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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-02-16

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, 16/02/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Russian Foreign Minister: Russia opposed to Iraq strike
  • Primakov comments on Greek-Turkish relations
  • Turkish threat over Russian missiles for Cyprus
  • Greek-Russian relations
  • Primakov visits Prometheus Gas company
  • PASOK Secretary rejects farmers' proposals
  • Government wants framework for dialogue
  • Stephanopoulos congratulates Cypriot counterpart on re-election
  • Former Albanian leader hospitalised in Greece
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Russian Foreign Minister: Russia opposed to Iraq strike

Visiting Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov told the ANA that Moscow was "categorically opposed" to any military action against Iraq, but in no way questioned the need for wiping out the Iraqi arsenal of mass destruction weapons.

"We do not condone the use of violence against Iraq. The military scenaria would be totally unjustified from a political as well as pragmatic point of view," Primakov said in an interview with the ANA in Moscow prior to his departure for Athens, where he arrived last night on a three-day official visit.

"But, so that there will be no misunderstanding, I must stress from the outset that in no instance do we dispute the need for full destruction of the Iraqi arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and the establishment of an effective international mechanism so that such an arsenal is not redeployed," he said.

At the same time Primakov expressed the hope that a prospective visit by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Baghdad would mark a turning point.

France, Germany and Russia are pressing Annan to go to Baghdad to try to resolve the crisis, but UN diplomats said the UN Chief had not yet received US support for such a mission.

Primakov said that the problem that had arisen over inspections of presidential sites "should not overshadow the fact that the UN arms inspection committee is normally proceeding with its work in Iraq".

Naturally, he added, the problem concerning the Iraqi presidential sites needed to be dealt with, "but as the Russian President's special emissary to Baghdad has confirmed, these matters can be fully resolved through diplomatic means."

"We should not forget that the Security Council resolutions speak of the need to preserve the dignity of the Iraqis and their legitimate interests regarding national security," he added.

"In a nutshell, attacks against Iraq would clearly be a disproportionate reaction to the difficulties that have arisen," Primakov warned.

"We see no basis for attacks with respect to international law, either. The Security Council decisions in 1990 allowed the use of violence against Iraq under specific circumstances -- the occupation of Kuwait. The situation now is qualitatively different," he said.

Primakov refuted the view that only the use of violence could oblige Baghdad to comply with the Security Council resolutions. "I am certain that this could also be achieved through diplomatic means," he said.

Primakov comments on Greek-Turkish relations

Questioned on Greece's and the European Union's proposal to Turkey that it bring any claims it had against Greece before the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Primakov said:

"From what I understand, as regards The Hague, the issue concerns the delimitation of the continental shelf in regions in the Aegean Sea. As everyone knows, international law, the UN Charter, provide a wide range of means for the peaceful solution of international differences: talks, mediation, compromise, recourse to regional organisations. It goes without saying that, among those means, an important role is attributed to the UN's main judicial body, the International Court at The Hague".

"One should further keep in mind that the UN Charter also reinforces the principle of freedom of choosing the means for peaceful resolution, and that recourse to the International Court, in conjunction with its Charter, is determined by the clearly expressed desire of all the sides involved in a dispute," Primakov said.

Turning to shipping restrictions in the Bosporus Straits that Turkey intended to introduce, Primakov expressed hope that "Ankara will remove those points from the changes to the Navigation Rules -- which Turkey unilaterally adopted -- that contravene the Treaty of Montreux", the 1936 pact ensuring free passage of vessels through the Straits.

Turkish threat over Russian missiles for Cyprus

Questioned on Turkey's threats of military action in the event that Russian- made S-300 anti-aircraft defense missiles were deployed on Cyprus, Primakov said "our position on the contract to supply the Republic of Cyprus with the missiles is well known, and they know it very well in Turkey, too".

"First of all, we are talking about a routine commercial agreement that concerns the supply of defence weaponry," Primakov said.

At the same time, he added, "Russia has always been in favour of demilitarisation of Cyprus...as part of an overall Cyprus settlement, which would rule out the need for supplying any weaponry to Cyprus".

He dismissed Ankara's claims that Greece and Russia were planning to "dissolve the southern wing of NATO", noting "one must have a very active imagination to suspect us of such intentions".

He said efforts in Turkey to raise fears of "an imaginary Russian threat in the eastern Mediterranean is beyond even elementary reasoning", adding "but we look positively on the positions taken by certain representatives of the Turkish leadership who are in favour of abandoning the position of use of violent means with regard to the S-300 missiles issue."

Greek-Russian relations

Primakov described as "noteworthy" the progress in Greek-Russian relations and said there were prospects for further improvement, at the same time praising the climate of confidence in the Athens-Moscow dialogue "in which no issues are taboo".

That dialogue, he said, was the cornernstone for the development of bilateral economic relations.

He said the bilateral dialogue was gradually developing into Russian-Greek cooperation in international affairs, based on common approaches to a series of vital international matters including the consolidation of European security and the establishment of peace and stability in the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean.

Primakov noted that this coming September would mark the 120th anniversary of the commencement of diplomatic relations between Greece and Russia.

Primakov visits Prometheus Gas company

Visiting Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov today expressed his country's interest in furthering economic cooperation with Greece after talks with officials at the Prometheus Gas company, a joint Greek-Russian energy joint venture.

Primakov discussed energy issues in the wider region of southeastern Europe, including the joint venture's plans regarding the construction of a natural gas system and electricity plants in the wider region.

Prometheus Gas managing director Dimitris Kopelouzos later told reporters that Primakov "assured me of the Russian government's full support for the company's activities", particularly the company's participation in a consortium for the construction of an oil pipeline from the Black Sea port of Bourgas to Alexandroupolis port in northern Greece.

Prometheus Gas was set up in 1991 by VEP Gazexport, the Russian energy giant GAZPROM's exporting company, and the Kopelouzos group on an equal share basis.

PASOK Secretary rejects farmers' proposal

Ruling PASOK party Secretary Costas Skandalides today rejected a proposal by the farmers' Panthessaly Coordinating Committee for a meeting of all opposition parties and the government to discuss problems in the agricultural sector.

Skandalides rejected the proposal for what he called "this pretext of dialogue" as being "pointless", since dialogue was already possible through the Agricultural Policy Council and at a European level.

He criticised the form of protest chosen by farmers who have again begun to block the country's major roads saying "an open dialogue presupposes open roads".

The Panthessaly Coordinating Committee, which represents the most militant farmers in the country, temporarily lifted roadblocks this morning as a goodwill gesture while its leaders met with Scandalides and also opposition party leaders.

Speaking on behalf of the committee, Yiannis Boutas said he had asked the government to provide solutions to those problems which it saw fit to resolve, stressing that farmers did not think in terms of "all or nothing".

Boutas said farmers would hold general assemblies this afternoon to decide what action to take.

Commenting meanwhile on farmers' protest action, main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said ND did not support "extreme" forms of labour action.

Government wants framework for dialogue

The government wants continuous dialogue with all social groups, including the farmers, said government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, adding "we must all accept a framework for dialogue in order for that dialogue to be effective".

Reppas too rejected the proposal for a joint meeting between the government, opposition parties and farmers, saying that it was not possible for the role of the government to be substituted.

"The (opposition) parties play have their own role to play," he added.

Reppas said satisfying some of the farmers' demands would be tantamount to causing the collapse of the economy and could create crises in Greece's relations with the European Union.

Asked how the government would respond if farmers began blocking roads, the spokesman left all possibilies open.

"The government will make use of all legal procedures because it cannot remain indifferent when society as a whole is immobilised," he said.

Calling on farmers to assume their responsibilities, Reppas charged that there were some among the farmers of Thessaly, central Greece, who wanted "confrontation".

Papantoniou-labour (item 10)

Athens, Greece, 16/02/1998 (ANA)

The government is to turn its attention to the private sector as a follow up to its controversial changes to provisions in labour legislation affecting public enterprises, according to Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou.

In an interview in today's daily "Eleftherotypia", the minister said the changes, to be included in a bill aimed at making the labour market more flexible, particularly regarding working hours, would be on a "smaller scale" than those for public enterprises and would not affect the basic wage "in any way".

Despite opposition to the provisions, Papantoniou said the government was determined to go ahead, since "only a strong, therefore competitive economy can form the foundation for a strong welfare state".

"With this in mind, the government is determined to take the necessary steps, whether in the public enterprises or in other sectors, to promote increased competitiveness on the part of both public and private companies and the domestic economy in general," he stressed.

With regard to the 35-hour working week to be adopted in France and Germany, he said that while the government was not opposed to the idea, Greece would not yet be following suit, as there were fears the move would make the Greek economy less competitive and would increase unemployment. Greece would agree, he said, only if all European Union member states adopted the measure.

Meanwhile, social security reforms are being approached in two stages, he said, with a "small social security package", a bill which he said will be purely of an "administrative" nature, to be released within the first half of this year.

A committee headed by the prime minister's adviser Platon Tinios is preparing a report on far-reaching reforms to be included in the "large social security package" to be completed by 2000, with a view to passing the relevant bill after the 2000 elections.

Stephanopoulos congratulates Cypriot counterpart on re-election

President Kostis Stephanopoulos today sent a telegramme to Glafcos Clerides congratulating him on his re-election as president of Cyprus and assuring him of the Greek people's continued support for Cypriot Hellenism.

"As a worthy champion of the just national struggles of the entire Cypriot people, you are called upon to defend its rights," Stephanopoulos said in the telegramme.

"Rest assured that you can always rely on the undivided support of the entire Greek people in efforts to find a just and viable solution of the Cyprus problem, based on the rules of international law," he added.

Clerides took 50.8 per cent of the vote in yesterday's run-off presidential election, against 49.2 per cent for his rival George Iacovou.

Former Albanian leader hospitalised in Greece

Former Albanian communist strongman Ramiz Alia has been admitted to a Thessaloniki's George Papanicolaou Hospital last night for a series of cardiological tests, hospital sources said.

The said the 72-year-old last communist president of Albania was admitted to hospital late last night after his arrival from Tirana.

Cardiologist Stelios Kouroglou told the ANA that Alia underwent a coronary angiogram and fatigue test "and we found serious problems with the heart function".

He said a medical council had been summoned "and we hope to know within the day whether Mr. Alia will undergo open-heart surgery."

Alia had been in intensive care in an Albanian hospital after a heart attack two weeks ago.

Alia's travelling expenses have been paid for by an anonymous benefactor, identified only as a Thessaloniki businessman, due to the former Albanian strongman's dire financial straits.

Panayiotis Spyrou, the director of the hospital's cardiology unit, will oversee Alia's care.

  • WEATHER Fine weather in most parts of Greece with scattered clouds in the east and north of the country. Winds moderate and strong to very strong at times in the Aegean Sea. Athens will be sunny with few clouds and temperature from 8- 17C. Same weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures 6-15C.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    Friday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 285.012 Pound sterling 466.617 Cyprus pd 533.379 French franc 46.709 Swiss franc 194.784 German mark 156.577 Italian lira (100) 15.860 Yen (100) 227.604 Canadian dlr. 198.400 Australian dlr. 191.813 Irish Punt 392.118 Belgian franc 7.587 Finnish mark 51.604 Dutch guilder 138.905 Danish kr. 41.087 Swedish kr. 35.168 Norwegian kr. 37.676 Austrian sch. 22.254 Spanish peseta 1.847 Port. Escudo 1.531

    (Y.B.)


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