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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

  • Greek ambassador among Peru hostages
  • Minister: port workers ban on foreign-flag ships 'unacceptable'
  • Airport employees strike
  • Farm minister announces compensation for crop losses
  • President to visit Egypt
  • Athens comments on Rifkind statements
  • Parliamentary debate on budget begins amid strikes
  • Greece reiterates its commitment to Bosnia's peace
  • Formal request for return of Parthenon Marbles
  • US State Dept. avoids comment on Ciller's threats against Greece
  • Diplomatic employees consider further strike action

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Greek Ambassador among Peru hostages

    Greece's Ambassador to Peru Alkiviades Karokis is among the approximately 200 hostages held by Peruvian rebels at the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Lima, Foreign Ministry sources confirmed today.

    Guerrillas from the Cuban-inspired Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) stormed the Japanese Ambassador's residency late Tuesday in an operation called 'Breaking the Silence", demanding the release of jailed comrades.

    The hostages, which include the Peruvian Foreign and Agriculture Ministers, local legislators and numerous ambassadors and diplomats from around the world, were attending a recpetion in honour of the Japanese Emperor's birthday.

    The same sources said Ambassador Karokis' wife was among the approximately 80 women and old people released.

    Port workers ban on foreign-flag ships 'unacceptable,' minister says

    Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis said today it was unacceptable for foreign-flagged vessels to be prevented from entering or leaving Greek ports by the ongoing nationwide dockworkers' and seamen's strike.

    ''This kind of logic serves neither the interests of the seamen nor of shipping in general...,'' Soumakis said, when asked to comment on the decision of the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) yesterday to extend a 48-hour strike which began on Monday for a further two days.

    In a related development, minor incidents broke out at Igoumenitsa, western Greece, when two foreign-flagged ferry-boats headed for Ancona, Italy tired to dock at the port to let off passengers.

    The two vessels, the ''Ionian Star'' and the ''Brindisi'', both of which belong to Greek companies, had previously been given permission by the PNO administrative board to dock at Igoumenitsa, because they were sailing under foreign flags.

    However, when the first ferry-boat let its ramp down, about 20 striking dockworkers boarded her and tried to persuade the few Greek crew members to join the strike. At the same time, dozens of trucks began to move towards the ramp to disembark, triggering strong protests from the striking workers.

    The port police intervened to restore order and arrested three striking dockworkers who were released shortly afterwards.

    A similar incident took place at Piraeus when five trucks tried to board the ferry-boat ''Daedalus'' with destination Crete. Again, scuffles broke out between drivers and striking dockworkers until order was restored by a public prosecutor.

    Meanwhile, more than 300 trucks were stranded at the central port city of Patras this morning as seamen extended a 48-hour strike that began on Monday for another day.

    The trucks were scheduled to board ferry boats to Italy and Piraeus.

    Airport employees strike

    Airport employees will stage a 24-hour nationwide strike on Friday demanding improvements in their wages and other fringe benefits, the Federation of Civil Aviation Employee Associations (OSYPA) announced today.

    The announcement said that the employees are demanding that four benefits they recieve be excluded from the new salary scale, an 8% salary increase, and legislation of overtime and holiday remuneration.

    Olympic Airways (OA) officials said they expected only minor problems on tarmacs from the stoppage, as Air Traffic Controllers and civil aviation technical staff were not taking part in the strike.

    Farm minister announces compensation for crop losses

    Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas announced today that farmers who have incurred losses due to bad weather would receive compensation, as farmers continued to blockade roads around the country for the 20th consecutive day.

    Speaking at a press conference, Tzoumakas said that compensation payments would be made in January to farmers whose crops or installations were damaged by recent bad weather.

    He said the ministry was in the process of drawing up lists of the damage which will be sent to the European Union in order for the corresponding compensation to be approved.

    The compensation, estimated at 10 billion drachmas, will be given to farmers in Thessaly, Karditsa, Trikala, Larissa, Volos, Xanthi, Mytilene and other areas of the country.

    Replying to questions, Tzoumakas clarified that the funds would be made available from the Second Community Support Framework, a procedure which had been approved by the European Commission.

    Tzoumakas also announced that the Agricultural Policy Council would be convened for the first time on 10 January, the sessions of which would be opened by Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

    Opposition party leaders and 43 representatives of the producer classes, mainly farmers, exporters and industrialists active in the agricultural sector, have also been invited to attend the council.

    Although no agenda has yet been prepared, it is expected that the meeting will discuss all the problems facing the agricultural sector.

    Meanwhile, the board of administration of the union of truck drivers was scheduled to meet at 18:00 local time today to decide whether or not they would use their vehicles to block roads to Athens tomorrow in order to prevent farmers from reaching the capital to take part in a protest rally.

    If the truckers decide to block access to the capital, it will be in protest against the 20-day blockade of roads by farmers which has left hundreds of drivers stranded.

    President to visit Egypt

    President Kostis Stephanopoulos leaves on Friday for a four-day official visit to Alexandria and Cairo at the invitation of his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak.

    The two heads of state will have talks on Saturday in Cairo covering bilateral relations, international developments and problems in the region of the southeast Mediterranean.

    Stephanopoulos is also expected to brief Mubarak on major Greek foreign policy issues such as the Cyprus problem and Greek-Turkish relations.

    Mubarak will most likely brief Stephanopoulos on developments in the Middle East problem, given Egypt's leading role in the Arab world.

    Stephanopoulos' visit to Egypt takes on special significance in view of Mubarak's visit to Turkey in July and Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan's visit to Cairo in October..

    During his stay in Egypt, Stephanopoulos will meet with members of the Greek community and visit Luxor.

    It is the first visit to Egypt by a Greek president since March 1984, when Constantine Karamanlis had talks with President Mubarak.

    Athens comments on Rifkind statements

    The government said today that a statement by British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind in which he referred to the possibility of a war between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean was the minister's ''personal opinion''.

    ''This opinion does not reflect the actual situation,'' government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said, stressing that the policy proposed by Greece for de-escalating tension between Athens and Ankara could constitute the basis for peace in the region.

    ''The prospect of a military conflict is a long way off,'' Reppas added.

    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.

    Athens` commitment to Bosnia peacekeeping 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.

    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.

    SPORTS

    Aris-Besiktas game to be replayed

    Basketball's governing body, FIBA, has ordered a Korac Cup match between Aris of Thessaloniki and Besiktas of Istanbul to be replayed in Athens on 7 January without the presence of supporters.

    The second leg of the tie was held in Thessaloniki on 11 December but was abandoned shortly after the start of the second half when Besiktas' American forward, Gary Alexander, attacked Aris' Dinos Angelidis.

    Aris was ahead 40-31 when the match was abandoned.

    FIBA also suspended Angelidis for three matches, Alexander for four and fined Aris 45,000 marks, that is, about 6.8 million drachmas.

    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

    (M.P.)


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