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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-12-09

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, 09/12/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis calls on business leaders to restrict prices
  • Tsohatzopoulos details Athens' positions vis-a-vis nuclear weapons
  • Holbrooke due here on Monday
  • Pangalos focuses on Kosovo, Bosnia during address at NATO session
  • Athens pleased with General Affairs Council decision on candidates
  • Prosecutor recommends perjury, slander convictions for Roussel
  • Poll: ND leads PASOK by 6.5%, Christodoulos the most popular
  • State telecom gets acting managing director
  • Rate plunges over 2.0 points in 6M treasury bill auction
  • Greece able to meet any new global crisis, cenbank says
  • US ambassador says Greece on verge of EMU entry
  • Stocks nose down, hold 2,500-point barrier
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis calls on business leaders to restrict prices

Prime Minister Costas Simitis called on business people and self-employed professionals to voluntarily restrict price hikes, or reduce prices, in order to show an overall responsible attitude within the framework of cutting inflation. He was speaking at a dinner last night with which the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce's two-day conference at downtown Athens hotel concluded.

"We can predict with certainty that Greece will be the 12th member of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in 2001," Mr. Simitis said.

However, he added "the positive omens must not mislead us" since "considerable uncertainties are lurking on the international scene and world developments are not under control."

In this context, he said that the government will always be vigilant and will continue to decline the "easy way of compromises from which we would obtain easy political gains at the expense, however, of the country's overall interests."

"We have achieved a great deal. We are now a country which has regained its self-confidence and faced two international crises in a period of a few months, maintaining its basic course steady," he said and placed emphasis on the fact "that despite the tediousness of the adjustment process, the country succeeded in maintaining the cohesion of society."

Mr. Simitis further spoke of "delays and weaknesses" in the government's work, mainly in the sectors of daily security, transport, health, relations between the state and the citizen and the quality of day-to-day life, which were areas in which "we want to speed up our efforts."

"Society which is judging us would desire more ambitious results," he conceded and spoke of "a distance between reality and social expectation which lies at present, and will lie for the period until the elections in 2000, at the focal point of the government's effort."

Mr. Simitis also referred to the country's progress in the field of social policy, saying that there is "an unquestionable social convergence with the European Union countries. The distance which existed has been drastically reduced."

He called on business people and the cadres of Greek companies to prepare themselves in a multiple way for the upcoming introduction of the euro, whose advantages he described analytically so that "the possibility will not be given to your competitors to emerge comparatively stronger."

Mr. Simitis referred once again to the upcoming tough negotiations with the European Union's powerful countries which desire a restriction of EU funds concerning Common Agricultural Policy and the Structural Funds.

"It is not possible for such a thing to be accepted by our government," he said.

Lastly, Mr. Simitis referred to development policy in favour of small and medium-size enterprises, giving as an example the strengthening of business clusters by the state.

Tsohatzopoulos details Athens' positions vis-a-vis nuclear weapons

Greece, unlike other NATO and EU member-states, takes a clear position against nuclear weapons, visiting National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said in New Delhi yesterday, adding that this was a matter of principle and a polit ical stand.

Concluding his official visit to India, during which he met with the country's prime minister and political leaders, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos told reporters that an announcement by Turkey with regard to its next moves in the nuclear arena was merely a matter of time, hinting at the construction of a nuclear plant in Akkuyu, southeast Turkey.

"Greece says no to nuclear power and nuclear weapons,"he said, but added that this was not a reason for complacency.

"We are aware, we monitor and we should be ready to deal with the situation", Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said, recalling that Greece was the first country to sound the alarm when Pakistan went ahead with nuclear tests.

Indian Defence minister George Fernandes said that his country indented to endorse the treaty on a total ban of nuclear arms, while he assured his Greek countrepart that India committed itself not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.

Talks between the two men centred on a memorandum of understanding on defence matters, which sets the grounds for a bilateral military and defence cooperation, as well as regular contacts on regional and world security matters.

Mr. Fernandes also discussed security needs that forced India to go ahead with scheduled nuclear tests last May.

Holbrooke due here on Monday

Richard Holbrooke, the special US mediator on the Cyprus issue, will be in Athens on Monday, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.

The visit to Athens is part of Mr. Holbrooke's tour of the region. He is also expected to visit Ankara and Nicosia.

Mr. Reppas said it was positive that the international community was showing a "lively interest" in the resolution of the Cypriot issue and added that this should move in the framework defined by the United Nations.

Pangalos focuses on Kosovo, Bosnia during address at NATO session

NATO's winter session of foreign ministers opened in Brussels yesterday with issues focusing on the situation in Bosnia, Kosovo and the shaping of the alliance's internal and external structure.

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, speaking on the Kosovo issue, reiterated Athens' standing positions, underlined that a solution should be found based on expanded autonomy for the mainly Albanian-speaking Serbian province but within the borders of Yugoslavia, while pressure should also be put on the rebels' Kosovo Liberation Army.

Mr. Pangalos said he also referred in his address to problems Greece was facing as a result of arms and drugs smuggling emanating from the "Albania- Kosovo-Tetovo" triangle.

Referring to the alliance's expansion, Mr. Pangalos made it clear that Greece was strongly in favour of the inclusion in the next phase of southeastern European states having strong ties with NATO, such as Bulgaria and Romania.

He further stressed that expansion should be effected on the basis of the alliance's principles, such as the democratic operation of government, democratic control of the armed forces, respect for human rights and solution of disputes by peaceful means.

Describing German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's position on preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons as particularly important, Mr. Pangalos underlined that Greece wanted NATO to examine the proliferation of nuclear weapons by its own member -states.

Yesterday's session approved of a number of reports on the Partnership for Peace programme, activation of the Euro-Atlantic Cooperation Council and the promotion of Mediterranean dialogue.

Athens pleased with General Affairs Council decision on candidates

Athens yesterday welcomed a decision by the European Union's General Affairs Council, namely, that Turkey will not join the 11 EU candidate- countries invited to a two-day EU summit in Vienna on Friday.

Monday's decision by the European Union's General Affairs Council in relation to the Union's relations with Turkey "is very close to the Greek position," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel told a news conference that the current lack of a government in Ankara made an invitation difficult.

Asked whether the issue would be raised again at the Vienna EU summit, Mr. Reppas said the summit would show how the government defends national interests.

Meanwhile, an Austrian foreign ministry spokesman officially announced yesterday that Turkey will not be invited to the European Union's summit in Vienna on Friday and Saturday.

The spokesman confirmed that apart from Greece, Italy and Germany were also against an invitation towards Turkey by the Austrian EU presidency at the upcoming Vienna summit during marathon consultations between the 15 FMs in Brussels on Monday night.

In an interview with the Austrian News Agency APA yesterday, Austrian Chancellor and EU President Viktor Klima said in relation to Turkey that the European Council will analyse the European Commission's recent report on Turkey. However, Mr. Klima does not believe that the issue of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan will overshadow the Vienna summit.

Prosecutor recommends perjury, slander convictions for Roussel

An Athens misdemeanor court prosecutor yesterday called for French national Thierry Roussel to be found guilty of perjury, false accusations and slander charges brought against him.

The father of 14-year-old Athina Onassis Roussel, heir to the vast Onassis shipping fortune, is standing trial after he was sued by the president and three members of the Onassis Foundation board of directors.

Prosecutor Ioannis Diotis said Mr. Roussel was aware he was making untrue claims in a complaint he filed two years ago, accusing the Onassis Foundation board of mismanagement. Another court dismissed Mr. Roussel's complaint earlier this year.

If convicted of the misdemeanor charges, Mr. Roussel faces a maximum of up to five years jail on each count.

However, it is unlikely that he would spend any time in jail as, under Greek law, the sentence can be bought out.

The trial will end after the defence makes its closing arguments.

Poll: ND leads PASOK by 6.5%, Christodoulos the most popular

Another recently released poll yesterday had the main oposition New Democracy (ND) with a 6.5-per cent lead over ruling PASOK, while both major parties seem to have increased their strength.

According to the poll by the firm MRB, 25.3 per cent of respondents said they would vote for PASOK; 31.8 per cent preferred ND; 5 per cent opted for Communist Party of Greece (KKE); 4.8 per cent for the Coalition for the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) ; 5.2 per cent the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) and 1.5 per cent would vote for Political Spring (Pol.An).

Some 8.5 per cent of respondents answered that they would cast blank or void ballots.

The MRB poll also showed that the percentage of undecided voters stands at 13.8 per cent.

According to the poll, 28.6 per cent of respondents believe PASOK is better suited to deal with the country's problems, while 26.3 per cent thought the same of ND.

As for the political leaders, the poll indicated that positive opinion for Prime Minister Costas Simitis stood at 31.4 per cent; ND leader Costas Karamanlis at 39.7 per cent; KKE leader Aleka Papariga at 14 per cent; DHKKI leader Dimitris Tsovolas at 46 .5 per cent and Synaspimos leader Nikos Constantopoulos at 46.5 per cent.

The most popular public figures in Greece are Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, with 76.4 per cent; Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos with 71.3 per cent and President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, with 69.5 per cent.

State telecom gets acting managing director

Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) said yesterday that board member George Skarpelis had been appointed as the state-run firm's acting managing director.

Listed OTE's previous managing director, George Chrysolouris, resigned on Wednesday last week citing personal reasons.

The communications ministry has proposed George Symeonidis, vice-president of London-based Inmarsat, as new managing director. The appointment has to be endorsed by parliament.

OTE's policy of growth and investment at home and abroad remained unchanged, the statement said.

In a related devolopment last night, Mr. Chrysolouris issued a statement saying he remained at his post as managing director, citing his five-year contract with OTE.

According to reports, the ministry of communications considers Mr. Chrysolouris' resignation as given, as two cabinet decisions were signed on Dec. 2 - one accepting his resignation and the other appointing Georgios Skarpelis to OTE's board of directors .

Mr. Skarpelis was picked in order to assume the outgoing managing director's duties, while the two decisions were published in the Government Gazette on Dec. 3. OTE's board appointed Mr. Skarpelis as temporary managing director yesterday.

Rate plunges over 2.0 points in 6M treasury bill auction

The average weighted rate on six-month treasury bills auctioned yesterday plunged more than two percentage points to 10.46 percent from 12.58 percent in the previous sale on October 6, the finance ministry said.

For sale were 60 billion drachmas' worth of paper with bids accepted totalling 70.2 billion drachmas out of a total of 247 billion drachmas offered in the heavily oversubscribed auction, the ministry said in a statement.

The abrupt fall in rates indicated the market's eagerness for a decline with expectations fuelled by National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou's statement on Monday that the central bank would slightly lower its intervention rates this week.

Greece able to meet any new global crisis, cenbank says

Greece is in a position to meet any fresh financial crisis that might erupt globally in 1999, central bank governor Lucas Papademos said yesterday.

"The appearance of a new world financial crisis cannot be ruled out. But the Greek economy can successfully meet such an adverse development," Mr. Papademos told an economy conference held by the Hellenic American Chamber.

At the same time, handling any crisis abroad entailed maintaining a tight fiscal policy, and a monetary policy whose safety margins would still allow the attainment of targets to lower inflation, he said.

No country was invulnerable to crisis, but the right policy mix would minimise the repercussions.

Greece, no longer an emerging market, would also achieve entry into European economic and monetary union as a result of the policy mix, Mr. Papademos said.

The economy's vulnerability to any crisis lay in the public debt, much of which lay in the portfolios of institutional investors abroad.

Any major portfolio restructuring stemming from market turmoil could lead to pressure on domestic capital and foreign currency markets, Mr. Papademos said.

The greater the economy's alignment with the European Union's economy, the smaller the damage, he added.

Helping to buffer the economy would be improvements to the state securities market through technology and achieving greater depth and breadth for markets.

An acceleration in the decline of the inflation rate would fuel expectations of future interest rate cuts, in turn sharply boosting demand for fixed- income state paper, Mr. Papademos said.

US ambassador says Greece on verge of EMU entry

US Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns was optimistic yesterday about progress in the domestic economy, saying the country was on the verge of entering European economic and monetary union.

"There are very positive changes taking place in Greece and the country is about to qualify for EMU," Mr. Burns told an economy conference held by the Hellenic American Chamber.

He also said that the opportunity had come for a "rebirth" of Greek- American trade ties.

"Trade and investment relations between the two countries are currently at a low ebb, although there has been especially positive growth in the current year," Mr. Burns said.

Replying to a reporter's question, he said that the government was making every possible effort to attract American investments by creating a healthy business climate, and it had sent the right message to international markets.

"The news is good for the Greek and American economies. Opportunities exist, and, with the contribution of all parties concerned, economic relations between the two countries will grow further," Mr. Burns said.

Stocks nose down, hold 2,500-point barrier

Equities finished slightly down on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday in the wake of a surge in the previous session when the market discounted a drop in the central bank's money market intervention rate this week.

The general index ended 0.16 percent lower at 2,566.73 points after Monday's 4.12 percent jump, still holding former resistance at 2,500 points. Monday's close was the highest since August 26.

The market shed 1.0 percent early in the session only to recoup its losses later in trade with demand soaking up supply in an attempt to consolidate above 2,500 points.

Trade was heavy with turnover slightly higher at 87.9 billion drachmas from 83.9 billion drachmas a day earlier, with 16,706,000 shares changing hands.

Much of trade was window dressing for end of year books, traders said.

The FTSE/ASE-20 blue chip index lost 0.80 percent to finish at 1,593.87 points.

The parallel market for smaller cap stocks closed 1.12 percent lower.

Sector indices mostly recorded losses.

WEATHER

Clouds with rain or sleet are forecast early on Wednesday throughout the country, with storms in the Aegean and snow in central and northern Greece, with slight improvement expected later in the day. Winds will be variable, strong to very strong. Athens will be overcast with rainfall or sleet with slight improvement later in the day with temperatures ranging from 3C to 8C. Thessaloniki will also be cloudy with possible snowfall, and temperatures ranging from -1C to 4C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 278.732 British pound 460.387 Japanese yen (100) 233.527 French franc 49.719 German mark 166.706 Italian lira (100) 16.839 Irish Punt 414.259 Belgian franc 8.084 Finnish mark 54.897 Dutch guilder 147.947 Danish kr. 43.819 Austrian sch. 23.699 Spanish peseta 1.940 Swedish kr. 34.196 Norwegian kr. 36.853 Swiss franc 203.975 Port. Escudo 1.626 Aus. dollar 172.410 Can. dollar 181.536

(L.G.)


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