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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-11-13

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 13/11/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Five missing in ship collision
  • 62 illegal immigrants abandoned at sea
  • Scientists sound alarm on water resources
  • Parliament ratifies ban on weekend lorry traffic
  • Minor tremor registered
  • Greenpeace says Greece in eye of greenhouse storm
  • Greek goods to go on show in Skopje next month
  • 1998 'convergence' budget tabled, aims for EMU by 2001
  • Gov't pledges support for drachma's stability
  • Greece's net fiscal gains from transactions with the EU
  • Simitis says Greece will fulfill convergence criteria
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Five missing in ship collision

Five Lithuanian seamen were reported missing and presumed dead after a Syrian ship collided with a small Antigua-flag motorship in heavy fog between the islands of Kea and Makronissos shortly before midnight Wednesday, the Merchant Marine ministry announced.

It said the the Syrian 5,000-ton freighter Muaheddin with a 23-member crew, en route from Beirut, rammed the 1,000-ton Don Ricardo, which had left Istanbul on November 11 on its way to Casablanca. The Muaheddin was empty while the Don Ricardo was carrying a load of iron ore.

"The only words I heard over my wireless were 'help us we're drowning'," Muaheddin's captain told the ministry later. The Ministry quoted him as saying that the ship he rammed "was almost invisible because of heavy fog in the vicinity".

The Ministry said that despite an all-night sea and air search, no trace of the missing seamen had been found as of this morning.

A Ministry spokesman said that only an empty life raft from the Antigua vessel and oil slicks had been spotted by Coast Guard and Navy vessels taking part in the search and rescue operation.

The Muaheddin's master and first mate are to be charged later this afternoon with negligence. Amin Cangonja, and Albanian citizen and Saad Markabi, a Syrian citizen, as the officers on duty at the time of the collision, were found by the Lavrio coast guard to be chiefly responsible for sinking the Don Ricardo.

Meanwhile, three coast guard vessels, an Olympic Airways Dornier aircraft and other ships in the region are still searching for missing crewmen Vladimir Krucek, Stanislav Kondrasov, Georij Ivancenko, Nikolai Gomenisk, (all Lithuanians) and Sergey Balashof, a Russian.

62 illegal immigrants abandoned at sea

Sixty-two Iraqi illegal immigrants of Kurdish origin, including five children, were abandoned mid-sea in two wooden boats by Turkish boat- runners south of Mytilene island, the Coast Guard said today.

It said a patrol boat spotted the Iraqis -- 51 men, 6 women and 5 children - - drifting in the sea aboard the wooden boats in the Agrilia region at dawn today.

The immigrants told police they had paid 2,000 dollars a head to the Two Turkish boat-runners to transport them from a remote Turkish coast to Greece.

The boat-runners abandoned the Iraqis in the two wooden boats when they reached the Agrilia area and sped off on a motorship that was waiting for them, the immigrants told police.

Scientists sound alarm on water resources

Scientists warned today that unless water wastage was curtailed and reservoirs built to collect rainwater, there would be widespread desertification of entire regions throughout the country.

Subterranean water resources specialist Professor George Soulios said today that nearly 90 percent of the country's water sources had either dried up or fallen below the half-way mark.

During a press conference in Thessaloniki ahead of a hydro-geological conference that opens in the northern Greek capital on Friday, Soulios said scientists were worried over Greece's dwindling subterranean water resources.

He said in the long-term this could to land corrosion in extensive geographic regions throughout the coutnry, beginning with Thessaly.

He said the subterranean water levels in Thessaly, in particular, had fallen by 50 metres, and were declining at a rate of one-half to two metres annually.

Unless waste of subterranean waters was not curtailed, Greece risked desertification of entire regions, as was the case in southern Spain, Soulios warned.

Scientists, he added, proposed the construction of reservoirs for the collection and subsequent utilisation of rainwater.

Parliament ratifies ban on weekend lorry traffic

A ban on lorries on national highways from Fridays to Sundays and on some public holidays was ratified in Parliament today.

The ban, aimed at reducing road accidents, does not apply to trucks carrying perishables such as milk and fresh fish.

During the debate that preceded the vote, some deputies expressed their disappointment that more attention had not been given to the results of an interparty committee report on reducing road accidents. Transport Undersecretary Manolis Loukakis said the government would be acting on the committee's findings one by one.

Minor tremor registered

An earth tremor measuring 4.4 on the Richter scale was recorded at 12.30 today. Its epicentre was located in the sea bed near the island of Sfaktiria, off the southwestern Peloponnese near the town of Pylos.

No damages have been reported.

Greenpeace says Greece in eye of greenhouse storm

Catastrophic climatic changes due to the greenhouse effect will be affecting an area stretching from Venice, Thessaloniki, Rhodes and the Nile Delta in the next century, according to a report by the environmental organisation Greenpeace released today. The organisation says the Greek government's proposal for a 25% increase in carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2010 is "unacceptable".

All coastal areas of Greece, according to the report, will be heavily affected by flooding and erosion. It said that the Kalohori, Sindos and the Mikra airport areas of Thessaloniki are particularly vulnerable.

It also predicts a serious drought in Crete by the year 2010, while crop production in Thessaly and Karditsa is expected to be reduced by 8-16% by the year 2030. A rise in temperatures around the entire Mediterranean is likely to result in the destruction of 85% of wetlands.

Greenpeace proposes a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and says an international conference scheduled for Kyoto in December is a unique opportunity to take steps to save the planet.

Greek goods to go on show in Skopje next month

National Economy Undersecretary Alekos Baltas next month will inaugurate a trade fair to promote Greek products in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

The event, organised by Greek state trade fair organiser Helexpo, will be held in Skopje, FYROM's capital, on December 3-6.

About 150 firms are to take part in the fair, which is the first step in a plan by Helexpo to promote Greek goods and services in the Balkans.

On display will be durables including farming and construction machinery, components and spare parts, building materials, marble, electronic and electrical goods, computers, textiles, apparel and footwear, food and beverages, furniture, paper and travel accessories.

Skopje was chosen in line with the findings of a questionnaire sent by Helexpo to firms and chambers of commerce that showed Belgrade and Skopje were the favourite venues for Greek trade fairs in the Balkans.

Many of the exhibitors in Skopje also took part in Helexpo trade fairs held in Odessa, Ukraine, recently.

Helexpo's president and managing director Andonis Kourtis will hold a news conference in Skopje on November 27 to give details of the event.

Other business and artistic events will be held alongside the trade fair, including a performance of Ajax, a play by fifth century BC dramatist Sophocles, by the Northern Greek state theatre on December 4.

1998 'convergence' budget tabled, aims for EMU by 2001

Greece plans to enter Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) by 2001, but will keep the drachma out of the exchange rate mechanism (ERM) before joining the European Union's single currency," National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said in a press conference yesterday.

Releasing the Greek government's 1998 budget, which was tabled in Parliament later in the day, Mr. Papantoniou said the stability of the drachma was the cornerstone of the government's economic policy, and that the budget aimed to achieve a deficit to gross domestic product ratio of 2.4 per cent in 1998. The ratio is sharply down on the 4.2 per cent forecast for 1997, and well below the 3.0 per cent needed to join EMU. "The government will not seek the participation of the drachma in ERM...(It) will keep the drachma's exchange rate stable against the Ecu and later the Euro until Jan. 1, 2001," he said.

Mr. Papantoniou described the budget as one of convergence and cutbacks in expenses.

Consumer price inflation, currently at 4.7 per cent, is projected to fall to 2.5 per cent by end-1998.

The budget also predicts a GDP growth of 3.7 per cent next year against 3.5 per cent in 1997. Unemployment is seen slipping to 9.2 per cent from 9.7 per cent. An innovation in the budget is the introduction of an inflation- linked tax scale of up to 5.7 per cent.

Revenues are projected to increase 11.2 per cent, and specifically tax revenues by 12.7 per cent. Expenses will increase by 4.9 per cent. Defence, education and health and social welfare are primed to receive increases above average, 7.1, 5.4, 7.4 per cent, respectively.

State coffers will be boosted by tax hikes on real estate transactions, cigarettes, capital gains, increased objective taxation criteria, an increase in tax on interest of state bonds from 7.5 to 10 per cent, a 0.3 per cent levy on stock exchange transactions and a new flexible tax on mobile phones determined by use.

Wages for civil servants will rise by 2.5 per cent.

Gov't pledges support for drachma's stability

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou sent a clear message yesterday saying that the government was prepared to go to great lengths to support the stability of the national currency.

"The policy of the stable drachma will not be abandoned. It will be pursued with even greater effectiveness after the consolidation of the independence of the Bank of Greece with a relevant bill later this month," he said.

"The future devaluation of the drachma is, therefore, a vain hope of speculators," he added.

"The government will not hesitate to increase even more the cost of its borrowing in order to make the drachma more attractive to investors, "he stressed.

He said that the decision not to join ERM for two years before EMU accession will allow Greece to defend the desirable parity of the drachma with a greater time leeway and margins for appropriate moves.

Greece's net fiscal gains from transactions with the EU

Greece's net fiscal gain from transactions with the EU is projected to increase 5 per cent this year, estimated by the budget to reach 1.478 trillion drachmas.

In 1998, inflows are projected at 2.078 trillion drachmas, outflows 437.6 drachmas, thus increasing the net gain by 7.6 per cent, which will thus top 1.590 trillion drachmas.

Total financing for agriculture from national and European sources in the budget is envisaged at 1.644 trillion drachmas. Of these, 900 billion will be EU funds. The budget says these funds will be used to continue efforts to deal with the structural weaknesses of the farm sector, which represents " an immediate and urgent" issue.

Simitis says Greece will fulfill convergence criteria

During yesterday's Cabinet meeting, which approved the 1998 budget, Prime Minister Costas Simitis called for broad party support, stressing that by the end of 1999 the country had to fulfill convergence criteria "so that before the elections of 2000 we will be able to say that we are a member of EMU."

The prime minister referred extensively to the drachma, saying that "our national currency ran the danger of devaluation," but that now this danger has passed.

WEATHER

Rain is forecast for most parts of Greece in the afternoon today. Local fog in the morning in central Greece and the Aegean. Winds will be southerly, strong to gale force. Athens will be partly cloudy with sunny spells with rain expected in the afternoon and temperatures between 13-21C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 12-16C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 266.332 Pound sterling 455.626 Cyprus pd 528.736 French franc 46.477 Swiss franc 191.585 German mark 155.650 Italian lira (100) 15.899 Yen (100) 211.723 Canadian dlr. 189.174 Australian dlr. 184.854 Irish Punt 405.272 Belgian franc 7.547 Finnish mark 51.624 Dutch guilder 138.106 Danish kr. 40.918 Swedish kr. 35.603 Norwegian kr. 38.075 Austrian sch. 22.112 Spanish peseta 1.844 Port. Escudo 1.525

(M.P.)


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