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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-12-19

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 19/12/1996 (ANA)


  • Farmers converge on Athens to protest in front of Parliament
  • Gov't greets Eurocourt rulings on Turkey
  • Blast rips apart suburban Citibank branch
  • Seamen's strike ruled illegal
  • Pangalos satisfied with Britain`s positions on Cyprus
  • '97 budget follows 'necessary economic policy'
  • Rhodes Culture Marathon
  • Illegal immigrants picked up on Rhodes
  • Honorary citizenship requested for Jules Dassin


    Farmers coverge on Athens to protest in front of Parliament

    Farmers from all over the country converged on Athens today to attend a mass rally in support of their demands following three weeks of protests mainly in the form of blockades of road and rail links.

    The rally outside the Agriculture Ministry began with speeches by members of the farmers' coordinating committee of Thessaly who attacked the government for its handling of the situation, accusing it of intransigence.

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis, they said, was refusing dialogue with the farmers because he had nothing to say with respect to their demands.

    The government has stood firm in its position that dialogue is out of the question for as long as farmers continue to block roads and rail links.

    After the rally, the farmers will hand a resolution to Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas. However they are not seeking a meeting with the minister because they consider it would be futile.

    The farmers, who began to arrive in the capital this morning together with family members, will then march to Parliament where they will ask to meet with Simitis.

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas called on the farmers to take the first step towards resolving the impasse caused by the type of protest action they have chosen, stressing that the government had done all it could to alleviate their problems.

    Reppas reiterated that Simitis would not meet with farmers' representatives, saying that it was not possible for the government to be ''blackmailed'' under pressure created by the road and rail blockades.

    The spokesman also urged farmers to participate in the dialogue for the creation of a national ''framework'' for agriculture as well as a framework for putting agricultural demands to the European Union.

    Replying to questions, Reppas accused the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) of providing assistance and ''political cover'' to the form of protests used by the farmers.

    He added that the government had taken all the necessary measures to prevent any outbreak of violence at today's rally and march.

    In a related development, the managing director of the Athens Paper Industry of Drama (Softex) announced today that the company had been forced to give compulsory leave to 200 workers.

    Explaining the decision, Antonis Georgiadis said the temporary lay-off was necessitated by a lack of raw materials resulting from the farmers' blockades.

    He said production at the Softex plant had stopped on 7 December.

    Although the president of the Drama Labour Centre, Savvas Ispachanidis, who represents the Softex workers, said that there was no cause for concern, the people of Drama are reportedly worried that the compulsory leave is just the first step towards the closure of the plant which plays a major role in the economy of the northern town.

    More than 100 coaches, each about 80 per cent full, arrived in Athens at noon with farmers and their families to attend the rally.

    Over 5,000 farmers began to arrive in waves outside the ministry building shortly afterwards, shouting slogans expressing their determination to continue their protest action until they are vindicated.

    About 300 students, a large number of construction workers and more than 300 pensioners arrived in Vathy Square to join the farmers in a show of solidarity.

    The Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), the Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the Athens Labour Centre, the Federation of Pensioners and other trade union organisations in resolutions all expressed solidarity with the farmers.

    The resolution to be handed to the government demands the resolution of problems concerning farmers' debts as well as cotton, tobacco, cereal crops, market garden produce, olives, vineyards and sugar beets.

    It also refers to problems facing stock breeders and pension demands in general.

    Gov't greets Eurocourt rulings on Turkey

    The government today welcomed a European Court ruling which found Turkey guilty of continuing human rights violations and offers the opportunity to hundreds of Greek Cypriot refugees to claim their right to use and enjoy their property in the Turkish-occupied north of the island republic.

    ''An important ruling with great significance on many levels, which touches the essence of the Cyprus problem,'' government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said of the judgement vindicating the plaintiff, Titina Loizidou, a Greek Cypriot refugee from the occupied port city of Kyrenia.

    ''The ruling has great symbolic value,'' Reppas said, calling on other Cypriots to take the same initiative in order to exert pressure on ''a condemnable status''.

    The court found Turkey responsible for the continuing violation of human rights in the Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus, ruling by 11 votes to 6 that ''denial of access to the applicant's property and consequent loss of control thereof is imputable to Turkey''.

    According to the ruling, the Republic of Cyprus remains ''the sole legitimate government of Cyprus'' and the international community does not regard the puppet regime in the occupied north as a state under international law.

    Blast rips apart suburban Citibank branch

    Security police said today that a bomb blast against a Citibank branch in the northwestern Athens suburb of Halandri shortly after midnight bore the hallmarks of the elusive November 17 terrorist organisaton.

    The strong blast, which police said was caused by 3 kilograms of TNT, caused extensive damage but no casualties. The blast completely destroyed the bank and damaged almost all the shops in the shopping centre housing the bank at Halandri's central Dourou Square.

    Police said a home-made explosive device had been planted in a bag at the bank's entrance.

    The same Citibank branch had been the target of a "November 17" attack in 1991.

    Seamen's strike ruled illegal

    A Piraeus court ruled today that the ongoing seamen's strike was illegal and asked the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) to immediately call off all protest action.

    The PNO organised two consecutive 48-hour nationwide strikes beginning on Monday this week to press demands for the special tax status of seamen to be left intact by the government's new fiscal law.

    The strike has prevented Greek as well as many foreign-flagged vessels from entering or leaving ports throughout the country.

    The court issued its ruling following a petition filed by the association which represents owners of coastal shipping vessels.

    In a related development, striking seamen held a rally and march in Piraeus this morning to protest the government's decision to use navy vessels to transport trucks from Crete to Piraeus.

    According to informed sources, three navy vessels late last night sailed from the Suda naval base on Crete carrying trucks to the Salamina naval base.

    The PNO board of administration was today expected to hand a resolution condemning the decision to Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis.

    Meanwhile, 13 vessels serving foreign routes remained at anchor at Patras today, unable to leave for destinations in Italy because striking seamen and dockworkers refused to allow the embarkation of passengers and trucks.

    About 300 trucks continue to be stranded at the western port city by the strike which ends at 06.00 local time tomorrow.

    Pangalos satisfied with British positions on Cyprus

    Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos expressed satisfaction yesterday over his talks here with British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, noting that Britain's positions on the Cyprus problem and Greek-Turkish relations are very positive.

    Pangalos said it was now clear that Britain was not setting the settlement of the Cyprus issue as a condition for the start of negotiations for Cyprus' entry to the EU, or even the start of talks for a Cyprus settlement."

    "But they (Britain) say, and this I will not have trouble accepting myself, that if there is progress on the Cyprus problem then negotiations between the Union and Cyprus would be much easier, conducted in a better atmosphere and concern the entire population of Cyprus." "We do not want a Cyprus' EU accession to be to the detriment of the Turkish Cypriot community," Mr. Pangalos added.

    Asked to comment on the British minister's statements regarding an "arms race" in Cyprus, which Mr. Rifkind termed as "a step in the wrong direction, " Mr. Pangalos said:

    "Athens, and I believe Nicosia also, are in favour of a decrease in armaments, in favour of demilitarisation of Cyprus. But demilitarisation must first start from the mightier," he added.

    Mr. Pangalos said Turkey has not yet accepted the idea of the demilitarisation of the island and retains there 300 tanks, heavy artillery and 40,000 Turkish soldiers.

    `97 budget follows `necessary` economic policy

    National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou outlined the government's economic policy on the second day of Parliamentary debate on the 1997 state budget yesterday, stressing that it would be a difficult year.

    Appearing optimistic over the outcome of economic policy, Mr. Papantoniou called on businessmen, working people and property owners to de-escalate their nominal incomes claims, so as to safeguard their real incomes in a better way with a decrease in inflation. Referring to the economy in general, he said inflation decreased by 5.9 percentage points, the economy recovered by 6.2 points over the last three-year period of economic output anticipated by the Convergence Programme, while the deficit was decreased by 6.6 units of the GDP.

    Mr. Papantoniou said that despite progress achieved, the country still had a great deal of ground to cover to achieve real and nominal convergence with its other European partners.

    Rhodes Culture Marathon

    Greece will host a major international athletics event on the island of Rhodes on 20 April next year on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of the Dodecanese islands in the modern Greek state.

    The ''Rhodes Culture Marathon'', organised by Rhodes municipality, will follow a route taking in most of the island's ancient monuments.

    It is based on an idea conceived by philhellene Sudanese journalist Meki Abdelatif who last year organised the ''Nile Culture Marathon''.

    Runners from 21 countries of Europe, Africa, Asia and America will be taking part in the marathon, while parallel events will be attended, among others, by six ministers from Africa.

    Illegal immigrants picked up on Samos

    Eighteen (18) Iraqis of Kurdish descent were arrested today on the deserted coast of Vourlioton on the island of Samos, police said.

    The illegal immigrants -- 8 men, 5 women and 5 children -- told harbour authorities they had paid 2,000 dollars each to a Turkish captain to transport them from Turkey to Samos on his speedboat.

    The Turkish captain of the speedboat was later arrested by the coastguard after a sea chase north of Samos.

    Mehmet Mirze Yayla, 29, from Izmir was subsequently identified by the illegal immigrants and was due to appear before the public prosecutor later today.

    The speedboat was spotted by a Greek fisherman and coastguard officers believe Yayla was preparing to ferry another ''cargo'' of illegal immigrants from the Turkish coast.

    Honorary citizenship requested for Jules Dassin

    Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos today called for honorary Greek citizenship to be extended to renowned French film and stage director Jules Dassin, husband of the late actress and former culture minister Melina Mercouri.

    ''Being a Greek has never been simply a legal formality, but is deeply linked with a prevalence of ideals, a field of historic memory and collective dignity,'' Venizelos said in a letter to Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister Alexandros Papadopoulos.

    ''Jules Dassin has acquired this bond of physical and moral citizenship of our country through his personal stance in difficult times,'' Venizelos added, calling for procedures to be immediately set in motion to extend honourary citizenship to Dassin.

    ''I propose, therefore, that you initiate procedures, ex officio, to formally make Jules Dassin a Greek citizen. The country owes this to him for all that he has done, together with Melina, and continues to do on his own for the international projection of Greece,'' the letter said.


    Improved weather is forecast for most parts of Greece with scattered rain in the western regions and the Aegean islands, but improvement is expected later in the day. Athens will be partly cloudy with sunny spells and temperatures ranging from 10-16C. Same for Thessaloniki with temperatures between 6-13C.


    (Closing rates - buying) U.S. dlr. 243.695 Can. dlr. 178.758 Australian dlr. 193.043 Pound sterling 408.208 Irish punt 406.125 Cyprus pd 519.411, French franc 46.465 Swiss franc 183.619 Belgian franc 7.623 German mark 157.093 Finnish mark 52.596 Dutch guilder 139.971 Danish Kr. 41.099 Swedish Kr. 35.660 Norwegian Kr. 37.750 Austrian Sh. 22.328 Italian lira (100) 15.947 Yen (100) 214.649 Spanish Peseta 1.868 Portuguese Escudo 1.560


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