Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-12-19
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 19/12/1997 (ANA)
- Massive operation for missing airliner resumes
- Plane recording turned over to Supreme Court prosecutor
- U.S., NATO help enlisted in plane search
- Olympic flame lit for Winter Games
- Athens hosts second Middle East peace process meeting
- Foreign Exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Massive operation for missing airliner resumes
A giant military operation with the deployment of an estimated 5,000 troops
was resumed at dawn today to locate the missing Ukrainian Yakovlev-42
airliner with 73 people on board that vanished 36 hours ago, minutes before
it was scheduled to land at Thessaloniki airport, defence ministry sources
The main search was now concentrated in the Pieria mountain range with
commandos, police, firemen, local farmers and relatives of the missing
The sources said that the rescue teams began the search in the triangle of
the villages of Kato Milia, Fotina and Morna where the altitude exceeds 2,
000 metres covered with a heavy blanket of snow and in some points
It was near Kato Milia when the pilot of the fateful airliner had sent his
last message to Thessaloniki's Macedonia airport the aircraft vanished at
9.13 p.m. on Wednesday while at an altitude of 3,500 feet. Kato Milia,
about 28 miles from the airport, is in rugged terrain.
Adverse weather conditions, heavy fog and low cloud formations prevail in
the region, with visibility at less than 100 metres.
Meanwhile, scores of relatives kept an all-night vigil at the airport,
waiting for news of the missing passengers.
A team of Ukrainian aviation experts arrived in Thessaloniki last night to
join the search.
Plane recording turned over to Supreme Court prosecutor
Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis today turned over the
taped recording of the dialogue between the pilot of the Yakovlev and the
Thessaloniki airport control tower to an Areios Paghos (Greek Supreme
Court) prosecutor, in accordance with International Civil Aviation
Organisation (ICAO) procedures.
Mantelis attributed the accident to disorientation of the pilot of the
Ukrainian plane, in reply to reporters' questions outside the Supreme Court
building after he handed the tape to Supreme Court judge Panayotis
He said the landing system used at Thessaloniki's Macedonia airport was the
same one used by all airplanes. The minister added, however, that if the
airport had had the LRS landing radar system it would have had an
"additional tool" to facilitate its job.
"But," he stressed, "this does not mean that this was the cause of the
Dimopoulos ordered the Thessaloniki prosecutors' office to launch a
preliminary investigation into the conditions and causes of the accident,
and also into whether all the necessary safety measures set out under
international regulations and practice had been taken at Macedonia
U.S., NATO help enlisted in plane search
Macedonia-Thrace Minister Philippos Petsalnikos said that the United States
and NATO had agreed to a Greek request to participate in the search with
Petsalnikos said that a total of 6,500 troops were currently taking part in
the search, not including firemen, police and local people.
He added that assistance would also be requested from mountaineering clubs
all over Greece.
U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns later accepted a request for U.S. assistance
in the search extended by Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou
during a meeting.
A fully-equipped U.S. aircraft is expected to fly to the presumed crash
area within the next few hours.
Olympic flame lit for Winter Games
The Olympic flame was lit today by the sun's rays in Ancient Olympia, home
of the first Olympic Games 2,800 years ago, to embark on a six-week journey
to the Japanese city of Nagano for the Winter Games.
A white-robed high priestess touched the Olympic torch to the flame at the
temple dedicated to Hera, mother of the Olympian gods, in a re-enactment of
the ancient ritual that marked the beginning of a truce among the warring
states of antiquity for the duration of the noblest of contests.
The priestess, portrayed by an actress, handed the lit torch to Greek skier
Vassilis Dimitriadis, the first runner in the relay.
The torch is due to arrive in the town of Kalavryta at 6:00 this afternoon,
where it will spend the night. The next stage of the relay will take the
torch to the Helmos ski centre tomorrow, where a flame will be lit
symbolically, and then on to Athens' Panathenian Stadium, venue of the
first modern Olympic Games, tomorrow evening, to light another flame to
shine the way to the Winter Games.
The torch leaves Athens on Monday for the long flight to Japan, where the
relay will be taken up on January 6 for a month-long journey involving some
British landmine victim Chris Moon, Japanese Olympic skiing champions
Takanori Kono, Masashi Abe and Reiichi Mikata, and distance runners Hiromi
Suzuki and Masako Chiba will be the final torch runners at the opening
ceremonies of February's Winter Games.
The organisers of the Nagano Games said last week they picked the two long-
distance runners to be a "bridge between the Nagano Games and the Sydney
One of the two would hand the torch to former Olympic figure skating
medallist Midori Ito, who will light the cauldron at the Olympic Stadium in
Nagano on February 7.
Lambis Nikolaou, president of the Greek Olympic Committee, said the Olympic
flame would carry with it, on its journey to Nagano for the 18th Winter
Games, "a message of joy, friendship and brotherly bonds among people...A
message of the symmetrical development of body and spirit, combined with
the cultivation of the virtues of the soul...a message of individual
distinction through respect for team spirit and collective achievement".
Mayor of Ancient Olympia, George Devves, appealed "to all countries, to all
peoples and each and every person to, together, intensify their efforts
towards international detente and world peace" in the spirit of the Olympic
"ekecheiria" (truce) of antiquity.
"2,800 years ago, on these grounds where the ancients worshipped Zeus and
Hera, the king of the people of Elia, Hephitus, dedicated a bronze disk
whereupon the sacred ekecheiria was engraved and recorded, the most exalted,
the most respected and the most sacred act throughout the centuries. The
act whereby wars ceased, so that Greeks could pursue virtue, honour and
glory, competing in brotherly spirit in the Stadium," Devves said.
Athens hosts second Middle East peace process meeting
Israeli and Palestinian delegations met in Athens yesterday for the second
"Athens Meeting" on the Middle East peace process.
The meeting, organised by the Greek government, aims to examine the course
of the peace process and allow an exchange of views on stepping up the
process. The first "Athens meeting" was held last June at the Vouliagmeni
Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis formally opened proceedings,
which will be held behind closed doors.
Diplomatic sources said a third meeting tentatively scheduled for the
coming summer will also include the participation of Israeli, Palestinian
and Greek businessmen. Mr. Kranidiotis proposed that the third meeting be
held in Athens.
Participating in the present meeting are two vice-presidents of the Israeli
Knesset, deputies from both the Israeli ruling coalition and opposition, as
well as the Israeli foreign minister's brother.
Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos is expected to close the meeting
with a speech on Sunday. The European Union's emissary on the Mideast peace
process Miguel Angel Muratino is also scheduled to speak on Sunday.
According to diplomatic sources, Greece as an EU member-state wants to play
a coordinating role in the region without usurping the peacemaking efforts
of other countries in the region.
"Our ambition is for this informal channel of communication, which has been
created through the Athens meetings and which is not binding on governments,
to develop into an institution which can contribute to procedures to clear
obstacles in official talks," a source said.
In his address yesterday, Mr. Kranidiotis said that Greece wanted to offer
organisational support through these meetings in a more informal climate
which offers the opportunity to both sides to exchange ideas and opinions
on the peace process. He stressed that Greece was opposed to any terrorist
actions, regardless of the motives they served and said the Greek
government aimed to undertake the training of a number of Palestinian
police officers working in anti-terrorist services.
He noted that the "creation of axes" in the region did not contribute to
efforts for regional stability and peace and referred to Greece's efforts
in the Balkans and the Mediterranean - particularly through the recent
Southeast European summit on Crete .
Cyprus, he added, was an issue for the "collective security of the Eastern
Mediterranean", saying that the Cyprus and Mideast issues were issues
Cloudy weather and rain is forecast for most parts of Greece today with
snowfall in the mountainous regions. Winds variable, strong to gale force.
Athens will be sunny with a few clouds and temperatures from 3-10C.
Thessaloniki will be overcast with temperatures between 0-6C.
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