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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-02-24

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, 24/02/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece replies to Turkish five-point plan
  • Greece opposes Blair's views on Cyprus
  • Pangalos: Kosovo initiative should include whole region
  • Greece hails UN-Iraq agreement
  • Government expressed confidence in the drachma
  • Greek, Romanian, Bulgarian Public Order Ministers to meet
  • Onassis Foundation sues Roussel lawyer
  • Italian arrested for smuggling cigarettes
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece replies to Turkish five-point plan

Greece's response to a five-point proposal made by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem on the improvement of bilateral relations has been submitted in Ankara by Greece's Ambassador to Turkey Dimitris Nezeritis, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said today.

The response, said Reppas, includes Greece's long-established positions as put forward by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos.

The spokesman said the cornerstone of any improvement in bilateral relations would be the recognition by Turkey of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The question of the continental shelf, he said, could be dealt with in a step-by-step approach, with recourse to the International Court at the Hague.

He reiterated Greece's position regarding the Imia islets, that is that Turkey could if it wished take recourse to the Court unilaterally.

Reppas also suggested that a climate of trust between the two countries could emerge from procedures such as talks within NATO on confidence- building measures.

Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis today invited the ambassadors of European Union member states and the US to brief them on the details of Greece's response the five-point plan.

Greece opposes Blair's views on Cyprus

The Greek government opposes proposals recently put forward by British Prime Minister Tony Blair regarding the equal participation of Turkish Cypriots in accession talks between Cyprus and the European Union, spokesman Dimitris Reppas said today.

Blair's proposals were contained in a letter to newly re-elected Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides. Reppas also expressed the Greek government's negative view of Blair's contention that Russian S-300 missiles should not be installed in Cyprus.

Reppas said that Greece desired the participation of Turkish Cypriots (in the negotiations with the EU) on condition that this did not lead to recognition of the pseudo-state (unilaterally declared after the invasion of the northern part of Cyprus in 1974 by Turkish troops) and that their participation did not create obstacles to Cyprus' accession to the EU.

No one, he said, can prevent Cyprus from joining the EU. He added that the government had the means to deal with any eventuality.

Regarding the Russian missiles, Reppas reiterated that it was the inalienable right of the Cypriot Republic to arm itself in order to defend its sovereignty.

Pangalos: Kosovo initiative should include whole region

Greece wants all countries in the region and European Union member states to take part in any initiative to help resolve the crisis in Kosovo, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said today.

He was referring to a reply by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos to a proposal by his Bulgarian counterpart, Nadezhda Mihailova, for an initiative by Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey on the Kosovo crisis.

In his reply, Pangalos noted the need for a broader involvement in any initiative regarding Kosovo since according to all indications, it appeared that the initiative proposed by Bulgaria was inspired by the US, added Reppas.

Greece hails UN-Iraq agreement

Athens views the agreement over weapons inspections reached between UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Iraqi leadership in Baghdad as a "positive development", government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.

He also noted Greece's efforts to ensure that all avenues were explored in order to avoid an outbreak of war.

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou said efforts by Mr. Annan in Iraq were successful, adding that the European Union's Council of Foreign Ministers was very satisfied with the signing of the agreement for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Iraq.

Mr. Papandreou said although the Olympic truce cannot be considered the main factor of whatever diplomatic success, it was one of the factors contributing to the extension of negotiating time, since the winter Olympic Games in Nagano were underway.

Government expresses confidence in the drachma

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas yesterday said he was optimistic that monetary authorities would again be able to foil speculative attacks on the drachma, after the Bank of Greece intervened repeatedly in money markets in order to stabilise the curre ncy's parity.

The spokesman stressed that the government's policy on the drachma would remain firm and was already bearing fruit.

Markets were hit by Friday's news that the Moody's credit rating firm was considering lowering Greece's credit rating, now standing at A2 for domestic paper and Baa1 for external debt. Nevertheless, market reaction was described as generally reserved, with bankers reporting capital outflows totalling 230 million Ecus at the drachma's daily fixing - a sum considered to be within reasonable limits.

The Greek currency fell 0.16 per cent against the Ecu. It was 0.14 per cent off against the deutschmark but stable against the US dollar. Interbank rates remained steady around Friday's levels at 17.5 per cent.

Generally, the impression among market analysts was that fears about the drachma had been considerably exaggerated and that new speculation about a devaluation was baseless, particularly when it was not certain that Moody's would in the end proceed to reconsider the country's credit rating.The analysts were also pointing out that the firm has downgraded the country's credit rating before, shortly before a speculative run on the drachma in May 1994, from Baa1 to Baa3, only to raise it again to its former level later. The Greek economy's indicators have improved rather than worsened since, they added.

The Greek government is about to sign a $1 billion intenational syndicated loan soon, and government sources consider that the interest rate to be agreed upon will prove that its creditworthiness has not been hit. They add that the policy of the stable drachma will continue, even at the cost of high interest rates, and the national economy ministry considers tha the 1998 budget can absorb -mainly through the planned privatisations of public utilities- any additional cost arising from higher rates in t he interbank market and state paper.

Greek, Romanian, Bulgarian Public Order Ministers to meet

The public order ministers of Greece, Romania and Bulgaria will hold a three-day meeting in Thessaloniki beginning March 6 aiming at strengthening friendship among the three countries and strengthening cooperation, it was announced today.

Greece's public order minister George Romaios and counterparts Gavril Dejeu of Romania and Bogomil Bonev of Bulgaria plan to "lay the foundations for intensified cooperation and the development of coordinated and efficient measures in combatting organised crime, terrorism, drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and illegal migration", the announcement said.

Onassis Foundation sues Roussel lawyer

The Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation is suing a Greek lawyer representing French businessman Thierry Roussel for slander and defamation in court proceedings that resumed in Athens today.

Prof. Nestor Kourakis, Roussel's Athens-based lawyer, is facing a counter- suit by the Foundation over charges filed a year ago on behalf of Roussel alleging mismanagement and embezzlement of the Foundation's assets by its board of directors.

The Foundation board members were acquitted of the charges and found to have profitably managed the late Aristotle Onassis' estate by the court hearing the Roussel suit.

An Athens tribunal yesterday began hearing the Foundation's countersuit, accusing Kourakis of defamation through dissemination to the press of 'false' accusations against the board.

Roussel is the former husband of the late Christina Onassis, Aristotle's daugher. The couple divorced a year before her death in 1988. Their 13-year- old daughter, Athina, is the sole surviving heir to the vast Onassis fortune.

Foundation president Stelios Papadimitriou and vice-president Paul Ioannidis, testified before the court yesterday that Kourakis had disseminated false claims to the media between August 20-23, 1996 "that were exceptionally slanderous and defamatory to the Foundation", accusing Kourakis of "acting not only as a Roussel's lawyer, but also as an individual harbouring malicious sentiments".

A separate Foundation lawsuit against Roussel opens next Tuesday in an Athens court.

Italian arrested for smuggling cigarettes

Greek security police today confiscated two trucks and arrested its Italian driver on charges of smuggling cigarettes into Greece.

A police spokesman told the ANA that the a contraband cigarette smuggling ring was operating between Italy and the central Greek port city of Patras.

The spokesman said that about 1,200 cases of cigarettes were hidden under paintings and table lamps. The driver, Gennaro Bonetti, 39, from Naples, was being questioned by police and would appear before a public prosecutor.

He said the arrest took place after a two-month surveillance by Greek security and financial police.

The contraband haul represented about 2 billion dr. in evaded customs duties, the spokesman said.

WEATHER

Mostly fine weather is forecast for most parts of Greece today with the possibility of local rain in the west in the afternoon. Fog in some areas in the morning. Winds light, turning to moderate in the Ionian Sea. Scattered clouds in Athens with temperatures between 7-20C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 5-17C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 284.942 Pound sterling 466.478 Cyprus pd 534.093 French franc 46.822 Swiss franc 194.154 German mark 156.974 Italian lira (100) 15.915 Yen (100) 221.345 Canadian dlr. 200.543 Australian dlr. 189.715 Irish Punt 390.531 Belgian franc 7.607 Finnish mark 51.737 Dutch guilder 139.297 Danish kr. 41.190 Swedish kr. 35.321 Norwegian kr. 37.498 Austrian sch. 22.318 Spanish peseta 1.854 Port. Escudo 1.534

(Y.B.)


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