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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-07-02

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, 02/07/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece denies Turkish report of 'secret contacts' in Athens
  • US Navy planning sale to Greece, Turkey
  • State services on alert as heatwave continues
  • Greece to donate stolen WWII gold to Holocaust victims' fund
  • Greenpeace protests air pollution
  • 'Delfis' society for protection of marine mammals
  • Village fire follows malfunction during missile firing exercise
  • SEB president predicts 2% in '98 industrial production
  • Papantoniou reiterates that Greece will enter EMU in 2001
  • Greek stocks jump in bank-led rally
  • Greek bourse gains 59.87 pct in first half of 1998
  • Greek merchant fleet gains 13 ships in June
  • Hellenic Petroleum refutes allegations over Tuesday's flotation
  • Ionian Bank president declines to give bank's exact net value
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece denies Turkish report of 'secret contacts' in Athens

The national defence general staff yesterday categorically denied a report in a Turkish newspaper that secret talks have began in Athens between Greek and Turkish senior military and political officials.

An ANA dispatch from Istanbul quoted today's edition of the daily "Hurriyet" as reporting that "a team of senior military and political officials from Turkey have started important talks with their Greek counterparts in Athens."

"The Turkish delegation went to Athens to take part in a NATO meeting and started 'secret' contacts with the Greeks," the newspaper claimed.

In Athens, a national defence general staff announcement termed Hurriyet's report as "false", and categorically stated that no such meetings are taking place.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos' upcoming trip to the United States and Greece's multi-million dollar armed forces' procurements programme was the focus of talks between the defence minister and Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos told reporters his visit to the US, beginning on Friday, was of "high strategic importance" for Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue.

Asked whether he feared any incident in the Aegean with Turkey, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the issue was to "bolster efforts to reduce tension by undertaking initiatives."

US Navy planning sale to Greece, Turkey

The US Navy is planning to sell 25 warships to Greece and Turkey in a bid to decrease the number of surface vessels in the US fleet, while offsetting planned budget cuts.

The sale was approved by the US House of Representatives, while final approval by the US Senate is pending.

The total number of ships to be sold are 48 and are expected to raise US$637 million. However, the sale is also raising fears among US legislators that increased fire power may destabilise the region.

The proposed sale includes 14 ships to Turkey and 11 to Greece. Three vessels will be handed over at no charge to Turkey and four to Greece.

The warships approved for sale to Turkey include "Perry" and "Knox" class frigates, while vessels slated for sale to Greece include "Kidd" class destroyers, "Knox" class frigates and a maintenance floating platform.

State services on alert as heatwave continues

Emergency measures, especially for the elderly, are being taken at health services around Greece to deal with an ongoing heatwave, as temperatures are expected to rise today and over the next two days.

According to the National Metereological Service (EMY),tempe-ratures in many parts of mainland Greece could reach 42 degrees on Friday and Saturday. The heatwave is likely to be mostly felt in Serres, Drama, Larissa, Lamia, Thebes, Leivadia, Athens and Argos.

Temperatures are expected to start dropping on Sunday as a cold front moves in from northern Greece.

Following urgent instructions issued by the health ministry yesterday, all hospitals across the country will be open for emergencies, while the National Ambulance Service (EKAB) will also be on standby.

According to reports, hundreds of people took refuge in air-conditioned halls in opened municipal buildings until late in the evening.

Meanwhile, the Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) announced yesterday that summer camps and beaches run to the organisation will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 12 midnight through Sunday.

Emergency calls for ambulances in the greater Athens area rose 20 per cent by noon yesterday compared to Tuesday, as temperatures in many parts of Greece soared to 39 degrees. Most of the calls requested assistance for people suffering from heart and re spiratory problems.

Public Power Corp. (DEH) officials said excessive use of air conditioning units in residences was the cause of the power failure, which was restored after a few hours.

Greece to donate stolen WWII gold to Holocaust victims' fund

Greece is one of nine countries willing to deposit a quantity of gold, stolen by Nazi forces from their central banks during WWII, to a special fund to be set up for Holocaust victims.

The announcement was made during a preparatory conference in Wazshington on the Holocaust yesterday, organised by the US State Department in cooperaiton with the Holocaust Museum.

Greece's donation to the fund will be one gold bar, or about US$36,000. The case is unrelated to Greece's demands for return of an "occupation" loan Germany took in the early part of WWII.

Addressing some 200 participants from 38 countries, Greece's representative at the Washington meeting, foreign ministry archive director Foteini Konstantopoulou, said Athens continued to back claims for war reparations lodged by Greek citizens against Germany.

Greenpeace protests air pollution

The Greek office of the Greenpeace environmental organisation yesterday staged a "funeral of the smog-stricken citizen" outside the environment ministry, demanding that immediate measures be taken to tackle smog in Athens, which is in the grip of a heatwave.

Chanting "take measures before they take our measurements", the Greenpeace activists set up a coffin outside the ministry to draw attention to the deadly combination of atmospheric pollution and rising temperatures in the Greek capital, which are expected to reach 42 degrees Celsius on the weekend.

A Greenpeace spokesman told the ANA that a sophisticated mobile unit that measures levels of pollutants in the air brought to Greece by the organisation about a month ago has shown high levels of carcinogenic pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, benzoyl and micro-particles. Greenpeace proposes that taxis be prohibited from using diesel as fuel, that funds be found to re-introduce trams in Athens and other urban transport means be improved, as well promoting incentives for energy-efficient vehicles .

'Delfis' society for protection of marine mammals

The "Delfis" society for the protection of marine mammals yesterday announced that it will scour the northern Aegean this summer in search of whales and dolphins.

The society's campaign began in Thessaloniki and will subsequently extend to Kavala, Thassos, Samothrace, Limnos, Agios Efstratios, the Nestos River delta, the Tracian Sea, Ikaria and Lesvos.

The society's goal is to protect and preserve wildlife and the natural environment of Greece as well as the education of younger generations on the issue.

Village fire follows malfunction during missile firing exercise

About 15 acres of farm and brush land were destroyed yesterday in a fire at Hordaki, Akrotiri site on Crete after an anti-aircraft missile apparently went astray during a firing exercise.

According to unconfirmed reports, the "Nike" missile went off course at an altitude of about 4,000 feet. An officer in charge of the exercise was then forced to activate the missile's self-destruct mechanism as the it was still in the air. A subsequent explosion was heard in the nearby town of Hania.

In addition, the missile's trajectory was seen by bathers on the nearby beaches of Marathio and Stavros.

According to reports, is believed that burning fragments from the missile caused the fire at Hordaki, although the commander of the firing range, Lt.- Gen. Yiannis Papadomanolakis, maintained that the missile had not exploded.

SEB president predicts 2% in '98 industrial production

Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) President Iason Stratos said yesterday that industrial production is expected to increase by at least 2 per cent in 1998, adding that in 1997 there was a marginal increase in industrial enterprises' profits.

According to the balance sheets of 3,288 companies, which had published balance sheets for 1997 by June 25, 1998, 77 per cent of these enterprises were profit-making and 23 per cent loss-making.

It was added that the profit-making enterprises achieved 87 per cent of all sales made in the 1997 fiscal year.

The change in profits gained by all industrial companies ran almost parallel to sales and increased by 9.4 per cent in 1997.

Profit-making companies in particular increased their profits by 19.4 per cent, while the loss-making ones increased their losses by 103 per cent.

Papantoniou reiterates that Greece will enter EMU in 2001

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou once again expressed certainty yesterday that Greece will participate in Economic and Monetary Union as of Jan. 1, 2001.

Mr. Papantoniou, who made an address at a downtown Athens hotel, referred to the course of the Greek economy over the 1993-1998 period, citing a "revolution in the economy compared to the first 20 years of the post- dictatorship era". He added that all economic indicators presented considerable improvement and convergence with those of Greece's EU partners.

He also referred in particular to the significance of privatisations with the state maintaining only its overseeing strategic role, in order to enable the Greek economy to become more competitive in the new international environment.

On the question of fiscal restructuring, Mr. Papantoniou said that the budgets which will follow will be "lighter," since there will be no new burdens. He placed emphasis on the completion of the implementation of the "TAXIS" computerised taxation system.

Greek stocks jump in bank-led rally

Greek equities rebounded strongly on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday led by a 3.56 percent surge in the banking sector in the final minutes of trade.

Brokers said a substantial bid of 93 billion drachmas offered by the Latsis Group in a tender for the privatisation of Cretabank was seen as a sign that the sale of two more state-owned banks could be agreed at a higher price than originally expected.

The general index ended 1.81 percent higher at 2,408.36 points. Trading was active with turnover at 61.4 billion drachmas.

Sector indices mostly scored gains. Insurance rose 2.17 percent, Investment ended 0.23 percent up, Industrials rose 0.24 percent, Construction increased 0.31 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.22 percent higher and Holding increased 0.49 percent.

Leasing bucked the trend to end 2.36 percent lower, reversing a sharp three- day advance.

The parallel market index for small cap companies rose 0.35 percent, and the FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 2.24 percent up at 1,445.01.

Advancers led decliners by 129 to 96 with another 30 issues unchanged.

Newly listed Hellenic Petroleum traded 3,900,000 shares in its second day in the market.

Scoring the biggest percentage gains were Ionian Bank, Mediterranean Invest, Dias, Bank of Athens, Bank of Central Greece, Teletypos and Athinea, which all hit the daily 8.0 percent limit up.

National Bank of Greece ended at 40,520 drachmas, Ergobank at 26,990, Alpha Credit Bank at 25,555, Ionian Bank at 15,501, Delta Dairy at 3,850, Titan Cement at 20,100, Intracom at 10,350, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,400 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 7,900 drachmas.

Greek bourse gains 59.87 pct in first half of 1998

The Athens Stock Exchange gained 59.87 percent in the first half of 1998, and turnover more than doubled compared with the same period last year, analysts said yesterday.

Turnover in the bourse's main market totalled 5,964.5 trillion drachmas in the first six months of the year, an increase of 110.28 percent from the corresponding period in 1997.

A rising trend in the first two months of 1998 was based on news of a significant decline in the inflation rate.

The growth trend had accelerated by mid-March when the drachma entered the European Union's exchange rate mechanism accompanied by a 13.8 percent devaluation.

ERM entry improved the Greek market's image abroad.

In the two weeks following the drachma's parity realignment, foreign capital inflows into the Athens bourse exceeded two billion US dollars.

Foreign fund managers were now seeing big investment opportunities in the Greek market based on the economy's move towards convergence with its other EU partners, the analysts said.

The Athens general share index reached an all-time high of 2,669.76 points on May 25.

In the first half of the year 11 new companies were listed on the Greek market, accounting for 1.49 trillion drachmas in new capital.

The Athens bourse's capitalisation accounted for 57 percent of the country's gross domestic product at the end of the first half of 1998, up from 34.5 percent of GDP in 1997.

Greek merchant fleet gains 13 ships in June

Greece's merchant fleet gained a net 13 ships totalling 354,811 registered tonnes in June, the merchant marine ministry said in a statement yesterday.

Joining the Greek-flagged fleet were 22 vessels comprising seven passenger ships, four tankers and 11 cargo ships totalling 576,730 registered tonnes.

Nine of the vessels have an average age of seven years and 13 of eleven years.

Leaving the fleet in June were nine ships comprising four cargo vessels, four tankers and one tug totalling 221,919 registered tonnes. Two had an average age of 22.5 years and seven of 22 years.

Hellenic Petroleum refutes allegations over Tuesday's flotation

An announcement by Hellenic Petroleum SA group yesterday said that "irresponsible reports, political expediencies and various interests" will not affect its development course and its share prices.

The announcement said the flotation of Hellenic Petroleum SA shares on Tuesday was "absolutely successful" and that "confidence shown by the investing public in the group both inside and outside Greece went beyond any expectation."

It added that what was surprising was an attack on the company regarding the issue of distribution of reserves in time, "despite the fact that Hellenic Petroleum met its commitments."

The company further claimed that every investor is able to participate in transactions since the clearing and delivery of reserves takes place three days later.

Ionian Bank president declines to give bank's exact net value

Ionian Bank President Haris Stamatopoulos yesterday declined to divulge the exact value of the state-run bank despite questioning by members of Parliament's public enterprises (DEKO) committee, and in view of the bank's imminent sale.

Mr. Stamatopoulos noted that the state-owned bank has a stock-market value of 434 billion drachmas, adding however, that final responsibility for its assessment rests with Commercial Bank, its parent company.

WEATHER

Hot sunny weather is forecast throughout Greece today. Winds variable, light to moderate, turning strong in the southeastern Aegean Sea. Athens will be hot with temperatures between 26-40C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 24-38C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 302.868 British pound 503.460 Japanese yen (100) 219.024 French franc 49.757 German mark 166.755 Italian lira (100) 16.950 Irish Punt 420.013 Belgian franc 8.094 Finnish mark 54.913 Dutch guilder 148.081 Danish kr. 43.829 Austrian sch. 23.726 Spanish peseta 1.967 Swedish kr. 37.696 Norwegian kr. 39.273 Swiss franc 198.395 Port. Escudo 1.631 Aus. dollar 187.667 Can. dollar 206.098 Cyprus pound 568.595

(C.E.)


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