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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-12-22

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, 22/12/1996 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Parliament approves strict 1997 budget
  • Farmers' road and rail links blockades liftede
  • Mubarak to assume initiative in Greek-Turkish relations, if asked
  • PNO calls off strike, ferry boats scheduled to sail
  • More aggressive economic policy for Balkans, E. Europe considered
  • Gov't: Ambassador in Peru instructed not to return to guerillas

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Parliament approves strict 1997 budget

    Parliament approved in the early hours today the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government's budget for the year 1997.

    The budget was passed with 160 votes in favour and 136 against.

    Four deputies were absent from the vote.

    Main opposition New Democracy party and Social Movement (DHKKI) party deputies voted in favour of the National Defence Ministry's budget.

    Closing a five-day parliamentary debate on the government's economic plans for 1997, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said that the government's budget was the "only conclusive proposition" to the economic problems of the country.

    This budget, he added, "is the basic instrument for economic growth and social justice and not the total of economic figures, while it exactly depicts the government's main target which is the creation of a strong and prosperous Greece."

    The Greek people, Simitis went on, with its vote on the September 22 general elections asked from the government to "respond positively to the challenges of European unification".

    "This decision is not due to an external coercion since national interest would command the same economic policy even in the absence of the EU Economic and Monetary Union".

    The 1997 budget aims at bringing Greece closer to fulfilling the EU Maastricht criteria.

    Farmers' road and rail links blockades lifted

    Farmers, today, lifted all road and rail blockades ending a 24-day nationwide protest which had cut off whole regions in Greece creating road, rail and sea transport chaos and crippling the economy.

    The final collapse of the long army of 10,000 tractors, parked on road and rail links, came today after the Pan-Thessaly farmer's committee voted to lift the barricades in a gesture of Christmas good will.

    "We have a deep religious feeling and it never occured to us that we would cause trouble to the Greek citizen these days since Christmas is one of the greatest feasts of Christiandom," a representatitive of the Farmers' Coordinating Committee said.

    But as public clean-up crews were moving in to clear the roads in various regions in Greece, he warned that the farmers had not abandoned their demands but would continue their protest after the Christmas holiday.

    "Our stance will depend on the government," the representative said.

    The farmers want lower fuel prices, higher price supports, lower Value Added Tax (VAT) on equipment and the rescheduling of $1.3 billion in debts.

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis, however, who had stood firm in his position that he would not meet with farmers' representatives as long as the barricades were not lifted, had made clear that he would rather "go home" instead of bowing to protesting farmers' demands.

    Meanwhile, the government yesterday announced that Simitis would meet on Monday with the presidiums of the country's three biggest farmers' labour unions.

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the meeting would be held within "the framework of dialogue concerning the problems facing the Greek agriculture, which must be held with the broadest possible participation."

    Speaking in Parliament minutes before it voted on the budget, late Saturday night, Prime Minister Costas Simitis expressed hope that the farmers would lift the remaining barricades.

    In recent days, farmers in numerous places around the country had de- escalated their protest action, culminating Saturday in the decision of the farmers of Macedonia and Thrace to lift all blockades until mid-January when they will review the situation.

    Stressing that the government was willing to have dialogue with the farmers, Simitis noted, however, that "the form of dialogue cannot be determined by certain groups with extreme forms of protest."

    "There are no winners and losers," Simitis said. "There are only big problems which have been created in the economy, in the society, the entire people by the farmers' protests," he added.

    Emphasizing that "all of us can be winners if we promote social cohesion," the premier said the government was willing to have dialogue but would not create "a society when those who take to the streets can make money."

    "It should be made clear to all that demands of hundreds of billions (of drachmas) cannot be satisfied by any responsible government, such as no responsible government can abolish the common agricultural policy without having to pay hundreds of billions in compensation."

    Mubarak to assume initiative in Greek-Turkish relations, if asked

    President Hosni Mubarak said Saturday he hoped Greek-Turkish relations would be normalised, adding that he could undertake the role of mediator if requested, according to an ANA despatch from Cairo.

    Speaking at a joint press conference after one hour of talks in the Egyptian capital with his visiting Greek counterpart, Kostis Stephanopoulos, Mubarak said he hoped a solution would be found to the problems in Greek- Turkish relations ''so as to avoid bloodshed and the enormous cost of (military) spending''.

    Replying to reporters' questions, Mubarak underlined that Egypt was not on the side of Greece or Turkey ''but on the side of right''.

    Stephanopoulos said he had briefed Mubarak on Greek positions concerning ''certain crucial aspects'' of Greek-Turkish relations.

    Mubarak said he would not hesitate to undertake an initiative aimed at the normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations if requested by Athens.

    The two heads of state also discussed developments in the Middle East and bilateral relations which, they said, although at a high level, could be further developed.

    Stephanopoulos is accompanied by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, who told reporters after talks with his Egyptian counterpart Amr Mousa and Defence Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantaoui that the latter would visit Athens in the first quarter of 1997 for talks with his Greek counterpart Akis Tsohadzopoulos.

    Pangalos said that Cairo was following with concern the domestic situation in Turkey, adding that the Egyptian political leadership was apprehensive about the rapprochement between Turkey and Israel.

    Stephanopuolos arrived in Alexandria yesterday on the first stop of his official four-day visit to Egypt.

    PNO calls off strike, ferry boats scheduled to sail

    More than 15 passenger ferry boats were expected to sail from Piraeus until the early morning hours, carrying more than 5,000 passengers and 2,000 trucks with goods to Aegean islands, Crete and the Dodecanese, after a decision by the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) last night to call off their strike.

    PNO members had begun their strike on Monday, which affected all Greek- flagged vessels throughout the world.

    On Saturday, the finance ministry announced that it had committed itself to finding a commonly acceptable decision with the seamen's union, the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) and the Piraeus Labour Centre on merchant marine issues, which will provide the basis for a debate in Parliament.

    The announcement came after a meeting between Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis, Finance Undersecretary Giorgos Drys, and other bodies involved.

    The PNO originally called a 48-hour strike in support of their demand that the government not proceed with plans to abolish seamen's special fiscal status, according to which their income is taxed.

    It was subsequently extended for two days and then, yesterday, for a further 24 hours.

    In a related development, a Piraeus court ruled Thursday that the strike was illegal and asked the PNO to immediately call off all protest action.

    "We do not accept coercion from the shipowning companies which are asking Greek captains not only to carry on sailing vessels but also to impose sanctions on striking seamen," PNO general secretary Yiannis Halas said.

    Road accident kills four

    Four people were killed in a road accident on late Saturday night when their car collided with an international transport truck on the Thessaloniki national road in the juncion of Thessaloniki-Verroia.

    The dead were identified by police as Dimitris Riskos, Dionysis Kounopoulos, and Christos Tegos all aged 36 and Nikos Karitopoulos, 46.

    The truck driver, Romanian Florin Kotzokarou, 33, has been arrested and will appear before the public presecutor.

    More aggressive economic policy for Balkans, E. Europe considered

    Development Minister Vasso Papandreou held a business summit at her own initiative at the industry ministry Friday, which was attended by business leaders Vardis Vardinoyiannis, Sokratis Kokkalis, Dimitris Kopelouzos and Spyros Latsis.

    The meeting focused on the government's plan to implement an aggressive economic cooperation policy with Balkan and eastern European countries in the sectors of industry and energy. In the framework of promoting the government's plan, more meetings will be held with business representatives and finalised decisions will be announced after an enlarged meeting ischaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

    Enamoured Albanian to be deported

    An illegal Albanian immigrant who allegedly kidnapped a 14 year-old girl from Kavalla will be deported to Albania, police said today.

    Stelios Deftos, 20, allegedly kidnapped the 14-year-old from her house in Kavalla.

    Police found Deftos and the girl at a hotel in Thessaloniki.

    Deftos told police he had taken a fancy to the girl and was planning to take her to Albania so she could meet his family.

    Meanwhile, the girl returned to her home.

    Gov't: Ambassador in Peru instructed not to return to guerillas

    The government said Friday that its ambassador in Peru had been instructed "to use the opportunity given to him to escape" from the Tupac Amaru guerrillas, who are still holding about 200 people hostage at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima. " This was the message given to (Ambassador Alcibiades) Karokis, when he was a prisoner, through his wife," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said in reply to press questions. The Greek envoy was released by the guerrillas along with three other ambassad ors to negotiate with the Peruvian government on their behalf. Mr. Karokis, like the ambassadors of Germany and France, did not return to the embassy. Only the Canadian ambassador returned. Diplomatic sources said all the European diplomatic mission s in Lima agreed with the decision on the European ambassadors' getaway. Asked why Mr. Karokis did not play the role of mediator as requested by the guerrillas, Mr. Reppas replied that ambassadors are representatives of their respective countries and "the Greek government did not assign the role of mediator to our envoy in Lima."

    WEATHER

    Scattered showers and moderate winds in Attica, temperature 10-16C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with light winds, temperature 6-13C.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    Closing rates (Friday) - buying U.S. dlr. 245.351 Can. dlr. 179.373 Australian dlr. 195.300 Pound sterling 409.478 Irish punt 407.117 Cyprus pd 519.598 French franc 46.721 Swiss franc 183.837 Belgian franc 7.657 German mark 157.867 Finnish mark 52.969 Dutch guilder 140.695 Danish Kr. 41.291 Swedish Kr. 35.940 Norwegian Kr. 37.976 Austrian Sh. 22.439 Italian lira (100) 16.072 Yen (100) 215.076 Spanish Peseta 1.875 Portuguese Escudo 1.564

    (S.S.)

    (M.S.)


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