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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-12-31

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 31/12/1996 (ANA)


  • Suspension given as capsized ship toll at 12
  • Defence minister visits Greek contingent in Bosnia
  • President, premier issue New Year's message
  • Peruvian Embassy bombed, MRTA condemns attack
  • Wolfpack reported in central Greece
  • Athens Academy honours outstanding contributions
  • Greek firms give helping hand to Bulgaria


    Suspensions given as capsized ship toll at 12

    Five port authority officers were suspended Monday pending investigation into possible negligence over the handling of search and rescue operations after the capsizing of a Greek-flagged freighter, in which at least 12 people were killed. Another eight are still missing as of Tuesday afternoon and presumed dead.

    The suspensions were announced by Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis, who said he had been notified of the maritime accident involving the freighter "Distos" after "considerable delay".

    The minister said all five officers would face disciplinary action for the delay in briefing the ministry's leadership of the incident, which occurred late Saturday night off Kymi, Evia.

    So far, 12 bodies have been recovered from the capsized vessel, all of whom have been identified, as divers continued search efforts earlier today. The Distos was carrying a load of 5,300 tons of cement from the central Greek port city of Volos to Piraeus.

    Salvage operations and the recovery of the remaining bodies were being hampered by choppy seas in the region.

    Out of 21 persons on board the vessel, including the wives of two crewmen and a 10-year-old girl, only an 18-year-old merchant marine cadet survived when he jumped overboard as the Distos began to list after being hit by two large waves, which caused its cement cargo to shift.

    Autopsies of the bodies at the Athens mortuary revealed the cause of death to be drowning by seawater almost immediately after the ship capsized.

    Defence minister visits Greek contingent in Bosnia

    National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said during a press conference in Sarajevo yesterday that the "effective" contribution of the Greek forces in Bosnia (ELDYB) justifies Athens' policy to participate in the implementation of the Dayton Accord, and in the stabilisation of peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

    Greek forces participated in the previous IFOR mission in the area, and are currently in Bosnia as part of NATO-led forces operating under a United Nations Security Council mandate.

    Tsohatzopoulos said the Stabilisation Force (SFOR) is now aiming for the successful holding of forthcoming municipal elections and the return of refugees.

    ELDYB participated in safeguarding the recent elections for the presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, distributing electoral material and receiving ballot boxes after the end of the voting procedure.

    Earlier, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos addressed the 250-strong Greek contingent in Bosnia and extended the ministry's New Year's wishes.

    President, premier issue New Year's message

    In a New Year's message, President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos expressed his satisfaction with the "outstanding manner in which democratic institutions functioned" over the past year and in a direct reference to the Sept. 22 general elections.

    He also noted that the nation's economic development can only be achieved with constant efforts by all citizens, adding that "it is a matter of national pride for the Greek people to follow in the next century the other peoples of Europe. We must not remain behind."

    In his message, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said 1996 marked the end of the post-1974 political period for Greece and the "beginning of a new cycle for the country's political and social modernisation."

    He added that historical opportunities are now opening up for Greece, namely, in terms of promoting modernisation, furthering establishment of a modern social state and in maintaining Greece's equal participation in European Union developments, as well as the nation's role in the Balkans and the rest of the continent.

    Mr. Simitis also extended his condolences to the families of the dead and missing of the capsized freighter "Distos."

    On his part, Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis said 1996 was one of the most difficult experienced by the country and the people after the restoration of democracy.

    Peruvian embassy bombed, MRTA condemns attack

    A bomb exploded outside an apartment building housing the Peruvian embassy in Athens yesterday evening, slightly injuring one passerby.

    An organisation calling itself the "militant guerrilla formation" later claimed responsibility for the time-bomb explosion in a telephone call to a local radio station.

    The explosion caused extensive material damage on the second floor of the apartment building, located on Vassilisis Sofias Avenue in central Athens.

    According to reports, further casualties were averted by a warning call which prompted police to evacuate the building.

    The shadowy terrorist group first made its appearance by exploding a bomb at the Athens Polytechnic last November during events marking the anniversary of a student uprising against the military junta ruling Greece in 1973.

    Meanwhile, a spokesman for Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) guerrillas in Lima condemned the bombing of the embassy. "We reject this sort of display of solidarity because it does not contribute to the solution of a crisis," Isaac Velazco told Reuters in a telephone interview from Hamburg.

    The "militant guerrilla formation", which claimed responsibility for the attack, said the bomb was a demonstration of solidarity with the MRTA guerrillas, who currently hold 83 hostages in the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima.

    "Those who feel they are revolutionaries by this action should know that an isolated action in the context of a country's class struggle does not help, but prejudices the process," Mr. Velazco said.

    "We do not justify violence for the sake of violence. This solidarity has to be expressed within the negotiation process," he added.

    Wolfpack reported in central Greece

    Packs of wolves have been decimating livestock herds near Pitsi, some 60 km west of Lamia, as local residents are reportedly arming themselves with shotguns.

    The approximately 80 residents of the community, which has been cut-off since Christmas, have been returning to their homes early in the evening for safety reasons. Yesterday, armed groups of villagers searched the area for about 10 wolves, blamed for t he killing of 30 sheep and goats over the past four days.

    "We have never had wolves in the past, but now they are increasing continuously," community President Elektra Kretsa said, adding that "although relevant services have been notified since the summer, they have done nothing else than remind us that wolves are a protected species."

    With snow 50 cm deep covering the ground, residents have been taking shelters in their residences when night falls as howling is being heard around the village.

    Athens Academy honours outstanding contributions

    The Athens Academy last night gave awards and honoured 75 personalities from the scientific and social fields, such as Mary Angel for her struggle in support of AIDS sufferers, artists such as the photographer Nelly and conductor Odysseus Dimitriadis, as well as individuals such as fisherman Antonis Hatziantoniou, who discovered an ancient statue off Kalymnos.

    As of this year the Academy also initiated an award for the Olympic Ideal, "with the purpose of praising the spiritual and social significance of the Olympic contest," Athens Academy President Yiangos Pesmazoglou said during the ceremony.

    Greek firms give helping hand to Bulgaria

    Greek firms and banks active in Bulgaria are now taking a leading role in providing assistance to charitable institutions in the neighbouring country.

    At a special ceremony at the offices of the Association of Greek Businessmen in Bulgaria, Greece's ambassador to Sofia, Panayiotis Karakassis, called on all those present to extend a helping hand to the Bulgarian people who are currently going through difficult days.

    Bulgaria's government lacks funds for welfare spending and Bulgaria has been particularly hard hit by the recent cold snap, with four patients dying at an unheated mental hospital and recent snowstorms leaving 470 Bulgarian towns and villages without power.

    The Ionian Bank branch in Sofia has "adopted" the Preslaf orphanage in the city of Sumen and the children's sanatorium for heart conditions in the city of Bankja, paying for all operating expenses as well as donating 1.5 million lev in money and food.

    Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Investment Bank, which is managed by Greece's Commercial Bank, has donated $3,000 to the Santanski orphanage to install central heating.

    The Athens-based Intracom group is sponsoring the Ran Bosilek orphanage in Sofia, paying for all operating costs, the renovation of the building and for basic infrastructure. At a special ceremony, Bulgarian Olympic gold medallist Stefka Kostadinova distributed Christmas gifts on behalf of the group.

    Intracom has also undertaken the complete computerisation of the National Gallery of Sofia at no cost, while representatives of other Greece-based firms have offered to cover the entire needs of Greek schools for 1997.

    State securities issues target 1.5 trillion drachmas in January

    Four issues of state securities will be floated in January as the finance ministry raises its borrowing requirements to 1.5 trillion drachmas in the first month of 1997.

    One-year treasury bills will be issued on Jan. 2, taxed with a 7.50 per cent rate and bearing an 11.20 per cent interest rate. Their net yield after tax will be 10.36 per cent. Three-month bills with a 10.20 per cent interest rate and six-month bills with a 10.50 per cent interest rate will also be floated.

    Additionally, for the first time, bonds will be issued on Jan. 20 without zero coupons and with a two-year duration, namely, two-year treasury bills, while the possibility will be provided for renewal of treasury bills maturing on this date.

    There will be a public subscription on Jan. 24 for three-year bonds with a steady interest rate and on Jan. 27 for seven-year bonds withaa fluctuating interest rate. Lastly, treasury bill titles will be issued on Jan. 31.

    On the question of the public debt's development in 1996, the ministry announced that at the end of the year the central administration's debt as a percentage of GDP is expected to be 120.5 per cent, presenting a slight reduction (0.3 per cent) compared to 1995 (120.8 per cent).

    At the end of 1997, an even greater decrease is expected with this percentage reaching 116 per cent of GDP. The small decrease shows a stabilisation trend due to the first stage surpluses of past years. Referring to the issue of new products, the minist ry announced that the issue of index-linked bonds will start later.


    Cloudy skies with scattered rainfall is forecast for western and northern Greece as well as the eastern Aegean islands. Mild weather is expected for the greater Athens area with New Year's Day temperatures ranging from 10- 19C; 5-19C in the Ionian Sea and the rest of the mainland, and 11-20 C in the Aegean. Thessaloniki should expect overcast skies with occasional rainfall and temperatures of 6-12C on New Year's Day.


    (Closing rates - buying)

    US dlr. 245.044 Pound sterling 415.827 Cyprus pd 522.288 French franc 46.805 Swiss franc 181.670 German mark 157.698 Italian lira (100) 16.056 Yen (100) 210.731 Canadian dlr. 178.699 Australian dlr.195.087 Irish Punt 411.482 Belgian franc 7.658 Finnish mark 52.826 Dutch guilder 140.552 Swedish kr. 35.553 Norwegian kr. 38.134 Austrian sh. 22.438 Spanish peseta 1.873 Portuguese escudo 1.568



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