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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-02-11

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, 11/02/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Excavations reveal bust of Eupolis
  • Greek president sends telegram to Shevardnadze
  • Lower interest rates in second-half 1998 - Papantoniou
  • Interbank rates continue gradual decline
  • Olympic Airways has two-month deadline
  • Gov't agrees on timetable for public utilities reform
  • G. Papandreou hails US announcement on Olympic truce
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Excavations reveal bust of Eupolis

Archaeological excavations in the grounds of the parliament building have revealed an inscripted Herma column complete with a bust of Eupolis, the Athenian comic poet whose satirical plays were greatly admired by the ancients.

The two-metre pillar, dating back to early Roman times, was enclosed in the wall of a Roman building which collapsed following an earthquake.

The most common monument to the Olympian god Hermes, a Herma was a stone pillar, usually with a carved bust on top, often placed at the side of roads.

A similar pillar with a bust of the prominent stoic philosopher Chrysipposwas was found in the same vicinity in April last year.

The Eupolis find is considered to be of particular importance, since it provides the first image of the poet, a contemporary of Aristophanes, with whom he seems to have collaborated but also attacked.

Although he is credited with at least 17 comedies, only fragments of Eupolis' work survives.

Greek president sends telegram to Shevardnadze

President Kostis Stephanopoulos today sent a telegram to his Georgian counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze expressing relief that he survived the assassination attempt against him.

Commenting yesterday on the attempt against Shevardnadze's life, the government said it was unacceptable for differences to be settled in such a manner.

"Mr. Sheverdnadze is an international figure who ensures stability in his country and plays a positive role in international developments," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

Approximately 15 assassins ambushed Shevardnadze's motorcade with anti-tank grenades and automatic weapons in Tbilisi on Monday night. Two of the president's bodyguards were killed in the attack while a further four travelling in the motorcade are reported to be in serious condition.

One of the attackers was also reported killed.

Lower interest rates in second-half 1998 - Papantoniou

Commercial bank interest rates on loans will begin falling again in the second half of 1998, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou predicted today.

Papantoniou said presently high interest rates would continue to June due to the prevailing uncertainly ahead of the official announcement in May of which European Union countries will participate in the Euro, as well as the aftershocks of the recent monetary turmoil.

He added that the government was not considering any change whatsoever to its exchange policy and that a new bill regulating the practice of compounding interest on overdue loans would be revealed on Tuesday.

Interbank rates continue gradual decline

Greek interbank interest rates remained on a steady, although slow, declining trend with the help of the Bank of Greece intervention in the market.

The central bank's intervention rate dropped to 17.5 percent from 18 percent last week. The bank drained 200 billion drachmas in excess liquidity from the market.

The drachma was slightly higher against the DMark at the day's fixing in the domestic foreign exchange market. The Greek currency was stable against the Ecu but fell slightly against the US dollar.

Olympic Airways has two-month deadline

Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis warned today that the future of Olympic Airways (OA) would be in danger, if within the two-month period set by the government, ways had not been found to revitalise the national carrier.

Mantelis made the statement when asked if the management of OA was ready to enter into talks with the various trade union groups representing the workers.

He said OA management was already formulating a framework for talks and the workers would soon be invited to state their positions on the proposals to be put to them.

When asked to comment on a Supreme Council for the Selection of Personnel (ASEP) report alleging irregularities in hiring procedures at OA and the recommendation by ASEP that the matter be referred to a public prosecutor, Mantelis said he did not intend to cover anything up.

Gov't agrees on timetable for public utilities reform

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday that the government would take specific decisions on the revitalisation of public enterprises and corporations (DEKOs) during February and March, after receiving relevant business plans from their administrations.

Mr. Papantoniou was speaking after a meeting focusing on DEKOs' revitalisation, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis and attended by Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis and Labour Minister Miltiades Papaioannou.

"We have agreed on the time schedule," Mr. Papantoniou said, adding that "the revitalisation programme will be comprehensive, spherical and consistent with what we have said in Parliament".

Declining to further elaborate on measures to be taken, Mr. Papantoniou noted that government decisions would certainly be the subject of social dialogue, while the government would also be holding talks with DEKO administrations and employees.

According to sources, the prime minister stressed the need for substantial dialogue with the unions and social organisations, and that the changes should above all serve the citizen, who is the user of utilities' services and is called upon to fork out the bill for them.

He called for speedy structural reforms, and asked the national economy ministry to submit an accurate timeframe for the listing of profitable utilities on the Athens Stock Exchange.

Setting out the basic points of the government's programme for utilities in the next three years, Mr. Papantoniou said an increasing number of the profitable ones would be listed, while efforts would be made to revitalise the loss-making ones, such as Olympic Airways, the railways, urban transport, the post office, the aircraft industry (EAB) and the heavy vehicles concern (ELBO).

The revitalisation programme would include changes in the system of granting state subsidies through introduction of the system of "closed budget", which would establish efficiency and social contribution indicators, stricter conditions for state guara ntees for loans and reductions in staff through strict control of hiring.

It would also include certain restrictive provisions in their regulations, and encouragement of "strategic cooperations" with other domestic and foreign enterprises in sectors with international orientation, such as the defence industry. Efforts would a lso be made to restrict utility rate increases as a contribution to the anti-inflationary policy, while the dividends policy of unlisted utilities would be revised and their mutual debts would be offset.

G. Papandreou hails US announcement on Olympic truce

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday described an announcement by the US administration that it will respect an Olympic truce during the Winter Games in Nagano as a positive step.

Commenting on the US commitment, Mr. Papandreou added: "I hope the period of the Games will allow diplomatic activity to be stepped up, in accordance with decisions by the United Nations, and aimed at achieving a peaceful solution to the crisis in the ( Persian) Gulf."

"Such a development would prove that the Olympic truce is an effective tool in averting violent clashes," he said.

WEATHER

Fair weather with rising temperatures is forecast for most parts of Greece. Some cloud and possible rain in the western and southern regions. Winds variable, moderate to strong, turning to gale force in the Aegean Sea. Athens will be sunny with temperatures from 4-14C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 3-12C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 284.258 Pound sterling 461.677 Cyprus pd 534.688 French franc 46.836 Swiss franc 194.531 German mark 156.999 Italian lira (100) 15.890 Yen (100) 230.164 Canadian dlr. 198.638 Australian dlr. 193.390 Irish Punt 393.328 Belgian franc 7.607 Finnish mark 51.804 Dutch guilder 139.277 Danish kr. 41.194 Swedish kr. 34.984 Norwegian kr. 37.682 Austrian sch. 22.320 Spanish peseta 1.853 Port. Escudo 1.533

(M.P.)


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