Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-04-16
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 16/04/1998 (ANA)
- Close Greek-Bulgarian ties reaffirmed
- Greece to train Armenian officers
- US State Dept. condemns new Turkish threats against Cyprus
- Over 700,000 Athenians expected to leave capital for Easter
- 'Treasures of Mt. Athos' exhibit ends April 30
- Poaching on Ionian islands decried
- Karamanlis develops slight fever, condition still critical
- Film Festival on Lesvos
- Iraq rejects conference, ambassador tells ANA
- Current account deficit rises 6.5 pct in 1997
- Two Moroccans killed in minefield blast
- EU: Greece ready to absorb Santer package funds
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Close Greek-Bulgarian ties reaffirmed
Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that his visit to Bulgaria
this week was another step on the road to bring Balkan countries closer.
Speaking to reporters at a joint news conference held with his Bulgarian
counterpart Ivan Kostov at the end of his two-day official yesterday he
said that his talks with the Bulgarian leadership had been "cordial and
friendly" and had provided an opportunity to define "joint efforts to
resolve problems". There is agreement, he said, on the general framework of
policy which should underpin relations in the region and said Greece had
always supported Bulgaria's desire to join the European Union.
"The Balkans must be an area of friendship, peace, cooperation and
development, without opposition, axes and alliance-building which create
dividing lines," Mr. Simitis said, adding that the participation of Balkan
countries in NATO would be a prelude to regional security.
He called bilateral relations with Sofia "right and good" and that
agreement had been reached that the Bulgarian Parliament would ratify a
bill on the avoidance of double taxation.
There was also agreement on pursuing pacts on the waters of the Nestos
River and stepping up the pace of construction of border posts and the
He said experts would be meeting on the issue of the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis
pipeline at the beginning of May and that Sofia and Athens were awaiting
clarifications from the Russian side on financing and other issues.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov expressed his gratitude for Greece's
support for Bulgaria's bids to join the EU and NATO and said that there
were prospects for more economic cooperation, citing infrastructure
projects and Greek assistance in constructing a bridge over the Danube.
Both prime ministers said that tension in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo
must be resolved through political means.
Mr. Simitis said Balkan countries needed to keep in touch on this issue to
work on joint political moves and that he and Mr. Kostov favoured the
creation of a Balkan rapid deployment force, although discussion had not
extended to where the force would be based.
A joint communique issued at the end of the talks said the deepening of
Bugarian-Greek relations was a strong contributing factor to the consolidation
of peace and stability in the broader region.
"Greece fully supports the Bulgarian aspiration to join the EU and
"They underline the need to forward proposals and ideas concerning land and
sea trade routes linking the Danube and Central Europe with the Aegean, the
Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Black Sea. In this context they
stressed the importance of linking the Paneuropean Crete Corridors IV, VIII,
IX with the Transeuropean Corridor of Egnatia," the communique added.
The two delegations expressed satisfaction with the prospects of opening
three new border crossing points and the agreement regarding distribution
of the Mesta/Nestos river waters.
"They also agreed to increase cooperation between the respective police
forces and relevant institutions for the combat of organized crime,
terrorism, illegal drugs and arms trafficking.
Greece to train Armenian officers
Greece and Armenia yesterday signed a technical agreement for the training
of Armenian officers at Greek military academies.
The accord was signed after talks on bilateral defence cooperation between
Defence Undersecretary Dimitris Apostolakis and his visiting Armenian
counterpart Vahan Shirkhantan.
The two men also discussed the general political situation in the wider
region, as well as collaboration within the framework of the NATO-sponsored
"Partnership for Peace" programme.
Mr. Shirkhantan later met with Greek military chief Gen. Athanasios
Tzoganis and National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.
The Greek defence minister expressed hope that bilateral cooperation
between Greece and Armenia will help in a peaceful solution to the problem
of Nagorno-Karabakh, as soon as possible, on the basis of principles of
justice and mutual respect for the rights of peoples in the region.
US State Dept. condemns new Turkish threats against Cyprus
The United States yesterday criticised Turkey for its renewed threats
against Cyprus over its decision to deploy Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft
missiles on the island republic.
"The problem with the missiles cannot be resolved with use of threats," US
State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters.
"We have encouraged Turkey to approach the issue of the S-300 missiles in a
diplomatic manner and to avoid threats of destroying them by military means,
" Mr. Rubin added.
He nevertheless expressed US opposition to the deployment of the missiles.
A Turkish foreign ministry spokesman on Tuesday said Turkey's policy
concerning the missiles issue has not and will not change, reminding
statements by Turkish officials last year that Ankara would oppose by all
means the deployment.
The S-300 missiles are scheduled to arrive on the island later in the
summer, after an agreement was reached between Nicosia and Moscow in
Over 700,000 Athenians expected to leave capital for Easter
Over 700,000 Athenians are expected to flee the capital by car, boat, train
and - conditions permitting, by plane - to spend the Orthodox Easter
vacation in the countryside this weekend.
According to Public Order Ministry estimates, 120,000 cars are expected to
pass through toll posts on the two main highways leading out of the capital
to northern and southern Greece.
The managements of Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE), the intercity
coach organisation (KTEL) and the Piraeus port authority have put on
additional services to meet demand.
The police are taking special measures to facilitate the flow of traffic on
highways and secondary roads, with ambulances being positioned at key
Problems for travellers have been caused by cancellations and long delays
in Olympic Airways flights resulting from pesonnel shortages.
'Treasures of Mt. Athos' exhibit ends April 30
The highly successful "Treasures of Mount Athos" exhibition will officially
end at Thessaloniki's Byzantine Museum on April 30, with hundreds of
priceless manuscripts, artifacts and icons set to return to participating
monasteries on the autonomous monast ic community.
The exhibition will be open from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow - Orthodox
Good Friday - and from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Holy Saturday, with free
Poaching on Ionian islands decried
The Greek Ornithological Society (EOE) issued an announcement yesterday
referring to poaching of thousands of migratory birds on Ionian islands,
particularly Zakinthos, Strofadia, Paxoi and Antipaxoi.
EOE said that many local people are equally to blame since they either hunt
themselves or rent "good spots" to poachers from other areas.
In 1997, EOE requested the intervention of the state without, however, the
situation being remedied. This year, the intervention of forestry, port and
police authorities was requested since March 23 and a mobilisation has
already begun by the merchant marine ministry and the public order
However, initial reports show that the carnage is being repeated.
Karamanlis develops slight fever, condition still critical
Doctors treating elder statesman Constantine Karamanlis at a private Athens
hospital fear a new infection as the 91-year-old politician remained in
critical condition and on a respirator.
Karamanlis was admitted to Ygeia Hospital on April 7 with a lung infection.
He suffered a mild heart attack early Sunday and was placed on a respirator.
Several efforts since to take him off the breathing apparatus have
A medical bulletin this morning said Karamanlis developed a slight fever,
around 38 C, which was being treated with medication, and remained in a
critical but stable condition.
Doctors are worried, however, that a new infection could develop, although
they say the slight temperature might have been in reaction the repeated
use of needles to help monitor Karamanlis's health.
The physicians told reporters that Karamanlis' breathing appeared to be
steady, but were not qualitatively satisfactory to allow removal of the
Film festival on Lesvos
Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Lesvos prefect Alekos Mathiellis
yesterday signed a contract for the holding of an annual international film
festival on the Aegean island beginning 1999.
The "International Creative Documentary Film Festival" is expected be held
each spring in Mytilene and surrounding villages.
Mr. Mathiellis said in an announcement its cost will be 90 million drachmas,
50 per cent of which will be financed by the culture ministry.
Iraq rejects conference, ambassador tells ANA
Baghdad will not accept or be bound by the results of an international
conference planned by Britain to speed up an oil-for-food agreement, Iraq's
Ambassador to Greece, Issam Saoud Khalil, told the Athens News Agency
The envoy said the London conference, which British Foreign Secretary Robin
Cook proposed should be held in June, clashed with UN Security Council
resolutions on an oil-for-food and medicine deal.
It also ran contrary to special procedures agreed between Iraq and UN
Secretary General Kofi Annan, Khalil said.
As a member of the Security Council, the ambassador added, Britain had
approved the oil-for-food formula.
The conference, which was first announced by Cook in mid-March, is
"suspicious" and "ambiguous", Khalil said, charging that it constituted
"direct interference" in Iraq's domestic affairs.
Khalil expressed the view that the real objective of the conference was to
prolong the embargo imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
According to Cook, the conference will be attended by representatives of
the United Nations, the European Union, interested countries and non-
Khalil said Baghdad had notified a number of countries, including Greece,
of its position concerning the British initiative.
Current account deficit rises 6.5 pct in 1997
The current account deficit rose by 6.5 percent in 1997 to total 4.8
billion dollars from 4.5 billion in 1996, the Bank of Greece said
The central bank also said that foreign currency reserves were 20.4 billion
dollars at the end of March 1998, up from 13.3 billion dollars in December
The bank attributed the rise to the drachma's entry into the European
Union's exchange rate mechanism on March 14.
Two Moroccans killed in minefield blast
Two Moroccans were killed in northern Greece when they entered a fenced-off
minefield after illegally crossing into Greece from Turkey, police said
They said the two men, killed last night in the region of Kastaneon,
Orestiada near the Evros border crossing between the two countries, had
papers on them identifying them as Abdelaziz Belahual, 22, and Mohamet
Their bodies were recovered this morning by an army mine retrieval
A police spokesman told the ANA that the army had reinforced fencing around
the Evros minefields following a spate of accidents in recent years
involving illegal immigrants.
He said the fence around the minefield the Moroccans entered was 1.70
metres high and surrounded by red prohibited entry signs.
EU: Greece ready to absorb Santer package funds - EU
Greece is ready to absorb monies from a fresh package of European Union
funds currently being drafted by the 15-nation bloc.
During a visit to Athens this month, EU Commission President Jacques Santer
said Greece had worked hard to make structural changes that would aid the
absorption of Community Support Framework (CSF) funds.
The Commission said in a report outlining the Greek economy in 1994-1997
that a recovery in private investments and the implementation of major
infrastructure works, coupled with a major improvement in absorption
mechanisms, meant the conditions were ri ght for use of CSF funds.
This applied to the absorption of credits, the repercussions on macroeconomic
indicators and the creation of permanent employment. "Greece will continue
to reap 17.6 percent of available monies from structural funds or the 5.4
trillion drachmas of its entitlement," Mr. Santer told a small group of
Greek and foreign correspondent s in a private briefing.
Saying structural funds would rise by 15 percent in 2000-2006, Mr. Santer
indicated that Greece could expect inflows of 6.2 trillion drachmas from
structural funds in that period while continuing to reap subsidies from the
European Social Fund and Cohesion Fund.
It would also receive a stake in 2.8 billion Ecus that are transferred each
year for restructuring in the agricultural economy. No radical change would
be made to current quotas for Mediterranean products, Mr. Santer said.
"For purely Mediterranean products proposals have been made but I do not
think that in the future these products will be in a disadvantageous
position to goods produced in the other EU countries," he said.
The EU expects to settle the allocation of the new CSF, or third Santer
package, by June 13, 1999 ahead of Euro-parliament elections.
Greece's government has set up a ministerial planning group to work out a
development plan for 2000-2006.
A key task will be to prepare for absorption of the third Santer package.
Deputy National Economy Minister Christos Pachtas has said the government
and EU had agreed that in 2000-2001 certain projects funded under the
second CSF, or Delors package of funds, will continue to receive monies
under the new Santer package.
Within a policy of overall development, the government's target is to give
priority to completion of major projects including a highway linking Patras
to Thessaloniki, a city ring road between Elefsina and Stavros, the railway
network and the northern branch of a highway on Crete.
"We have decided that certain key projects, which should be completed in
2000, such as the Rio-Andirrio bridge link, the Athens ringroad, the
Thessaloniki metro, the Egnatia Way, natural gas and the national land
registry will be the projects to straddle the old CSF and the new," Mr.
The Commission has released the following information on Greece:
Greece ranked eighth among EU member states in terms of absorption with a
32 percent rate of execution of projects in 1994-1996
Funds absorbed in 1994 were 120 billion drachmas; in 1995, 320 billion
drachmas; in 1996, 550 billion; and in 1997, 700 billion. The target in
1998 was absorption of 820 billion drachmas.
The weather in most parts of the country will be cloudy today with some
scattered showers. Athens will be overcast with temperatures ranging from
10C to 25C. In Thessaloniki, cloud will turn to rain during the night.
Temperatures in the second city will be 8C-22C.
Wednesday's closing rates (buying): U.S. dollar 310.923
British pound 523.716 Japanese Yen(100) 239.489
French franc 51.411 German mark 172.320
Italian lira (100) 17.421 Irish Punt 435.111
Belgian franc 8.349 Finnish mark 56.760
Dutch guilder 152.956 Danish kr. 45.213
Austrian sch. 24.488 Spanish peseta 2.030
Swedish kr. 39.872 Norwegian kr. 41.325
Swiss franc 207.814 Port. Escudo 1.683
AUS dollar 201.753 Can. dollar 217.268
Cyprus pound 590.815