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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-02-03

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, 03/02/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Opposition deputies face party disciplinary action
  • Criminal charges to be laid in Dystos accident
  • Two bombs target suburban McDonald's restaurants
  • Athens comments on cessation of US aid
  • Parliament approves public utilities provision
  • Defence minister meets with top US officials
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Opposition deputies face party disciplinary action

The threat of expulsion hangs over six main opposition New Democracy party deputies who failed to toe the party line against a government provision changing relations between workers and management at state-run public utilties.

Former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis, ND's honorary president, was exempted from the decision, taken at an extraordinary meeting chaired by ND leader Costas Karamanlis earlier today, due to his "long presence and contribution to political life."

Mitsotakis has the right "to express views which may not necessarily express the party's positions," according to an announcement by Karamanlis.

The deputies scheduled to face the party's disciplinary committee include leading ND members and former Mitsotakis government ministers George Souflias and Stephanos Manos. Souflias, who unsuccessfully challenged Karamanlis for the leadership of the party last year, and Vassilis Kontoyiannopoulos, another former minister, abstained from the vote.

The amendment was approved early on Tuesday by Parliament by a vote of 141 to 121. A total of 35 deputies - from both opposition and ruling party - absented themselves from the vote.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the absence of PASOK deputies "does not create a political issue for the government" as no PASOK deputy voted against the provision.

Reppas added that most of the PASOK deputies had valid excuses for their absence, citing Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, who had unavoidable obligations during the session.

Criminal charges to be laid in Dystos accident

Criminal proceedings were initiated today against the Hellenic Shipping Registry and the AGET Herakles cement company over the sinking of the Greek- flag dry bulk carrier "Dystos" in which 17 Greek sailors and three relatives were drowned.

The charges "against all persons responsible" are for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck through negligence, making a false declaration for the purpose of unlawfully deriving benefit and moral complicity in an unlawful act.

According to a ten-page summary of a report by four experts, the "Dystos" sank due to overloading, bad loading, the presence of (metal) plating on the deck and at the stern, the inadequate watertightness of the hatchways, defective and illegal maintenance and bad weather conditions.

The "Dystos" sank in rough seas off the island of Evia on December 28, 1996 while sailing from Volos to Piraeus with a cargo of 5,300 tons of cement.

Two bombs target suburban McDonald's restaurants

Two explosions shattered two McDonald's fast food restaurants in Athens residential suburbs early today, causing damage but no casualties, police said.

The blasts occurred 11 minutes apart in the suburbs of Halandri and Vrilissia, waking up residents, heavily damaging the restaurants and shattering windows of nearby houses.

Police said that as in previous bomb attacks, there were no warning telephone calls, and so far no one has claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Police officials later said that the two bombs were makeshift timed explosive devices, made up of a clock, dynamite and a four-volt battery.

Police said they were concerned that there had been no warning calls for either of the two bombs and that the failure of any group to claim responsibility for the attacks may indicate that another is on the way.

Claiming responsibility for a series of attacks is the hallmark of the November 17 group, they added. Authorities said the timing device used in both bombs was similar to ones used in past attacks by November 17.

Athens comments on cessation of US aid

The standard of the Greek armed forces is such that it does not require US assistance, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said when asked to comment on Washington's decision to discontinue military assistance to NATO allies Greece and Turkey.

"What is of interest to us is that the balance of power is maintained between Greece and Turkey for reasons of national security," Reppas said, noting that the assistance terminated related to the purchase of second- hand US defence material.

The decision to discontinue the assistance was announced by President Bill Clinton.

A State Department official said last night that the decision in effect constituted the result of the "maturing" of the two countries' relations with the US.

"There is no need for the same level of (military) aid as in the past in order for these two countries to continue to play an active role in NATO. We had consultations with both countries," the official said.

The official clarified that Washington's intention to discontinue the assistance had been announced three years ago and that "now was the right time to do it".

Parliament approves public utilities provision

Parliament approved early this morning the government's controversial amendment bringing about changes in labour relations in public utilities and enterprises (DEKO), in the face of strong objections by trade unions.

The amendment was carried by 142 votes in favour and 121 against. Two deputies -former New Democracy ministers Vasilis Kontoyiannopoulos and Giorgos Souflias- abstained, while 35 were absent -20 of them including prominent members of the ruling party.

The controversial amendment, whose debate in parliament was regarded as a test to the major parties' (PASOK, ND) inner cohesion, is actually a reformulation of Clause 31 in the taxation bill giving the government the power to intervene by legislative ar rangements in the personnel regulations of four ailing DEKO - Hellenic Post Offices (ELTA), Olympic Airways, Greek Railways Organisation (OSE) and the Urban Transport Organisation (OASA).

The roll-call vote in parliament was requested by all opposition parties.

Earlier, during the debate, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said publc utilities had a slim chance to survive unless they underwent restructuring.

The minister said the government was giving employees with ailing DEKO the chance for six months of dialogue and negotiations.

He stressed, however, that if these failed, then the state could not remain indifferent to "the self-destructive course" of public utilities.

Mr. Papantoniou said he agreed with a seven-point proposal made by the main opposition ND party, but invited ND leader Costas Karamanlis to expandout on whether his party would bring in legislation, as did the government, on changing labour relations.

He further described public utilities in pessimistic terms, explaining that some of them had huge debts, such as OASA with a deficit of 88 billion Dr., OSE with 116 billion Dr. and ELTA with 20 billion Dr.

Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis termed the controversial clause "sudden, hypocritical, improvised, unstudied and fragmentary which fails to touch the overall problem of DEKO."

He analysed his party's seven-point proposal, saying that it is a "programme for the real upgrading of an ailing public sector."

Mr. Karamanlis said his party is committed to tabling an integrated draft law on restructuring the public sector in a month's time and called on the government to respond, withdraw the amendment and attend an "explicit and sincere" dialogue.

Meanwhile, General Confederation of Workers of Greece, GSEE, President Christos Polyzogopoulos had said the ratification of the amendment will be considered a "hostile act" by trade unions.

Mr. Polyzogopoulos warned that the amendment is leading to a confrontation which will last for many months, adding that GSEE will not allow the running down of DEKO to make their privatisation easier. He stressed that no federation will be left to tackle consequences alone, adding that the possibility of generalised strike action is visible.

Defence minister meets with top US officials

Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday met with US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Mark Grossman, the Vice-chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff Joseph Ralston and ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns. According to press reports, the minister and the US officials exchanged views and information on the recent crisis with Iraq, while the US government did not ask Greece for its support or to facilitate its actions.

The same press reports state that Mr. Grossman said that the US is awaiting for the diplomatic initiatives to defuse the crisis and Mr. Tsohatzopoulos pointed out to Mr. Grossman that all diplomatic efforts must be exhausted for a peaceful setlement of the crisis.

WEATHER

Clouds and rainy weather will prevail throughout Greece today. Fog in the morning. Winds variable, light to moderate, turning into strong in the evening. Rain and storms in the Aegean and Dodecanese islands. Athens will be overcast with temperatures between 8-15C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 2-8C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 287.640 Pound sterling 469.097 Cyprus pd 536.156 French franc 46.888 Swiss franc 194.184 German mark 157.143 Italian lira (100) 15.930 Yen (100) 226.503 Canadian dlr. 196.983 Australian dlr. 197.081 Irish Punt 394.380 Belgian franc 7.615 Finnish mark 51.913 Dutch guilder 139.406 Danish kr. 41.235 Swedish kr. 35.422 Norwegian kr. 37.944 Austrian sch. 22.332 Spanish peseta 1.852 Port. Escudo 1.536

(M.P.)


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