|Wednesday, 29 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-10-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece considers requesting NATO to call off remainder of Destined Glory 2000 exercise
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Greeces appropriate action should be to call for the immediate discontinuation of NATOs military exercise Destined Glory 2000, if the unobstructed participation of all countries taking part in the exercise was not secured, Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said on Thursday, following a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
He added that if the unobstructed participation of all countries were not secured then the exercise would lose all legal basis.
Tsohatzopoulos' statement came in the wake of a week-long attempt by Turkey to block the Greek Air force war planes from using air corridors over the eastern Aegean Greek islands of Limnos and Ikaria, during their participation in Destined Glory 2000, despite the fact that the alliance planned and approved the use of the corridors.
In earlier statements to the press, Tsohatzopoulos also stressed that none of NATO members was willing to see the exercise of the alliance downgraded and transformed into a stage for Turkey to voice its claims against everyone else.
Thursdays exercise program included a joint operation of Greek A7 Corsairs and RF4 with Turkish F-16 fighters in central Aegean, between the Greek islands of Skyros and Mytilene and was concluded without problems
On its part, a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman, in Ankara on Thursday, said that NATO prepared new plans as Turkish military authorities took necessary measures and lodged the relevant objection with NATO.
Tsohatzopoulos, referring to the joint military exercise of Greek Armed Forces and Cyprus' National Guard, entitled "Nikiforos-Toxotis" performed once every two years, said that the "presence" of Turkish aircraft was marked by a tendency to avoid engagements with Greek aircraft.
Nikiforos-Toxotis exercise: Turkish fighter jets on Thursday infringed on the Athens' and Nicosia's Flight Information Region (FIR) to contradict "Nikiforos-Toxotis" exercise, reports said.
According to the same reports, 28 Turkish aircraft infringed on Athens' FIR 10 times over the Greek island of Rhodes and Nicosia's FIR 4 times. Greek warplanes intercepted the Turkish planes in every instance, while in six cases the interception led to unarmed engagement.
According to a Cyprus News Agency (CNA) dispatch from Nicosia, Turkish military jets harassed two Greek air force fighters on their way to Cyprus to participate in the annual military maneuvers.
"Turkish fighters tried to buzz two A-7 Corsair jets as they were flying towards Cyprus for the exercise," a spokesman for the Cyprus defense ministry told CNA on Thursday.
He said the Turkish fighters were intercepted by other Greek jets and the two Corsair aircraft continued on their course unhindered.
"The Greek jets were flying over Cyprus at ten in the morning, they took part in the maneuvers, they hit their targets successfully and completed their mission," the spokesman added.
Replying to questions, he said Greek aircraft will return on Friday for the "Nikiforos" annual exercises, which end Saturday.
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides will observe part of the exercise on Friday, while Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos travels to Cyprus on Friday to watch the final part of the exercise on Saturday, the CNA dispatch added.
FM briefs Parliament on NATO exercise developments: Foreign Minister George Papandreou during an in camera meeting briefed the Parliamentary National Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, on developments regarding NATO's "Destined Glory 2000" exercise, reports said.
According to the same reports, Papandreou said that Greece would request the discontinuation of the NATO exercise codenamed "Destined Glory" in the event there is no return to what had been initially agreed, following the complication created by Turkey's policy of intercepting Greek aircraft participating in the exercise.
Papandreou reportedly said the NATO exercise should return to its regular framework. If this is applied and confirmed, the exercise will continue. Otherwise, Greece will request the discontinuation of the exercise and if it is not discontinued Greece will withdraw.
The meeting focused on an analysis of developments linked to "Destined Glory" and the joint exercise between Greece and Cyprus codenamed "Nikiforos-Toxotis", the reports said.
Government spokesman: Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas on Thursday did not rule out the possibility of Greece withdrawing from the NATO "Destined Glory" exercise.
Meanwhile the Greek government accused NATO of weakness in handling the issue concerning Turkey's unilateral demand that Greek warplanes should not fly in the air corridors over Limnos and Ikaria during the exercise.
Stressing the alliance's weakness, the spokesman said Greece wants NATO to guarantee that everything will go according to the initial planning of the exercise.
Reppas made no comment on Greek reactions, saying that Greece will wait for the alliance's reply to determine its stance.
He also said that National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos would depart for Cyprus over the weekend to observe the military exercise "Nikiforos."
Greek defense minister briefs NATO Secretary General on problems in "Destined Glory 2000": Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos had a telephone conversation on Thursday with NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson, in light of developments in the alliance's exercise "Destined Glory 2000", sources said.
Tsohatzopoulos briefed Robertson on Greek positions regarding Turkish action during the exercise, noting that if the unobstructed participation of all countries in the exercise was not secured regarding all military branches or its geographic spectrum, then Greece would act accordingly, the sources added.
Tsohatzopoulos also noted the political dimension of the problem within NATO, following developments during the exercise, they said.
The sources noted that the two men might communicate again on Friday.
 EU's Verheugen reiterates that Helsinki summit Turkey's roadmap for accession
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)European Union Commission for enlargement Guenter Verheugen reiterated here on Thursday his position that EU-Turkey cooperation should be based solely on agreements stemming from last year's Helsinki summit.
Verheugen arrived in Athens for contacts with Greek leadership, including Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou, with talks ranging from the Union's expansion to the long-standing Cyprus problem.
"We discussed with Mr. Simitis how important it is to apply, in practice, the conclusions of the (Helsinki) summit meeting," he said, adding that such a development could improve Greek-Turkish relations.
Regarding Cyprus issue, the EU Commissioner was laconic in his comments, simply mentioning that "the United Nations and the Commission agree over the Cyprus matter."
Furthermore, Verheugen said he briefed the Greek FM over the compilation of a text regarding the EU-Turkey partnership agreement, while touching on several outstanding points in the overall preparations focusing on Turkey's pre-accession strategy.
"The basic goal of our efforts is to ensure peace and stability in the region, on the one hand, as well as democracy and justice, protection of minorities and respect for human rights, on the other. And, finally, the establishment of political preconditions for the improvement of economic development," he said, adding that language in the partnership agreement will be based "to a large extent, on the discussion we had this morning".
On his part, Papandreou noted that the EU Commissioner is working for a "European Turkey", before adding that Athens also wants to help promote Turkey's European and democratic vocation.
He also reiterated that Turkey's European orientation will allow for an improvement in Greek-Turkish relations and for a solution of the Cyprus problem based on UN resolutions.
In reference to the partnership agreement, he said Athens wants necessary reforms included, "which we believe are in the interests of not only Turkey but the greater region as well."
Finally, asked if a resolution of the Cyprus problem is a condition for Turkey's EU accession, Verheugen downplayed the term "conditions".
"My conviction is that a real and substantive procedure of democratic reforms in Turkey will commence very soon, as the preconditions of resolution for political conflicts are created," he concluded.
 General overview of government's progress by cabinet, Reppas says
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)A cabinet meeting on Thursday examined the overall course of the government's work so far and its political planning for the coming period, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.
According to Reppas, the important issues up until the end of the year and beyond are the revision of the Constitution, the budget that is being tabled on November 1, the tax bill, the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF) and deregulating the telecoms market.
The spokesman said the meeting also mentioned the Athens 2004 Olympics, where he said there had been some progress and that the goals set would be achieved. The gathered ministers, he added, had noted the need for effectiveness in all activities related to the Olympiad.
Another point raised at the meeting was the bad publicity given to certain issues regarding the Olympics preparations, so that relatively minor details were given too much coverage and the important progress that had been made was overlooked.
Reppas said the cabinet ministers noted the need to speed up the government's efforts to implement the policies that had been decided and approved in the recent elections, and whose goals were a strong society with emphasis on health, education and social security.
In the provinces, meanwhile, the cabinet said that the government must take measures to ensure transparency.
According to Reppas, there were often problems with the civil service in the periphery, especially in dealings with the public, which were not of the quality and transparency that the government would like.
Asked if the government would be able "to find its way again", Reppas said that the current crisis was similar to when the government had fallen behind in the Euro-elections and then won the national elections. In the same way, he said, it would now regroup its forces and by implementing its program, it believed that the Greek people would judge its work positively.
 Papandreou to attend NATO parliamentary assembly in Budapest - Cem, Papandreou to get award
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou will travel to Budapest after a US tour next week to attend a NATO parliamentary assembly on October 30-31, foreign ministry spokesman Panagiotis Beglitis said on Thursday.
Beglitis said that both Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem would be awarded at the NATO meeting for the contribution to peace, but that there were no plans for a meeting between the two men on the sidelines of the event.
With regard to the problems arising with Greece's participation in the NATO exercise "Destined Glory" in Turkey, foreign ministry spokesman Panagiotis Beglitis said that Athens was completely satisfied with NATO's handling of the affair. The violations of the agreements by Turkey, he added, were a problem that concerned NATO's relations with Turkey.
"Our participation in the exercise secures our interests," he said.
In response to questions, Beglitis said that the problems, which arose, justified Greek positions that it should only discuss confidence-building measures in the Aegean within the framework of NATO.
Beglitis also announced a visit by Turkish Vice-President Mesut Yilmaz to Athens on November 2-3, at the invitation of the Greek-Turkish Business Council, to take part in a conference entitled "Greece-Turkey-European Union: prospects for economic cooperation."
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos inaugurates Patriarchate's office in Athens
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos inaugurated offices to represent the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Athens on Thursday, in the presence of Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos and other members of the Greek Orthodox clergy.
The new offices will be at Neophytou Douka 9, Kolonaki, in a building that formerly belonged to the National Bank of Greece. They will begin operating immediately, under Pergamos Metropolitan Ioannis.
Also present were Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Deputy Foreign Minister Angeliki Laiou, Deputy Education Minister Philippos Petsalnikos, Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis and Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos.
Earlier, Vartholomeos had met a representative of Prime Minister Costas Simitis at his hotel, as well as the leader of the Coalition of the Left and Progress party, Nikos Constantopoulos.
It was also announced that Archbishop Christodoulos had accepted an invitation to dine with the Prime Minister on October 24.
In speeches during the opening, both the Patriarch and Archbishop Christodoulos said that the new offices would help cement ties between the two Churches and improve communication.
Ecumenical Patriarch meets FM Papandreou: Visiting Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Thursday evening met with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and discussed the course of Greek-Turkish relations, Greek minority issues in Turkey and efforts to reopen the Halki Theology School of the Patriarchate.
The two men also discussed conditions of the Greek Orthodox Church in North America, in light of Papandreou's visit to the United States and the participation of the Patriarch in an international conference on environmental issues.
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos meets with Karamanlis, Constantopoulos: Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos met with New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis on Thursday, who said he had a very useful and constructive talk with the Patriarch.
In statements afterward, Karamanlis described Vartholomeos as a great international figure that is respected and honored by all, not just the Christian world.
"I believe that the Greek Orthodox Church played a great part in our history and in creating our identity and heritage," Karamanlis continued. "In an age of uncontrolled internationalization, it is exactly this heritage that can give us the strength to withstand the trend to homogenization."
"It is this heritage that can allow the Greek Orthodox Church and Hellenism to re-instill the ideals of humanism and culture, that the modern world so needs," he concluded.
In a meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch on Thursday, Coalition of the Left and Progress leader Nikos Constantopoulos outlined his views for the separation of Church and State.
Ecumenical Patriarch attends event at Archaeological Society: Visiting Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos attended an event given in his honor at the Athens Archaeological Society on Thursday night along with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos.
Vartholomeos spoke in the event, addressing the issue of "love that is never lost" and said that during his official visit last year Christodoulos coined medals bearing their images and noting that love is never lost.
Archbishop Christodoulos said on his part that the presence of the Patriarch among us "strengthens the resistance spirit within us and the strength to raise our voice against the expropriation and spiritual bankruptcy of our people."
 Foreign Minister meets new leader of Cyprus party in Athens
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou met the new leader of the Democratic Party of Cyprus (DHKO) Tassos Papadopoulos on Thursday, during a visit by the latter to Athens.
Papadopoulos was formerly a Cyprus Republic negotiator with the Turkish-Cypriot side and succeeds former DHKO leader Spyros Kyprianou.
The talks between the two men are part of a cycle of meetings between the foreign minister and Cypriot political leaders, in which Athens and Nicosia will try to coordinate their next moves in view of upcoming Cyprus proximity talks in Geneva and Cyprus' negotiations with the EU.
After the meeting, Papadopoulos said there had been "constructive cooperation" with Greece and underlined that Turkey should display a desire to have meaningful talks when it arrives for the fifth round of proximity talks in Geneva.
Both Papandreou and Papadopoulos stressed that a solution for the Cyprus problem should be based on the resolutions of the UN Security Council and should definitely take the form of a federation.
The DHKO leader described the bond between Greece and Cyprus as "brotherly," while saying that statements made by Kyprianou in the past had expressed the latter's concern that the national problem would slide toward solutions not beneficial for Hellenism.
 Papandreou to depart for 'grand tour' of US on Saturday
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou will have a series of meetings with Greek expatriates and US foreign-policy makers when he tours the United States next week, the foreign ministry announced on Thursday.
Papandreou departs for the US on Saturday and will visit Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Washington.
The aim of the "grand tour" is to rally the Greek expatriate community in view of upcoming US presidential elections on November 7 and to brief high-ranking US officials in the Republic and Democrat parties on Greek positions.
The foreign minister is scheduled to speak at US universities and to meet with representatives of foreign policy institutes, as well as the two shadow 'secretaries of state' for the two presidential candidates, Al Gore and George Bush.
 FM Papandreou and Israeli envoy Itzhik discuss developments in Middle East
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Thursday discussed latest developments in the Middle East crisis with visiting Israeli Environment Minister and member of the Israeli Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Dalia Itzhik.
Itzhik is visiting Athens as a personal envoy of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to brief the Greek government "at the highest possible level", foreign ministry sources said.
Itzhik called on Greece to take initiatives to contribute to detente in the Middle East and the resumption of peace talks due to its traditionally good relations with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and the Arab world, as well as its recently upgraded relations with Israel.
On his part, Papandreou said that Athens would examine whatever possibilities exist, including the possibility of undertaking an initiative with Turkey for detente in the Middle East.
Papandreou, according to reports, has discussed the issue in a recent telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem.
 Gov't says deregulation of passenger shipping to go ahead
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Merchant Marine Minister Christos Papoutsis said on Thursday that "the government will not bow to extortion and threats. Laws will be applied and the deregulation of passenger shipping will go ahead with steadfast and decisive steps."
Papoutsis was speaking in the wake of statements made on Wednesday by the President of the Minoan Lines company, Costas Klironomos, that "now that the Merchant Marine Ministry has granted operating licenses to other companies, whoever comes to Crete will not have a very nice time."
Papoutsis said "all should realize that the era of privileged and exclusive lines for exploitation has finished for good", adding that "the criterion for our policy is the service and security of citizens, healthy competition and protection of the public interest."
 Former ND leader Evert files suit against former merchant marine minister, Minoan Lines, competition commission
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Former New Democracy leader Miltiadis Evert, on Thursday filed a suit with Supreme Court prosecutor Panagiotis Dimopoulos regarding the shipwreck of the "Express Samina," in which 80 people drowned.
Evert's suit targets former merchant marine minister Stavros Soumakis, the chairman and vice-chairman of shipping firms Minoan Lines and Minoan Flying Dolphins, Constantine Klironomos and Pantelis Sfinias, and against the top-ranking staff in the Competition Commission.
Most of Evert's charges concern the virtual monopoly that Minoan Lines was allowed to develop in Aegean passenger shipping, which he claims allowed the company to continue using substandard vessels on island routes.
 Russian experts conclude flights inspection, as part of Open Skies treaty
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Russian experts on Friday concluded inspection flights over the Greek territory as part of the International Treaty on the Open Skies, an Itar-Tass report from Moscow said on Thursday.
This inspection concludes "trial flights" by Russian inspectors over the territories of the United States and European countries, parties to the Treaty, in 2000, Tass was told by Fyodor Syomkin, representative of the Russian Nuclear Risk Reduction Center.
The tenth Russian inspection, the last for this year, was made from Larissa airfield, 200 kilometers north of Athens, on board a Russian An-30B aircraft.
Russian inspectors made flights over military facilities in northern and central Greece, thus reciprocating the Greek visit to Russia in the first half of April 2000, and logged about 900 kilometers. The flight was strictly in accord with the provisions of the Treaty. Photographs were processed and received by both sides.
The Treaty on the Open Skies was signed by 27 countries of Europe, United States and Canada in 1992 and was ratified by all countries, expect Russia and Belarus. Its main purpose is aerial control over military activity. The Treaty can also apply to other activities -- control over the environment and over zones of emergency situations.
 EU commissioner welcomes Greek fund absorption measures
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)The European Union commissioner for regional policy, Michel Barnier, on Tuesday welcomed new mechanisms the Greek government is arranging to aid the absorption of funds from the Third Community Support Framework.
Barnier was speaking after a meeting in Athens with National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, who briefed the commissioner on the absorption measures contained in a bill to be voted in parliament in coming days.
Barnier also welcomed Greece's contribution to the inter-governmental conference.
On Friday, the commissioner is due to meet Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis. He will then travel to Crete for a briefing on co-funded EU projects being carried out on the island.
 GSEE threatens new strike unless labor measures are withdrawn
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), on Thursday, called on the government to withdraw measures on labor market deregulation, threatening to call a new 24-hour nationwide strike in the second half of November.
GSEE noted that it allowed for "time limit" of up to November 9 before a GSEE plenary session would convene to decide on the issue.
Trade unionists believe the extensive participation of working people in the strike called on October 10 constitutes a "message" to the government and strengthens the positions of both GSEE and the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY). They have also decided to increase their claims, upgrading the issue of incomes policy and extending their opposition to social expenditure cutbacks.
 Greek stocks rebound strongly on ASE
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Equity prices rebounded strongly on Thursday, reversing a three-day sharp decline, which pushed the market to the 3,600 level - the "fair value" level according to a prediction by Morgan Stanley in September.
Traders said buying interest intensified in the second half of the session with domestic and foreign investors seeking blue chip stocks, particularly in the banks sector.
Analysts said the rebound was a normal reaction of the market, following its fall to very attractive price-levels and an improved climate in European bourses. They remained cautious, however, over the market's ability to remain on an upward trend as liquidity remained at very low levels.
Shares in the construction sector came under heavy selling pressure as investors took early profits.
The general index ended 2.41 percent higher at 3,715.01 points, off the day's highs of 3,724.39 points and the day's lows of 3,622.56. Turnover was an improved 63.04 billion drachmas.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 2.59 percent higher at 2,137.52 points, and the FTSE/ASE 40 index rose 1.40 percent to 450.31 points.
Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: 7,837.17 +2.83% Leasing: 558.45 +1.12% Insurance: 1,898.86 -0.29% Investment: 1,398.46 +1.39% Construction: 1,801.69 -2.85% Industrials: 2,132.78 +3.14% Miscellaneous: 3,324.12 +1.20% Holding: 4,237.97 +4.53%
The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks ended 0.55 percent lower at 444.60 points. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 273 to 74 with another nine issues unchanged.
Alpha Bank, National Bank, Hellenic Telecoms, Lambrakis Press and Intracom were the most heavily traded stocks.
Leading shares' closing prices (in Drs): National Bank: 14,450 Titan Cement (c): 13,915 Alpha Bank: 14,150 Hellenic Telecoms: 7,100 Commercial Bank: 17,410 Panafon: 3,180 Hellenic Petroleum: 3,600 Eurobank: 10,500 Attica Enterprises: 3,000 Piraeus Bank: 6,025 Intracom: 10,175 Lambrakis Press: 6,750 Minoan Lines: 2,270 Heracles Cement: 4,985
Hellenic Bottling: 4,995
Equity futures end up, tracking Athens bourse: Equity futures traded on the Athens Derivatives Exchange finished higher on Thursday, in line with the indices on which they are based.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 2.59 percent up, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 1.40 percent higher.
Turnover was 15.2 billion drachmas.
A total of 2,803 contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 20 with turnover at 11.9 billion drachmas.
On the FTSE/ASE 40 index, 1,773 contracts changed hands on turnover of 3.2 billion drachmas.
Bond prices end mixed in brisk trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Thursday finished mixed in moderate to heavy trade.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.972 percent from 5.945 percent a day earlier.
The Greek paper's yield spread over German bunds was 77 basis points from 78 basis points in the previous session.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 132 billion drachmas from 78 billion drachmas in the trading day before.
Of the total, buy orders accounted for around half of trade.
Drachma down vs. euro, dollar: The drachma on Thursday ended lower against the flagging euro and the US dollar in the domestic foreign exchange market.
At the central bank's daily fixing, the euro was set at 339.470 drachmas from 339.420 drachmas in the previous session.
Also at the fix, the dollar was set at 402.570 drachmas from 397.350 drachmas a trading day earlier.
The central bank intervened at the fix, selling 17 million euros.
 Papantoniou to address Greek entry to EMU, Cyprus accession to EU
NICOSIA, 20/10/2000 (ANA-G. Leonidas)National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou will address an event organized by the Cyprus Chamber of Trade and Industry on next Friday, in Nicosia.
Papantoniou's address will focus on "Greece in the EMU, Cyprus in the European Union", informing Cyprus' businessmen on developments since Greece's accession to the Economic Monetary Union (EMU) and Cyprus' accession course to the European Union.
 Deputy FM to attend Black Sea Cooperation Organization meeting
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Angeliki Laiou will depart for Bucharest, Romania, on Friday to represent Greece at the 3rd session of the Black Sea Cooperation Organization (BSCP) Foreign Ministers conference.
OSEP got underway in 1992 as an informal intergovernmental meeting on Black Sea Economic Cooperation and was converted into an international economic organization on May 1, 1999.
The aim of the organization, of which 11 countries are members, is to contribute to the achievement of peace, security and stability in the region through economic cooperation. The organizations headquarters is in Istanbul, Turkey, while the Black Sea Development and Trade Bank, which is OSEP's funding apparatus headquartered in Thessaloniki, Greece, belongs to its structures.
 Banking group says market ready for euro conversions
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Domestic banks will be ready to handle euro to drachma conversions in accounting form from January 1, 2001, Christos Gortsos, general secretary of the Union of Greek Banks, said on Thursday.
By the end of November, the union will have prepared a code of conduct for the conversions, which will not carry commissions, Gortsos told a news conference.
He also announced that a major international banking conference would be held in Athens in May 2001 in conjunction with the Union of American Banks.
 Sarandis, Estee Lauder plan joint Balkan venture
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Sarandis SA, which is listed on the Athens bourse, and Estee Lauder have signed a preliminary agreement for a joint venture.
Under the terms of the deal, a new Athens-based company would be created to manage the US cosmetics group's interests in the Balkans.
Estee Lauder would hold 51 percent of stock, and Sarandis, 49 percent with Grigoris Sarandis as managing director.
 Hochtief rejects FT report that Spata airport behind target
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)The public works ministry on Thursday released a copy of a letter from engineering contractor Hochtief of Germany to the Financial Times, responding to a report in the daily newspaper that claimed construction of a new international airport for Athens at Spata was behind schedule.
The text of the letter is as follows:
"In the Financial Times of October 17, 2000 you wrote that Athens International Airport is 'not quite ready for take-off.' In your article, you refer among other to the statements of 'a senior Hochtief official'. Even if they worked round the clock, the technical facility couldn't be ready next spring. And whatever promises the contractors may make it's hard to see the road ready by March 1.'
"We attach utmost importance to pointing out that we do not agree with these statements. We are, on the contrary, convinced that all parties involved - in particular the Greek government - will see to it that all facilities required for airport operation as well as the highway connection will be completed on time.
"We have no doubt that the airport will start operations on March 1, 2001."
 Private sector pays youth above legal minimum; survey says
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Most private sector companies are paying young recruits salaries above the minimum wage set in collective national wage agreements, a survey released on Thursday said.
The survey was conducted by the ICAP research group and international auditor PriceWaterHourse Coopers on a sample of 267 companies employing 7,656 people. Of the firms polled, 174 were Greek and 93 were foreign.
The Greek firms in the study that paid above the minimum raised their wage levels in line with the academic qualifications of the young people they hired with no previous experience in the labor market.
 Athens Mayor receives Russian newspaper publishers
Athens, 20/10/2000 (ANA)Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday received Russian newspaper publishers visiting Greece and during the meeting lauded Greek-Russian friendship and traditional bonds between the two countries.
The Russian publishers are in a tour to Greece and on Friday they are due to visit the monasteries of Meteora, central Greece.
 Germany wishes to see a reunited Cyprus State Minister says
NICOSIA, 20/10/2000 (CNA/ANA)Germany would like to see Cyprus reunited and its people, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, enjoy the same rights, German State Minister for Foreign Affairs Christoph Zoepel said here Thursday, adding that he expects the solution of the Cyprus question to be on the basis of UN positions.
Zoepel also said the two sides should go back to the negotiating table with proposals to help the talks, which resume in Geneva in early November, succeed.
Germany wishes to see a reunited Cyprus where Greek and Turkish Cypriots enjoy the same rights, Zoepel said, speaking through an interpreter, after a meeting here with Cyprus' chief negotiator with the European Union George Vassiliou.
Zoepel predicted that the problem would be solved on the basis of UN positions and with the help and support of the US.
He expressed hope that the new round of UN-led proximity talks, which starts in early November in Geneva, will promote such a settlement.
"I believe that to see this process succeed the two sides should go to the negotiations with proposals," said the German State Minister, who was accompanied by Berlin's ambassador in Nicosia and Germany's Cyprus envoy Peter Wittig.
Vassiliou said he had a very "useful and interesting" meeting with Zoepel during which they discussed all aspects of Cyprus' European accession course. Cyprus opened accession talks with the EU in 1998.
"I am pleased to say that there was full understanding and agreement. Germany clearly backs the EU positions adopted at the Helsinki summit last December and supports Cyprus in its bid to join the Union," Vassiliou said.
The German official also asked questions about funds belonging to former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic which according to foreign press allegations might have found their way to Cyprus, but produced no evidence to back claims to this effect.
"They raised the matter and I assured them very firmly that after thorough investigations the Central Bank has not found any indication that either Milosevic or his associates have deposited money here," Vassiliou said. He said the German officials promised to hand over to Nicosia any information they may gather on the matter.
 Clerides to meet Greek premier after Geneva proximity talks
NICOSIA, 20/10/2000 (CNA/ANA)President Glafcos Clerides will have a meeting with Greek Premier Costas Simitis after the conclusion of the fifth round of UN-sponsored proximity talks, due to end on 10 November, government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou announced here on Thursday.
"Nicosia and Athens coordinate their moves, they have decided on how to handle developments and at the end of the talks, they will analyze jointly the conclusions," Papapetrou told his daily press briefing.
The President will be in Geneva for the period 1 to 10 November for a fresh round of talks with UN Secretary General's Special Adviser for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, who arrives here Sunday.
Replying to questions on the talks, the spokesman said "President Clerides is strictly negotiating to achieve a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution which will be fully in line with UN resolutions and decisions."
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is seeking to establish through the peace talks a confederation of two separate states in Cyprus, a goal that is contrary to UN decisions.
Commenting on Denktash's remarks that high-ranking foreign officials do not understand the reality of the situation in Cyprus, Papapetrou pointed out that the entire world sees the situation on the island in a different light than Denktash.
The Turkish Cypriot leader had criticized remarks by the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that the world community recognizes only the Republic of Cyprus and not his puppet regime in the areas occupied by Turkey since 1974.
"The world and ourselves with it understand that the occupation army, the division of our country, the violation of human rights is an anomaly, an anachronism and this situation has nothing to do with international law and order," Papapetrou said.
The spokesman dismissed as distortion comments by Denktash that the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had said the two sides in Cyprus are politically equal.
"The UN have repeatedly said that in Cyprus they only recognize the Republic of Cyprus and not Denktash's self-styled regime," Papapetrou stressed.