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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-02-17

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, 17/02/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece, Russia urge diplomatic solution to Iraqi crisis
  • Pangalos politely rejects Cem proposals
  • Greece, Egypt to hold joint military exercises
  • Seminar on EU for Palestinian diplomats
  • Government congratulates Clerides on re-election
  • Papantoniou: Greece will fulfill Maastricht criteria for budget
  • Greek rates drop in T-bill tender
  • Central gov't debt slips to Dr 39.04 trillion in '97
  • Greek stocks end down in flat trade
  • Greek shipping forex falls 2.7 pct in October
  • Greece to host conference for Mediterranean NGOs
  • Businessman donates collection to state
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece, Russia urge diplomatic solution to Iraqi crisis

Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said yesterday that all political possibilities for a settlement of the crisis over weapons inspections in Iraq had not yet been exhausted and there were still steps which could be taken to avert military action.

"Greece and Russia do not consider the use of force to be expedient...since this would have serious repercussions in the broader region," Mr. Primakov told a press conference after talks with Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos on the first of a three-day official visit here.

He stressed, however, that both Greece and Russia agreed that the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq must be neutralised.

Mr. Primakov said the 90-minute talks between the Greek and Russian delegations, headed by the two foreign ministers and attended also by Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis, included a detailed discussion of the situation in Iraq.

Russia's foreign minister described as "an encouraging first step" the prospect of a visit by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Baghdad. He added however that Mr. Annan must not go to Iraq with ultimatums but to try and secure conditions which would enable UN inspectors to do their job and to persuade Baghdad to neutralise its weapons of mass destruction.

Replying to reporters' questions, Mr. Primakov said he was not in a position to know what biological and chemical weapons had been stockpiled by Baghdad, reiterating that he would not like to see force used against Iraq.

"Because a (military) strike of this type, in the case that there are large stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, would considerably affect all neighbouring countries," he added.

Asked about the sale of Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Nicosia, Mr. Primakov said that the missiles would be delivered to Cyprus in accordance with the contract signed and on the dates agreed.

He said the only possibility for the deal not to go ahead would be if the entire island republic was demilitarised. He stressed that the S-300 missiles were defensive weapons.

Mr. Primakov said he favoured a peaceful resolution "to all the differences between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean" adding that, after his talks with Mr. Pangalos, he believed Greece shared this view. He said his country's position vis-a-vis the situation in the Bosporus was that the regime should be maintained as provided for in the Montreux Treaty.

Mr. Pangalos said that the issue of Balkan cooperation had also been discussed in the context of present developments in the region and that Mr. Primakov had agreed with him that efforts should continue to overcome obstacles from any side.

One of the ways to overcome obstacles, he added, would be to create a more specific programme of action. Mr. Primakov said both countries were concerned about stability in the Balkans and were prepared to do everything possible to promote cooperation between Balkan countries in the political, economic and social sectors.

Mr. Pangalos described Greek-Russian relations as "excellent", while his Russian counterpart said they were developing very well. Noting that the talks had been "fruitful and interesting", Mr. Primakov said there was a fair degree of proximity between the views of the two sides with regard to developments in the region.

Mr. Primakov later met with President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

Mr. Primakov and his Greek counterpart are due to visit today Mount Athos and two Russian monasteries in the autonomous monastic community.

Pangalos politely rejects Cem proposals

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said yesterday that Greece had never refused high-level meetings with Turkey, while he himself met with his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem on several occasions recently and intended to do so again in the future.

Mr. Pangalos was commenting on an interview by Mr. Cem published in Monday's edition of the Athens daily "Eleftherotypia" and the latter's five- point proposal submitted to Greece's ambassador in Ankara last week in the form of a verbal note.

Expressing satisfaction at the friendly tone of both the interview and the proposal, Mr. Pangalos said Greece had never refused high-level meetings with Turkey. He stressed, however, that Greece would never enter into "overall" negotiations on Turkey's claims in the Aegean.

Every time Turkey realizes it has reached an impasse, Mr. Pangalos said, it puts forward the same proposal.

"It is not possible for Turkey to fail to understand the provisions of international law, as pointed out to Ankara by the international community, and to continue to propose things which are completely unacceptable," Mr. Pangalos said.

Mr. Pangalos noted that Greece had already accepted the general jurisdiction of the International Court and this meant that if Turkey had recourse to the court, Ankara too would have to accept its jurisdiction.

In this case, he continued, Turkey would be able, without needless talks...to refer any issue it wanted to the International Court.

Only on one issue could there be bilateral talks, Mr. Pangalos said, referring to the delineation of the Aegean continental shelf.

"With respect to all other issues, let Turkey have recourse to the International Court," he added.

Mr. Pangalos said the foreign ministry would reply to Mr. Cem's five-point proposal within the week in a verbal note, the essence of which would reflect his statements yesterday.

Greece, Egypt to hold joint military exercises

Joint naval and air force exercises in the next few months between Greece and Egypt were agreed to in talks between National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his Egyptian counterpart Hussein Tadawi here yesterday.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, currently on an official three-day visit to Egypt, held three-hour talks with Mr. Tadawi focusing on bilateral relations and developments in the wider region. The two ministers reached the joint conclusion that there is a need for co llective security for countries belonging to the so-called "instability triangle" and consequently the further strengthening of their bilateral relations is necessary. They also agreed to joint aeronautical exercises in the next six months and to Greece's participation in multipartite exercises conducted in the eastern Mediterranean, and in which Egypt also participates.

Cooperation between the defence industries of Greece and Egypt will be promoted, as well as exchanges of visits to Athens and Cairo by officers of the two countries' armed forces.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that the holding of joint aeronautical exercises between Greece and Egypt "constitutes a reply to all who think that they can exploit instability in the region for their own expediencies."

He was referring in essence to joint exercises between Israel and Turkey, which were carried out in past months and which caused serious reactions in the Arab world.

Referring to the agreement between Israel and Turkey, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the position of Athens and Cairo is common, since they assess that this agreement does not serve security in the wider region, because it is directed against the interests of Arab countries.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos and his Egyptian counterpart also exchanged views on a possible military intervention by the United States in Iraq. They agreed that such a development will create serious problems since it will cause general instability in Arab countries with unforeseen consequences. Mr. Tadawi also expressed a view that, unfortunately, chemical weapons possessed by the Iraqi strongman are not Washington's target.

Seminar on EU for Palestinian diplomats

Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis will inaugurate a seminar today on European Union issues for a group of 10 Palestinian dilpomats.

The seminar is organised by the foreign ministry in cooperation with the Greek Centre for European Studies (EKEM) and will focus on the EU's organisation, cooperation and policy on issues related to the Mediterranean.

Government congratulates Clerides on re-election

The Greek government yesterday congratulated Glafcos Clerides on his re- election as president of Cyprus.

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

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas reiterated the government's willingness for close cooperation, adding that Greece would always stand by the Cypriot people in their search for a resolution to their problems.

President Kostis Stephanopoulos also sent a telegram to Mr. Clerides, assuring him of the Greek people's continued support for Cypriot Hellenism.

Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis also congratulated Glafcos Clerides and wished him well on his efforts for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue. Mr. Karamanlis reassured Mr. Clerides of his support for the island republic' s accession to the European Union during their telephone conversation.

Papantoniou: Greece will fulfill Maastricht criteria for budget

Addressing the European Union's Council of Economic and Monetary Affairs meeting in Brussels yesterday, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said the Greek economy will be in a position to fulfill fiscal criteria set by the Maastricht Treaty, namely, to have a budget deficit of less than 3 per cent of GDP in 1998.

Mr. Papantoniou outlined to his counterparts the basic principles of Greek economic policy which the government is applying consistently, emphasising structural measures taken in the direction of restructuring public enterprises and organisations, state -run banks, the insurance system, etc.

He added that in 1998 the permanent downward trend of the Greek public debt will be consolidated to enable the prospect of the drachma's accession to European Monetary Union (EMU) to become clearer since, as he said, it is the common position of the "15 " that all countries will be handled on the basis of the same criteria regardless of whether they will accede to the EMU from the beginning or at a later stage.

Greek rates drop in T-bill tender

Greek money markets yesterday welcomed a fall in interest rates after the finance ministry's latest auction of Treasury bills.

The ministry auctioned three-month T-bills worth 50 billion drachmas at 13.1 percent, down from 13.9 percent at its previous auction.

It was the first drop in interest rates after a rising trend in the last two months.

The auction was held with the participation of a newly created group of primary dealers in the domestic securities market.

Finance ministry officials expressed their confidence that money market rates would resume their downward trend at a more rapid pace in the second half of the year.

Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis said the auction results were a good sign, and the prospect of lower rates was realistic.

"The market acknowledges improvements in economic fundamentals," Mr. Christodoulakis said.

Central gov't debt slips to Dr 39.04 trillion in '97

Greece's central government debt eased slightly in 1997 to 39.04 trillion drachmas from 39.4 trillion in 1996, representing 119.3 percent of GDP from 120.2 percent the previous year.

Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis yesterday predicted that the state's borrowing needs would fall to 10.27 trillion drachmas in 1998 from 12.92 trillion in 1997.

Greek stocks end down in flat trade

Greek equities yesterday ended lower in subdued trading on the Athens Stock Exchange.

Traders said the market was awaiting the results of a finance ministry Treasury-bill auction for a signal on the direction of interest rates.

The general index closed 0.69 percent down at 1,482.73 points with most sector indices losing ground. Banks fell 1.05 percent, Insurance eased 0.05 percent, Investment dropped 0.02 percent, Construction ended 1.63 percent off, Industrials fell 0.26 p ercent, Holding eased 1.10 percent but Leasing and Miscellaneous bucked the trend to end 0.99 and 0.47 percent higher respectively.

The parallel market index for small cap companies rose 0.34 percent. The FTSE/ASE blue chip index dropped 0.97 percent to end at 823.75 points.

Trading was moderate with turnover at 12.5 billion drachmas.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 106 to 98 with another 21 issues unchanged.

Ideal, Viochalco, Ergas and Athinea scored the biggest percentage gains at the daily 8.0 percent upper volatility limit while Radio Athina, Vis, Hellenic Technodomiki and Thessaliki suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank ended at 22,340 drachmas, Ergobank at 14,900, Alpha Credit Bank at 16,140, Delta Dairy at 2,935, Titan Cement at 13,700, Intracom at 15,350 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 5,785.

Greek shipping forex falls 2.7 pct in October

Greek shipping foreign exchange revenue dropped 2.7 percent in October last year to 191 million US dollars, the Bank of Greece said yesterday.

Revenue was 196.3 million dollars in October 1996, the central bank said in a statement.

Greece to host conference for Mediterranean NGOs

Greek Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday called on the country's non-governmental organisations to help organise a Mediterranean conference to be held in September in Olympia.

Mr. Papandreou was speaking at a meeting in Athens of representatives of non-governmental organisations, ministry officials and representatives of the European Union's executive Commission.

Speakers urged non-governmental groups to make use of around one billion Ecu earmarked by the EU to help fund non-governmental organisations.

Businessman donates collection to state

Nikos Metaxas, the founder of the Maris Hotel chain in Crete, has donated his private collection of 2,229 ancient artefacts to the Greek state, it was announced yesterday.

The collection of artefacts - dating from 4,000 B.C. to 300 A.D. - was built up over a period of 40 years by Mr. Metaxas and his wife, Loula.

It is expected to be housed in the Iraklion Museum, on Crete.

The artefacts include 680 Minoan cameos, considered to be the largest private collection of such items in the world. Pots, tools, weapons, jewelry and pottery items - primarily from prehistoric Crete as well as the Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Helleni stic and Roman periods are also included.

Mr. Metaxas also accepted a proposal from the director of the Iraklio museum Alexandra Karetsou that he finance the publication of a book on the collection.

WEATHER

Cloudy weather is forecast for most parts of Greece today. Possibility of scattered showers in the north and the northern Aegean islands from the afternoon. Light snowfall in the mountainous regions. Winds light to moderate, turning strong in the north in the evening. Local clouds in Athens with temperatures between 8-19C. Possibility of rain in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 6-14C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 284.803 Pound sterling 467.212 Cyprus pd 534.688 French franc 46.684 Swiss franc 194.759 German mark 156.478 Italian lira (100) 15.858 Yen (100) 225.928 Canadian dlr. 197.190 Australian dlr. 188.971 Irish Punt 390.411 Belgian franc 7.582 Finnish mark 51.647 Dutch guilder 138.825 Danish kr. 41.067 Swedish kr. 35.119 Norwegian kr. 37.597 Austrian sch. 22.237 Spanish peseta 1.847 Port. Escudo 1.526

(C.E.)


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