Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-02-03
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 03/02/1998 (ANA)
- 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
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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