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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-12-18

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, 18/12/1996 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Parliamentary debate on budget begins amid strikes
  • Athens mayor to Tirana
  • Greece reiterates its commitment to Bosbnia's peace
  • Formal request for return of Parthenon Marbles
  • Clinton vows to help resolve Cyprus problem
  • Greek tobacco growers join Brussels protests
  • US State Dept. avoids comment on Ciller's threats against Greece
  • Diplomatic employees consider further strike action

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Parliament debate on budget

    Parliamentary debate on the government's new 1997 state budget began yesterday as the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) staged a protest rally outside the legislature against the government's economic policy.

    A vote on the budget will be taken midnight Saturday. The debate was accompanied by a 24-hour nationwide strike called by the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY).

    A delegation of ADEDY met with National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, who did not rule out the possibility of improvements being made to the unified salary scale.

    The Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) decided to continue the 48-hour strike called on all Greek-flagged vessels.

    The government has ruled out the possibility of Prime Minister Costas Simitis meeting the farmers for as long as tractors remain on the streets.

    Avramopoulos to Albania

    Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos leaves for Tirana today at the invitation of his local counterpart.

    He will also meet with Albanian president, Sali Berisha, and visit the town of Sarande, with a sizeable ethnic Greek population.

    Athens` commitment to Bosnia peacekeering forces

    National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos reaffirmed yesterday that Greece had participated and will actively participate in NATO's peacekeeping forces in Bosnia.

    Speaking to reporters after a council of NATO's defence ministers in Brussels, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos also referred to aggressive statements recently made by Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller, saying she was slipping from political reality for reasons of domestic consumption in Turkey.

    Yesterday's session, attended by France after many years and by Spain for the first time, focused on granting approval for NATO's new mission in Bosnia under the name SFOR, to replace NATO's current force IFOR.

    One of the issues discussed was responsibility for NATO's southern administration, where there are conflicting views between the US and France.

    "It appears we are headed for the creation of four regional inter-branch and multinational headquarters - one each in Greece, Spain, Italy and Turkey," he said.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the Turkish side reiterated its proposal for the creation of a branch headquarters (naval or air) in Izmir, which will be responsible for the entire Mediterranean region. He said the Greek side reiterated its disagreement with the Turkish proposal considering it a significant change in NATO's existing administrative balance.

    He further said Greece presented its own six-point proposal on NATO's future structure, adding that despite the need for cooperation between the two organisations each enjoyed its own autonomy.

    Parthenon Marbles

    Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos has announced that Greece will officially submit an application for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum.

    "I explained to my British counterpart that in the next few days he will receive a letter with Greece's official demand for the return of the marbles," the Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted Mr. Venizelos as saying after the EU Culture Ministers' Council session in Brussels yesterday.

    Clinton-Cyprus conflict

    President Clinton on Monday called on Greece and Turkey to re-examine their positions and reach out to one another.

    "I intend to do whatever I can in these next four years to try to help work out the situation in Cyprus, and work out the problems generally between Greece and Turkey," President Clinton said at a news conference with European Commission President Jacques Santer and Irish Prime Minister John Bruton.

    "I believe that the future of the European Union and the future of the United States will be much brighter and much less troublesome if these issues can be resolved," he said.

    "Greece and Turkey," he added, have a lot more in common when facing the future than those separating them. It is the past which continues to poison their relations," President Clinton said, noting that Greece and Turkey are two very important countries for a " stable 21st century."

    Mr. Santer said that Cyprus' accession talks to the European Union were expected to start in 1998. "The position of the European Union in this is very clear," he said.

    Farmers` blockades drag on for 20th day,gov`t remains steadfast

    Farmers in Viotia prefecture yesterday appeared to be scaling down their protests as they lifted their main roadblock on the Athens-Lamia national highway at the Kastro region, while protesting farmers elsewhere continued mobilisations for the 20th consec utive day.

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

    Meanwhile, the old and new highways to Patra continued to remain blocked at Aigio, while farmers in Fthiotida approved the decision of the Pan-Thessaly coordina-ting committee and will participate together with their families in the farmers' protest ral ly in Athens on Thursday.

    Papantoniou

    In discussing the farmers' protests, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told Reuters Television that the government was deeply concerned about the 20-day-old road blockades, which he said were crippling the economy, but added that the government would not give in to the farmers' demands.

    "The consequences are quite substantial...The governnment is really very, very worried about the situation. Our patience is wearing thin," he added.

    Mr. Papantoniou said he hoped that on Thursday there would be a turning point in the confrontation after farmers march to Athens in a protest rally.

    Farmers are demanding lower fuel rates, higher price supports, lower Value Added Tax (VAT) on their equipment and re-scheduling of some US$1.3 billion in debts.

    Fischler favourable to support for beleaguered Greek farmers

    European Union Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler yesterday expressed full understanding with Greek farmers' problems, and the intention of the Commission to help in a spirit of Community solidarity.

    The Commissioner's statement came in response to problems besetting flood- and disease-stricken farmers and cotton growers, as set out in a letter by Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas. He had asked for direct subsidies to cotton farmers, and that penalties imposed for excess production be imposed on the farmers and areas specifically responsible.

    Mr. Fischler said during the Farm Ministers' Council that the Commission would examine as soon as possible and in a positive spirit all Greek proposals, so as to amend the Greek Support Community Framework, and support flood-stricken producers directly through the 1996 budget.

    Greek tobacco growers in Brussles

    Hundreds of Greek, Italian, Spanish, French and German tobacco growers blocked a central square in Brussels yesterday prior to a European Commission discussion today, expected to focus on the common tobacco market organisation within the framework of anti-smoking campaigns.

    Greek protesters from the tobacco-producing regions of Macedonia, who flew to Brussels on Sunday, joined their European Union colleagues in front of the European Commission building.

    Shouting slogans, the Greek protesters handed a memorandum to Greek EU Commissioner Christos Papoutsis, disputing anti-smoking arguments and requesting that their demands be met.

    State Dept. avoids comment

    State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns avoided comment on threats recently made against Greece by Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller, saying he had not seen her statements, but made an overall statement on threats of such a nature. "Firstly, the US expects from all its allies, including Greece and Turkey, to have relations of cooperation without any kind of threats of force or use of force. This is a basic principle in relations between allies and all our allies in NATO will agree with us. Secondly, we support absolutely Turkey's inclusion in European mechanisms and we made this known both to the European Union and to European countries at a bilateral level. "We do not support any kind of threats by one NATO ally against another... NATO is not an organisation whose members fight against each other,"he said.

    Diplomats to consider further strike action

    Union representatives from the foreign ministry's diplomatic and administrative employees will convene general assemblies at noon today to consider whether or not to continue their strike.

    The strike, and primarily that of the diplomatic corps, has created serious problems for the country's diplomatic missions abroad as well as for communication between Greek embassies with Athens.

    According to reports, Foreign Undersecretary Christos Rozakis had a meeting with a representation of diplomatic officials on Monday. Mr. Rozakis said the government is examining the demand that an overseas bonus for diplomats should not be taxed, which Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis rejected last week.

    Turkeys seized by health officials

    Health officers yesterday seized 10 tonnes of US-originated turkeys, whose consumption date had expired, owned by the Veropoulos supermarket chain.

    According to reports, market checks in view of the holiday season are intensifying.

    WEATHER

    Overcast with rainfall and possible storms in the western and eastern regions and the islands, but improvement of the weather expected later in the night. Athens will be cloudy with possible rain in the evening and temperatures ranging from 11-17C. Thessaloniki will be partly cloudy with temperatures between 7-14C.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    (Closing rates - buying) U.S. dlr. 242.544 Can. dlr. 177.012 Australian dlr. 192.641 Pound sterling 404.200 Irish punt 403.843 Cyprus pd 518.816, French franc 46.485 Swiss franc 183.704 Belgian franc 7.614 German mark 156.920 Finnish mark 52.507 Dutch guilder 139.867 Danish Kr. 41.021 Swedish Kr. 35.597 Norwegian Kr. 37.621 Austrian Sh. 22.310 Italian lira (100) 15.923 Yen (100) 213.201 Spanish Peseta 1.865 Portuguese Escudo 1.555

    (C.E.)


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