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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-07-30

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, 30/07/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greek loan rates to fall to 6.0-7.0 pct by spring 2000
  • SEB president comments on Greek-Turkish relatrions
  • EU approves Thessaloniki metro construction project
  • Greek stocks end lower in rangebound trade
  • SEPE participation at SMAU Milan exhibition
  • Slightly lower temperatures today
  • Forest fires turn thousands of acres into ashes
  • Cyprus' European prospects discussed during Athens meeting
  • Pangalos-Burns meeting today
  • Gov't on cooperation with Nicosia
  • Kaklamanis meets professors, students from Greek studies faculties
  • Balkan writers, translators to meet in Alexandroupolis
  • 13th World Basketball Championship: Greece beats Canada
  • Medical researcher on experimental vaccine for breast cancer
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greek loan rates to fall to 6.0-7.0 pct by spring 2000

Greek National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday that bank loan rates would fall to 6.0-7.0 percent by spring 2000 from 14.0-15.0 percent at present.

The minister was speaking after a meeting of the national statistics committee, which endorsed the government's plan for transition to the euro, the European Union's single currency.

Due to inadequate competition, banks had retained a wide spread between loan and deposit rates in order to hike their profits, Mr. Papantoniou said.

The outcome of entry into economic and monetary union would be fierce competition, which, in turn would drive down domestic deposit rates to match levels in other EU countries, he said.

Differentials between loan and deposit rates would fall to 2.0-4.0 percentage points from the current 7.0-8.0 percentage points.

"This is the case because the fall in loan rates will be greater than the fall in deposit rates," Mr. Papantoniou said.

Shifting to the euro would eliminate foreign exchange risk; and the fall in interest rates would lead to a rise in investments and a decline in unemployment.

Mr. Papantoniou also forecast that the rate of GDP growth from 2001 onwards would be 5.0-6.0 percent annually from 3.5-4.0 percent at present.

In order to join economic and monetary union by January 1, 2001, the government's target-date, a better performance was required in all sectors of the economy, he said.

The government's transition plan outlines how joining the euro will be effected, with special emphasis on the public sector, the financial sector and the Athens Stock Exchange.

SEB president comments on Greek-Turkish relations

Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) President Iason Stratos said he wanted to believe that Greek-Turkish relations will be maintained at a level which will not have repercussions on business activities.

Mr. Stratos was speaking to reporters yesterday in reply to questions on developments in Greek-Turkish relations and the role that they will have in Greece's course towards accession to Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

He said, among others, that he believed that the effort was common, adding that aggravations will exist, of course, but he wanted to believe that calm will prevail.

Referring to the new bill on the labour market, he said that in the industrialists' view it does not promote flexibility in the labour market and must be withdrawn.

SEB also proposes special settlements on the deregulation of the energy market and the new role of the Public Power Corp. (DEH).

An overall observation by industry on current economic developments in the country is that in the event that Greece fails to join EMU the repercussions will be particularly unfavourable.

EU approves Thessaloniki metro construction project

The European Union has rejected objections to a project to build a metro from scratch for Thessaloniki, allowing the official appointment of a French-Greek consortium and the start of works, an EU source told the Athens News Agency.

At a meeting yesterday between EU Commissioners Christos Papoutsis and Mario Monti, it was confirmed that the government would in coming days be informed that the objections were to be formally shelved, the source said.

Greek stocks end lower in rangebound trade

Greek equities finished lower yesterday after trading in a tight range throughout the session in light turnover.

The Athens general share index ended 0.50 percent lower to finish at 2, 715.61 points. Turnover fell to 40 billion drachmas from 48.1 billion drachmas in the previous session.

Sector indices finished lower across the board. The heavily weighted banking sector nosed down 0.28 percent, Leasing dived 3.87 percent, Insurance dropped 1.0 percent, Investment lost 1.58 percent, Industrials shed 0.67 percent, Construction slumped 1.6 5 percent, Holding dropped 0.77 percent, and Miscellaneous slid 2.44 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies finished 1.51 percent lower.

Of 263 stocks traded, declines led advances at 160 to 86 with 17 shares remaining unchanged.

The day's biggest percentage gainers finishing at or near the daily upper eight percent volatility limit were Sarandopoulos Mills, Nikas, General Trade, Technical Olympic, Sato, Mouriadis, Dimitriadis, Papoutsanis and Sportsman. Varagis ended 99 percent higher in line with a higher volatility limit for new listings.

The day's biggest percentage losers were Vioter, Bank of Central Greece (common and preferred), Hellenic Duty Free Shops, Athinea, Ermis, Konstandinidis, Strintzis Lines, Zamba and Elfiko.

National Bank of Greece ended at 53,890 drachmas, Ergobank at 30,180, Alpha Credit Bank at 29,400, Ionian Bank at 16,210, Commercial Bank of Greece at 27,945, Delta Dairy (common) at 3,645, Intracom (common) at 12,700, Titan Cement (common) at 23,250, H ellenic Petroleum at 2,715 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 8,050 drachmas.

SEPE participation at SMAU Milan exhibition

The Federation of Informatics Enterprises of Greece (SEPE) will participate in the international informatics and telecommunications exhibition SMAU in Milan this October.

According to an announcement by SEPE, the Milan exhibition is very important for the telecommunications and informatics sector in the wider Mediterranean region.

Slightly lower temperatures today

Northerly winds blowing today will provide brief relief for the Athens area residents following a heatwave which plagued the Greek capital yesterday along with increased air pollution.

Temperatures will not exceed 38 degrees Celsius throughout the country today, but as of tomorrow they will start to climb again and on Sunday they will reach 40. Hospitals and the national ambulance service (EKAB) are on standby.

Beaches and Greek Tourism Organisation (EOT) seaside resorts were filled to capacity, particularly from noon onwards, while other residents took refuge in banks and public buildings equipped with air conditioning. Moreover, very few people had to rush to municipal clinics and other municipal buildings in the Attica area, which were on standby since Tuesday to offer their services or merely a cool environment for sensitive groups of the population such as the elderly.

Forest fires turn thousands of acres into ashes

Thousands of acres of forest land have been reduced to ashes as a result of the latest fires, some of which have been burning for about a week.

For the sixth day, the fires continued yesterday in Kouvela, Messinia and on Mount Olympus and Mount Taygetus, where fire-fighters proved unable to prevent the destruction of unique fir and pine forests.

In Perahora, Corinth, a fire extending along a 14-km front was brought under partial control having destroyed forest areas, cultivations, vines, olive groves, houses and livestock farms, while new fires broke out near Domokos, Lamia, and Grammatiko, Attica.

The main opposition New Democracy party's head of agricultural affairs, Savvas Tsitouridis, criticised in a press conference the government for a lack of policy in the forestry sector and for incompetence in dealing with the fires.

New Democracy estimates the cost from this year's fires as approaching six trillion drachmas, and the areas burned near 250,000 acres.

Cyprus' European prospects discussed during Athens meeting

Two of the major strategic options between Athens and Nicosia, namely, the island republic's European prospects and its security were confirmed during a meeting in Athens on Tuesday night.

This was stated by Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis to the Cypriot Radio and TV network (PIK). He stressed that the decision taken is that Greece and Cyprus will persist in the two strategic options in every way.

Replying to a question on whether reports that US envoy Thomas Miller has conveyed specific ideas for a flight moratorium in Cyprus and its monitoring by the NATO headquarters in Naples are true, Mr. Kranidiotis said:

"We are not in any final phase. Discussions are taking place on views and ideas and proposals by President (Glafcos) Clerides from the aspect of Cyprus' absolute right to its defence. The purchase if the S-300s is not a purpose in itself but a strong ne gotiating weapon for tension to be decreased and for us to be led to demilitarisation."

Commenting on threats by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem that Turkey will do what it has to in the event the missiles are deployed, Mr. Kranidiotis said that "Greece and Cyprus will also do what they have to."

Pangalos-Burns meeting today

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos will receive US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns today, with discussions expected to focus on the latest developments in Greek-US relations and following an exchange of terse statements by both sides over the past week.

According to reports, no comments are expected after the meeting.

The climate in relations between Athens and Washington appears restored. However, the cause of the crisis, namely, the position of the US White House that there was a question of conflict and not invasion of Cyprus in 1974 continues to stand, while the question pre-occupying Athens is whether the US administration has changed its policy over the Cyprus issue or whether it was a question of a "map exercise" in the framework of its mediating initiative on the problem. It is expected that today's meeting will focus on Greek-US relations in their entirety, as well as on Greek- Turkish relations and Cyprus.

Gov't on cooperation with Nicosia

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday that the governments of Cyprus and Greece are cooperating very closely.

Mr. Reppas agreed with his Cypriot counterpart Christos Stylianides that the procurement of the Russian-made S-300 missile system falls within the joint defence doctrine.

National issues are handled by the Cypriot government after prior communication with the Greek government and both governments are always acting within the framework set by UN resolutions that now exceed 100, Mr. Reppas said.

A visit by the Cypriot National Council to Athens or a joint meeting under Prime Minister Costas Simitis have not been scheduled, Mr. Reppas concluded.

Kaklamanis meets professors, students from Greek studies faculties

Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis yesterday received in Parliament 160 professors and students from Greek studies faculties from 96 universities from 40 countries participating in the Athens University's "THYESPA" programme.

He briefed them on Greek-Turkish relations and Greece's role in the sensitive region of southeastern Europe.

Mr. Kaklamanis said that Greece is an important factor of peace, stability and security for the Balkans and the wider region of the southeastern Mediterranean, participating actively in the international community's peace efforts and maintaining very go od relations with neighbouring countries which are based on mutual respect for the principles of internataional law and international treaties.

He further noted that "Hellenism in Cyprus is under threat by military forces which Turkey has gathered in the northern part of the island since 1974 following the invasion. The sole effort of the Republic of Cyprus against them is defence."

Balkan writers, translators to meet in Alexandroupolis

Several noted writers and translators from the Balkans are holding a first- ever meeting of its kind from Aug. 29 through Sept. 5 in Alexandroupolis.

The event is part of an effort to modernise libraries in the region of Evros, supported by the culture ministry, the Evros prefecture and the National Book and Translators' Centre.

An important role in this latest effort for regional communication is played by translators, while special emphasis is placed in a common workshop for writers and translators.

Among the personalities set to participate are Ismail Kadare, Kiki Demoula, Milomor Tzouganovic, Zyranna Zateli, Nedim Gursel, Vasilis Vasilikos, Blanca Dimitrova, Spyros Plaskovitis, Mlilisav Savic, Sotiris Demetriou, Mircea Kartaresku and Thanasis Valtinos, all of whom will meet in Alexandroupoli at the Workshop of Balkan Writers and Translators, organised by the National Book Center.

13th World Basketball Championship: Greece beats Canada

Greece beat Canada 78-72 (43-37 half time) in the late evening matchup during the first day yesterday of the 13th World Basketball Championship, held in Athens.

Prime Minister Costas Simitis and other high-ranking government members attended the game, played at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Faliro before a crowd of about 10,000.

Lithuania and Russia also got off to a flying start. Lithuania hammered South Korea 97-56 and Russia easily beat Japan 83-58.

USA had no problem in thrashing Brazil 83-59, Yugoslavia overwhelmed Puerto Rico 80-66, while Spain, despite initial difficulties, did not fall victim to surprise, beating Nigeria 80-68. Italy also faced difficulties with Senegal (36-35 at half-time) but managed to prevail 76-66.

Medical researcher on experimental vaccine for breast cancer

A noted Greek-Australian medical researcher yesterday stated on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos that the first test results of a breast cancer vaccine have shown positive results.

Vasso Apostolopoulou, who is on a visit to the island, noted that she is optimistic of the study's course but it will be another six years before the vaccine can be properly assessed.

WEATHER

Good weather with slightly lower temperatures is forecast throughout the country today. Moderate northerly winds later in the day with the possibility of local rains in northern Greece. Athens will be sunny with temperatures ranging from 24C to 38C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 22C to 36C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 292.412 British pound 480.763 Japanese yen (100) 206.981 French franc 49.207 German mark 164.950 Italian lira (100) 16.721 Irish Punt 414.874 Belgian franc 7.998 Finnish mark 54.262 Dutch guilder 146.315 Danish kr. 43.303 Austrian sch. 23.441 Spanish peseta 1.942 Swedish kr. 37.131 Norwegian kr. 38.847 Swiss franc 196.545 Port. Escudo 1.610 Aus. dollar 178.897 Can. dollar 195.265 Cyprus pound 562.067

(C.E.)


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