preserve the Saint George monastery, the mansion and the medieval walls.
The whole issue started in 1995, while work to restore the mansion started four years ago with support by the municipality of Rhodes and close cooperation with the Culture Ministry.
The foundation will be inaugurated by the Mayor of Rhodes George Yiannopoulos on May 2, the name day of Saint Mark.
 Ombudsman's Office releases 1999 annual report
Athens, 28/04/2000 (ANA)Some 57 percent of grievances taken in 1999 to the Citizens' Advocate, or Ombudsman, were settled in favor of the citizen, according to the Ombudsman Office's annual report on 1999 released Thursday.
The report also said that an increasing number of citizens were turning to the Citizens' Advocate for a solution to their problems with the public administration.
The institution of Citizens' Advocate was legislated in February 1997, and the Ombudsman's Office first opened its doors to the public in October 1998, with the purpose of operating as an independent authority in arbitrating problems between citizens and the state.
According to the report, there was a substantial increase last year in the number of citizens' complaints filed with the Ombudsman, most of which concerned problems in the health sector, over the use of land, with the Tax Bureau, and in State-citizen relations.
The Ombudsman, as an extra-judicial mechanism, saves time and money for the citizen, as the citizens' problems are tackled on an individual basis.
At a second stage, however, similar problems are grouped together and instances of mismanagement and the deeper causes of the problems are collated, after which the Ombudsman's Office drafts recommendations to the authoritative agencies on changes or regulations in the individual sectors, and on occasion it also recommends legislative regulations.
Presenting the 1999 report to the media, Citizens' advocate Prof. Nikiforos Diamantouros, the institution's guiding tenet was the "rationale of resolving problems" rather than the "rationale of vocalizing problems", which he said was prevalent in Greek society.
Diamantouros attributed the people's positive response to the Ombudsman's arbitration role to the fact that the institution was effective and also to the fact that Greek society was in a stage of evolution that demanded improvement in the quality of both social and civil services offered to the citizen.
In 1999, he said, the Ombudsman's Office received 7,284 complaints while another 939 grievances that had been submitted in 1998 were settled in 1999.
In a breakdown by category, the total 8,223 complaints dealt with in 1999 concerned Human and Individual Rights (1,212 complaints or 14.74 percent), Social Protection (2,260 complaints or 27.48 percent), Quality of Life (2,068 grievances or 25.15 percent), and Citizen-State Relations (2,683 complaints or 32.63 percent).
 Government terms reports relating to Libyan diplomat as a 'non-issue'
NICOSIA, 28/04/2000 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus, Libya and Britain appear to be entangled in reports, carried by a local newspaper, relating to the expulsion from the UK of a Libyan diplomat, now serving as Ambassador to Cyprus.
The government of the Republic of Cyprus says it will look into the report but has nothing against the diplomat, London does not wish to comment on the matter and the Libyan Ambassador blames British intelligence for defamation.
"As far as we are concerned this is a non-issue. We have no reason to be concerned about the presence of the Libyan Ambassador here,"
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has said, noting that the reproduction of information, which appeared, on the Internet cannot constitute cause for concern.
Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said on Thursday the government is looking into the matter to establish whether the report is valid and noted that the government has no information against the Libyan Ambassador here Khalifa Ahmed Bazelya.
In a letter to the press, Bazelya said the British secret service have launched a campaign of "lies and unfounded allegations against people simply because they have remained faithful to their country."
The Ambassador wonders, in his letter, why the report appeared at a time when relations between Libya and Cyprus are improving in terms of trade and investment.
A British High Commission (embassy) spokesman here said he did not wish to comment on the press report, noting that it is not London's practice to comment on such matters.
The report, which circulated on the Internet and was reproduced by the Cypriot daily "Politis", alleged that Bazelya had links with the IRA, enlisted agents, was involved in illegal financial deals and in activities incompatible with his status (spying).