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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-12-17

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, 17/12/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • PM challenges unruly MPs before budget debate
  • Athens hosts Mideast peace process meeting
  • Diplomatic staff call 48-hour strike
  • Bregovic to perform in Thessaloniki
  • Mount Athos exhibition extended
  • No land issue in Greek-Albanian relations
  • Snow begins falling in northern Greece
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

PM challenges unruly MPs before budget debate

Prime Minister Costas Simitis today threw down the gauntlet to critics within his ruling PASOK party just a few hours before a parliamentary debate on the state budget, parts of which have been criticised by PASOK deputies.

"If somebody thinks they have a better proposal, the door is open for them to express so publicly," Simitis said, adding, "They will be judged by the people."

Simitis was addressing PASOK's parliamentary group.

The passing of the budget by parliament, he said, was a key step in the implementation of the (economic) programme approved by the Greek people.

Stressing that PASOK's policy was not "fragmentary", Simitis said one could not select certain main points and reject others.

The premier called on all PASOK deputies to wholeheartedly support the government's task and ensure a "fruitful discussion" of the budget in parliament.

"The implementation of the government's policy is identified, now more than at any other time," with the vital, direct and long-term interests of the country... Today we have a historic responsibility which goes far beyond all party and political considerations, and most certainly beyond all personal interests," he said.

Simitis also warned "all those retain privileges and promote their own specific interests, draining the vital resources of the economy," that no concessions would be made to them, irrespective of the political cost.

Asked by reporters later to clarify what Simitis meant by his reference to the door being open, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said:

"The doors to PASOK are open for anyone wishing to enter or leave. Each person chooses for himself the entrance or exit."

Reppas explained that Simitis' statement was in effect a reiteration of the premier's position that "each person must assume his or her responsibilities".

If divisive views are expressed, he added, this will be an obstacle to the implementation of collective decisions.

Athens hosts Mideast peace process meeting

The second meeting between Israeli and Palestinian delegations begins in Athens tomorrow aimed at examining the course of the peace process and exchanging views on the possibility of speeding up the process.

An initial meeting in Athens at the initiative of the Greek Foreign Ministry was held in July. No joint communique was released after that meeting.

The Israeli delegation will include two parliamentary vice-presidents and two deputies representing the governing coalition and the opposition.

The Palestinian side will consist of members of the Palestinian Authority and of the Legislative Council.

The meeting will be opened by Greek Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis.

A press conference will also be given tomorrow by Foreign Minster Theodoros Pangalos, the European Union's special envoy for the Middle East peace process Miguel Angel Muratino and representatives of the two delegations.

Diplomatic staff call 48-hour strike

Diplomatic staff of the foreign ministry will hold a 48-hour strike on December 18-19 to protest the refusal of the finance ministry to revise their salary scales.

The Union of Diplomatic Staff, in an announcement today, said although the salary scales of all categories of senior state functionaries had been reviewed in recent months, "with major pay increases being given in many cases ...an impartial assessment of the needs of our branch has not been made".

The union said that the upgrading of Greek diplomacy being pursued by the government was inconsistent with the present economic circumstances of the Greek diplomat.

The union pointed out that the present salaries of diplomatic staff was not commensurate with their high qualifications, particularly in view of the fact that spouses were very often unable to work due to relocations abroad.

Bregovic to perform in Thessaloniki

Yugoslav composer Goran Bregovic, who is to give a performance in Thessaloniki on December 30 to mark the closure of the city's year as Cultural Capital of Europe, has invited 200 performing artists from all Balkans states except his own as he considers his compatriots "immature".

Speaking at a press conference today, Bregovic said nevertheless that the programme included a song to be performed by three children from Sarajevo - a Moslem, a Serb and a Croat.

The event will include te premiere of the work "Thessaloniki", commissioned by the Cultural Capital Organisation, to be performed by Greek singer George Dalaras, and a film entitled "The Silence of the Balkans", directed by Boris Milikovic.

Mount Athos exhibition extended

Thessaloniki may cease being European Cultural Capital on December 31, but the legacy of the city's year as the reference point for European cultural events will live on, at least until April 30, when the Treasures of Mount Athos exhibition ends.

The exhibition has been extended due to an enthusiastic public response and the fact that the exhibition is unlikely to travel anywhere else but back to the cloistered monastic community of Mount Athos, which women are forbidden to enter.

"It may take several decades before the relics leave the monastic community again," Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos told reporters in June when the exhibition opened at the city's Byzantine Museum.

Sixteen of the 20 monasteries on the Athos peninsula have contributed to the exhibition, which took two years to organise and cost four billion drachmas. Among the items on show are icons by famous hagiographers, such as Panselinos and Theophanis, priceless manuscripts and books, handwoven, embroidered tapestries and cloth. Most of the 600 items had never before left the peninsula.

The 2,000 drachma admission and proceeds from the sales of catalogues and posters has brought in 1.5 billion drachmas, much of which will make its way back to the autonomous community for restoration of monasteries. The amount is thought to have been a major reason behind the decision to extend the exhibition.

Some 464,706 people have visited the exhibition since it opened on June 21 this year, but free admission on Sundays as of November 1 has increased the number of Sunday visitors to some 6,000 daily. Organisers hope to reach the one million visitor mark by the time the exhibition ends.

Although the majority of visitors are Greeks, organisers said at least three tourist coaches a day pass into Greece from its border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with Orthodox faithful from all over former Yugoslavia. One of the monasteries participating in the exhibition is the Serbian Monastery of Hilandariou.

The 30,000 catalogues of the exhibition have been sold out since September and a second print run is expected to be ready for distribution by January 15.

No land issue in Greek-Albanian relations

Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis told Parliament late last night that the Greek government did not recognise any issue concerning the property of "Tsamides" - an Albanian Moslem minority now living in the neighbouring country.

Kranidiotis stressed that there was no property issue either from a political or legal viewpoint.

Tsamides are an Albanian-speaking group which collaborated with Italian and German occupation forces in Greece during the Second World War. They fled to Albania together with retreating German forces.

The group has repeatedly raised claims against the Greek government for property which it claims it lost during that period.

Kranidiotis was speaking in Parliament during a debate on the ratification of a friendship, cooperation and security pact signed by Greece and Albania on March 21, 1996.

"The issue was never raised by the Albanian side during talks prior to the agreement. Why should we raise it?" Kranidiotis said in response to sharp criticism from the main opposition New Democracy party.

According to ND deputies, Article 15 of the pact concerning the removal of obstacles to the use of property in one country owned by citizens of the other, paves the way for the Tsamides to have recourse to international courts.

Kranidiotis told Parliament that there was no issue of an Albanian minority in Greece.

He added also that, according to Tirana, Greece could establish Greek schools throughout the neighbouring country.

"In reality," Kranidiotis said, there are no clearly defined (ethnic Greek) minority zones in Albania and Athens would work to have this recognised also formally.

ND deputies claimed that the agreement did not secure the rights of ethnic Greeks in southern Albania, nor the principle of reciprocity, while failing to resolve the problems of education, religion, the establishment of Greek banks, customs posts and illegal immigration.

Snow begins falling in northern Greece

Heavy snow continues to fall in Epirus, central and western Macedonia, causing problems for traffic in the region. Temperatures have dropped to - 5C in the Katara Pass on the Ioannina-Trikala road, while snow is also falling in the city of Thessaloniki.

Chains are required for all vehicles travelling on the Kozani-Kastoria road via Vigla and on a section of the Thessaloniki-Kozani road as well on some mountain roads in the region.

Authorities are on the alert in the prefecture of Evros, in Thrace, as it is feared the river Arda is likely to break its banks due to the heavy rain which has been falling as far north as the river's headwaters in Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian authorities are briefing the Greek Embassy in Sofia on the situation.

WEATHER

Light rain is forecast in most parts of Greece today with light snowfall in the mountainous regions of central and northern Greece. Winds will be variable, strong to gale force. Athens will be cloudy with light rain and temperatures between 4-9C. Clouds and sleet in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 2-5C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 278.256 Pound sterling 454.058 Cyprus pd 533.696 French franc 46.697 Swiss franc 193.812 German mark 156.414 Italian lira (100) 15.960 Yen (100) 212.457 Canadian dlr. 195.960 Australian dlr. 180.643 Irish Punt 403.744 Belgian franc 7.580 Finnish mark 51.832 Dutch guilder 138.791 Danish kr. 41.053 Swedish kr. 35.829 Norwegian kr. 38.162 Austrian sch. 22.231 Spanish peseta 1.847 Port. Escudo 1.532

(M.P.)


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