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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-12-17

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.forthnet.gr/ape>


NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 17/12/1996 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Civil servants strike, but hope for a resolution
  • Scuffles dockside as dock-workers refuse to disembark passengers
  • Farmers appear to be scaling down protests while gov't stands firm
  • Gov't lashes out at Ciller's statements
  • Rifkind's proposals for Cyprus could be positive, Athens says
  • Funds for construction of major projects this week
  • Drilling rights awarded for four regions

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Civil servants strike but there is hope for a resolution

    National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou today held fruitless talks with representatives of the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) which began a 24-hour nationwide strike this morning.

    During the meeting however, Papantoniou left open the possibility of slight improvements being made to the final draft of the new pay scale for civil servants which will be submitted to ADEDY in January.

    A new meeting between ADEDY representatives and ministry officials is expected in the next few days.

    Papantoniou reiterated that the 1997 budget exhausted all margin for further state hand-outs, while the new pay scale proposed by the government gave civil servants increases higher than inflation.

    ADEDY President Yiannis Koutsoukos said he hoped the government would ''get the message'' from today's strike and effect improvements to the pay scale.

    Koutsoukos added that Papantoniou was insisting on maintaining a ''tough stance'' towards employees and therefore the trade unions would continue their struggle.

    Civil servants held protest rallies and marches in Athens and the northern port city of Thessaloniki today. Workers in a number of other sectors joined the employees in the protests, including doctors, state secondary school teachers and customs officials.

    The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) has called a rally outside Parliament for 17:30 local time today and a three-hour work stoppage.

    Bank employees also held a three-hour work stoppage from 12:30 to 15:30 today.

    Dockworkers prevent disembarkation of passengers

    Striking dockworkers today prevented the disembarkation of passengers and vehicles from the ferry-boat ''Cephalonia'' at Patras which had to leave the port after only one ill passenger was allowed to get off.

    The ferry-boat operates between Sami on Cephalonia, stopping off at Ithaki before sailing on to Patras.

    After the refusal of the dockers to allow disembarkation, the ''Cephalonia'' was forced to return to Sami.

    Minor scuffles broke out on the quay but order was restored by port police and no arrests were reported.

    The ferry-boat has a carrying capacity of 100 passengers, six trucks, 15 cars and one coach.

    Greek ports have been closed since yesterday due to a 48-hour strike called by the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) to press demands for fringe benefits and the continuation of certain tax privileges to be abolished under the government's new fiscal law.

    Farmers appears to be scaling down protests

    Farmers in Boeotia, central Greece, today appeared to be scaling down their protests as they lifted their main roadblock on the Athens-Lamia national road at Kastro -- as colleagues elsewhere continued to protest for the 19th successive day.

    Two smaller blockades at Akraifnio and Thiva as well as the roadblocks in the area of Domokos and Neo Monastiri in Fthiotida remained in place.

    The farmers of Fthiotida approved the decision of the Pan-Thessaly co- ordinating committee and will participate together with their families in the farmers' protest rally in Athens on Thursday.

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said later that the farmers' protest rally in Athens was an ''acceptable'' means of pressing their demands since it did not harm the country nor the interests of other social groups.

    He reiterated however that dialogue between the farmers and Prime Minister Costas Simitis was impossible as long as the country's highways remained blocked.

    Expressing the hope that a solution would be found in the next few days, Reppas described as ''encouraging'' the de-escalation of protests in certain regions of the country.

    Meanwhile, the president of the hoteliers' association of Kavala, Costas Stavropoulos said that tourism in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace had been badly hit by the farmers' protests.

    ''The damage is enormous. There have been a large number of cancellations by individuals and groups,'' he said.

    Stavropoulos estimated that the arrival of 3,000-3,500 tourists in groups had been cancelled, while there had been numerous cancellations of visitors who had planned to arrive on charter flights.

    He described the farmers' protests as being the ''coup de grace'' for tourism in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace following the poor season this summer.

    More than 100 hoteliers were facing serious financial difficulties, Stavropoulos said, being unable to meet their obligations to banks, insurance organisations and staff.

    Gov't. firm

    The govenment cannot enter into dialogue with protesting farmers under a state of threats and blackmail, Prime Minister Costas Simitis reiterated yesterday, while on a tour of Elefsina, west of Athens.

    The premier expressed the view that by and large, farmers stood behind the government, as it had adopted a series of measures and provided on the spot solutions to problems.

    "However, demands amounting to 800 billion drachams cannot be met because Greece will lose the battle of development and social justice. We don't want a society where, whoever occupies the road first gets the most money," he said.

    The premier said that as soon roads opened and economic life was restored, dialogue would begin immmediately.

    Government lashes out at Ciller statements

    The way in which Ankara exercises foreign policy is ''stupefying'', government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said today commenting on the latest tirade of threats against Greece by Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller.

    ''Turkey's foreign policy is characterized by inconsistency, shilly- shallying, retractions and is two-faced -- one (feigning) moderacy towards Europe, and one of threats and references to military strength for domestic consumption,'' Reppas said.

    In statements in Ankara after returning from the EU summit in Dublin, Ciller said ''Has Greece pondered on the kind of threat Turkey might pose in the event Turkey remains out of Europe?''.

    Ciller added that ''Greece fears our military might. It is a justified fear...''.

    Apart from causing perplexity, Reppas said, Ciller's threats ''express fear about the future of Turkey''.

    If Turkey wishes to come closer to Europe, the spokesman added, ''it should take care not to obstruct itself''.

    Turkish press reports said that Ms Ciller lashed out against the European Union because Turkey was excluded from future EU enlargement plans. "Leaving Turkey out of the European Union will constitute a great injustice and historic error for the European Union," Ms Ciller said. "Enlarge the European Union and NATO without Turkey's consent, if you can," she challenged.

    Her comments also brought a reaction yesterday from Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who attended the EU summit in Dublin.

    "It is a pity that after a sincere discussion in Dublin, Ms Ciller is reacting in a spasmodic way. It was Europe that extended its hand and expects a sincere effort on the part of Turkey to respect the force of law, rather than threatening with the force of arms," he said.

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert said Ms Ciller's statements revealed of Turkey's long-term strategic planning, and that a "tough answer is required, not only from the Greek government, but also from the European Union, the United States, and the whole of the developed and civilised world since she was not threatening only Greece, but Europe as well."

    Rifkind's proposals for Cyprus could be positive, Athens says

    The government today acknowledged that the ten proposals put forward by British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind for a Cyprus solution contained ''positive elements'' which corresponded to positions of Nicosia and Athens.

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas stressed however that Rifkind's proposals expressed British policy, adding that a comprehensive proposal of the Cyprus government already existed, on the basis of which Greece also wished a solution to be found.

    Rifkind outlined the ten ''elements'' at a press conference yesterday at the end of a two-day visit to Cyprus, during which he held talks with President Glafcos Clerides, Foreign Minister Alecos Michailides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    He said he hoped Clerides and Denktash would turn the ''elements'' into ''the provisions of a detailed settlement''.

    According to Rifkind, a solution should be based on ''a bizonal, bicommunal federation in conformity with the high level agreements and (UN) Security Council resolutions''.

    Funds for construction of Elefsina- Spata highway

    National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and the Vice- President of the European Investment Bank (ETEP) Panayiotis Gennimatas yesterday signed an agreement for the first 45 billion drachma tranche of a 265 billion drachma loan to fund the new regional highway linking Elefsina- Stavros-Spata.

    The flow of funds is expected to begin in the next few days.

    Part of the loan, amounting to 220 billion drachmas, will be granted to Attiki Odos AE which was awarded the project. The consortium, headed by the Greek construction company AKTOR, will absorb the funds in gradual instalments.

    Mr. Papantoniou stressed that the highway, the fourth major project following the Spata airport, the Rio-Antirrio bridge and the natural gas network would have "considerable positive environmental effects for Athens."

    He said the Elefsina-Stavros-Spata-Imittos highway would provide 2,000 permanent jobs and another 5,000 additional jobs every year until the year 2003.

    On completion, the highway is anticipated to be used by 207,000 vehicles daily, relieving pressure on the centre of Athens and ensuring access to the new international airport at Spata, also under construction.

    Drilling rights awarded for four regions

    The rights for exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons have been awarded for an equal number of regions to the following four companies and consortiums:

    - Enterprise Oil Ltd. and Union Texas Transnational Ltd. for the northwestern Peloponnese region.

    - Triton International Petroleum Co. for the region of the west Patras Gulf.

    - Triton International Petroleum Co. for the Aitoloakarnania region.

    - Enterprise Oil Ltd. and Union Texas Transnational Ltd. for Epirus.

    The four companies were selected following an international tender for bids by the board of directors of the Hydrocarbons Exploration and Exploitation S.A. (DEP-EKY) and the Public Petroleum Corp. (DEP). According to the terms of the bidding, DEP-EKY wi ll have 12 per cent participation in exploration and exploitation in each of the areas where exploration rights have been awarded.

    Development Minister Vasso Papandreou said the four consortiums and companies will complete exploration programmes in the four regions within the next six to seven years, while the initial inv estment is estimated at more than US$100 million.

    WEATHER

    Sunny in many parts of Greece and the islands getting cloudy later in the day mostly in the west. Rainfalls expected at night in the western regions. Partly cloudy in Thessaly, Macedonia and central Greece. Athens will be sunny with temperatures ranging from 9-17C. Thessaloniki will be partly cloudy with temperatures between 5-14C.

    SPORTS

    Best athletes of the year

    Greek Olympic gold medallists Pyrros Dimas, Akakios Kakiasvilis, Nikos Kaklamanakis and Yiannis Melissanidis, Olympic silver medallist Niki Bakoyianni and the Panathinaikos basketball team won top positions in the annual poll conducted by sports wri ters and organised for the 43rd consecutive year by the Panhellenic Federation of the Sports Press (PSAT).

    High jumper Niki Bakoyianni was voted the best Greek woman athlete in 1996 with 1,517 votes.

    The Panathinaikos basketball team (this year's European champion) was voted team of the year with 902 votes against 804 for the national waterpolo team, and 800 for the national basketball team.

    A total of 312 professional sportswriters and photographers from around Greece participated in the voting.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    (Closing rates - buying) U.S. dlr. 243.139 Can. dlr. 178.362 Australian dlr. 192.795 Pound sterling 403.526 Irish punt 403.327 Cyprus pd 518.419, French franc 46.354 Swiss franc 183.272 Belgian franc 7.590 German mark 156.404 Finnish mark 52.358 Dutch guilder 139.431 Danish Kr. 40.900 Swedish Kr. 35.629 Norwegian Kr. 37.492 Austrian Sh. 22.221 Italian lira (100) 15.893 Yen (100) 213.657 Spanish Peseta 1.860 Portuguese Escudo 1.552

    (M.P.)


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