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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-12-18

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, 18/12/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Gov't expresses hope for quick end to strikes against Iraq
  • Greek military on alert
  • Political parties on Iraq crisis
  • Iraq strikes cancel Mordechai visit
  • Medical equipment in Albania
  • Debate on 1999 budget begins in Parliament
  • Tsohatzopoulos calls for observance of UN decisions regarding Iraq
  • Athens', Nicosia's defence needs independent of Turkish desires
  • Bomb attacks at homes of 2 ethnic Greek leaders in S. Albania
  • Gov't readies presidential decree on artificial insemination
  • Gov't says it will ban 'violent' toys, games
  • Oil prices seen steady despite Iraq crisis, industry official says
  • Stocks end slightly down, shrug off air strikes against Iraq
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Gov't expresses hope for quick end to strikes against Iraq

Athens' reaction to the US and British strikes against Iraq was a cautiously worded statement yesterday from the foreign ministry, underlining that non-implementation of UN resolutions and obstacles to their implementation by Iraq "were worthy of condemnation".

At the same time, the statement continued: "the people of Iraq are not responsible for the actions of their rulers."

"The Greek government...expresses its hope that the operations will be of short duration and soon end...The trials the Iraqi people, who have suffered for some time, must be ended through cooperation between the Iraqi government and the international community."

Earlier yesterday, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis chaired a meeting at the foreign ministry on the developments in the Gulf.

The meeting was followed by another at the prime minister's office, chaired by PM Costas Simitis and attended by Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Mr. Kranidiotis.

Sources said the government had been informed of the possibility of a strike by the US against Iraq during Wednesday's meeting between Mr. Kranidiotis, US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns and US State Department coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Miller.

The sources said US officials had informed the foreign ministry of the content of the report and the concerns of UN chief arms inspector Richard Butler, underlining that "military action could no longer be ruled out."

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos returned to Athens yesterday from a visit to Kuwait.

Mr. Kranidiotis spoke with Mr. Burns yesterday as well as with the British ambassador in Athens Sir Michael Llewellyn-Smith.

Gov't spokesman : Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas later expressed Athens' concern over the Iraqi developments and said that the international community had to deal effectively with the problem.

"There is a real problem with the production and possession of chemical weapons in Iraq that must be dealt with," Mr. Reppas said.

He also said this was the reason for the US and British strike although he intimated that domestic American politics and the low price of oil may have had an effect on the decision to take action.

Responding to questions, he said that the military action had been taken on the basis of UN decisions regarding the containment of production and "use of weapons of mass destruction."

He expressed the government's regret for the victims of the air strikes and at the damage caused, adding that there had been no request for assistance from the Souda air base on Crete.

Mr. Papandreou expressed the need for initiatives by the international community for the peaceful solution of the problems with Iraq.

He said in a statement that an end of the hostilities will allow the United Nations and the international community to look at the "real humanitarian problems confronted by the Iraqi people."

He also called on the European Union to confront soberly the whole issue within the framework of the joint foreign policy and security policy.

Greek military on alert

The Greek armed forces are closely monitoring the situation in Iraq following air strikes launched late Wednesday night by the US and Britain against military and security targets in Iraq.

Sources close to the National Defence General Staff said the Greek armed forces "having been closely monitoring, from the very first moment, the situation in Iraq following the British and US strike on Iraqi targets."

The sources said the military operations centre had been put on alert since Wednesday afternoon following the evacuation of UN inspectors from Iraq.

The same sources said that Greece had no involvement in the events, adding that the 11 Greek UN observers, currently at the Iraqi border with Kuwait and in northern Iraq, "are facing no problems".

They said that there was a problem with the flow of information regarding the situation in Iraq due to "the silence being maintained by the mechanisms in that country and also by the mass media in Baghdad".

Political parties on Iraq crisis

The attack on Iraq was condemned by three leftist opposition parties, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Synaspismos and DHKKI, while main opposition New Democracy called for the strikes not to be repeated and for all peaceful means to be exhausted in f inding a resolution to the dispute.

ND said Saddam Hussein's refusal to cooperate with the UN should be condemned but stressed that it was the first time in the U.S. that there had been no consensus from the Congress on the attacks.

It also criticised the government for failing to call a meeting of the European Union General Affairs Council to discuss the problem of Iraq.

KKE condemned the attacks, while it called the governments of the European Union co-responsible, saying they are "silent in front of this crime."

KKE expressed its concern because "the already weakened UN Security Council is pushed aside".

Synaspismos called the raids an "adventurist act" and said the latest developments served to undermine the peace process in the Middle East.

DHKKI called the strikes "shameful" for humanity and international organisations and called on the government to take initiatives at the EU to condemn Britain's role in the strikes.

Political Spring (Pol.An) said that the attacks are "incursions which aim to ensure the necessary tranquility and stability without the loss of innocent civilians."

Iraq strikes cancel Mordechai visit

Israeli Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai has cancelled a visit to Athens, scheduled to begin today. The Israeli embassy said recent developments in Iraq were the reason for the cancellation.

Medical equipment in Albania

Greece yesterday delivered some $50,000 worth of medical equipment and supplies to a hospital here.

The package is part of a $200,000 package of aid for the Kosovo refugees that Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos announced during his visit to Albania last July.

The aid was delivered to the Tirana University Hospital Centre.

Debate on 1999 budget begins in Parliament

Parliamentary debate on the 1999 state budget began last night and will be concluded with a vote at around midnight on Monday.

The main speaker for ruling PASOK, Minas Stavrakakis, said that "the 1999 budget has a historical significance for the future of this country and is a budget which vindicates great options rewarding government consistency which is achieving convergence since it is strengthening the economy, as well as the country's political position."

Main opposition New Democracy main speaker Georgios Voulgarakis said "the results of the Greek economy are disappointing", adding that instability in macroeconomic indicators, with disproportionately high inflation and the equally high deficits, was combined with a slowdown in the rate of economic growth.

Speaking on behalf of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Nikos Gatzis said that the budget was "profoundly class-related and is oriented directly against working people, pensioners, small and medium-sized businesses and farmers."

Yiannis Dragasakis of the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) criticised what he called the "anachronistic framework of preparing and discussing the budget", claiming that in this way the lack of transparency and inconsistency in its implem entation is being expanded.

Tassos Intzes from the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) said that the 1999 budget has the exclusive target of achieving the Greek economy's economic convergence with those of the European Union countries, adding that this is to the detriment of the we aker classes which are being called on once again to make sacrifices without any results.

Tsohatzopoulos calls for observance of UN decisions regarding Iraq

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday expressed Athens' regret for the use of violence against Iraq and what he called the "unavoidable victims" which it implies. He also said he hoped the bombing would be over soon.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, who is attending the NATO defence ministers' conference in Brussels, also stressed that UN decisions should be respected so that undesirable developments, such as the bombing of Baghdad, were avoided.

He reported that the ministers did not discuss the issue at length, as the first news of the missile attack came at about the end of the first session on Wednesday night, and that the final communique would not contain any special reference to Iraq as the issue of bombardment was not of direct concern to the alliance.

Referring to other developments at the conference yesterday, he said ministers had approved the new structure of the military command of the alliance, which included the regional headquarters at Larissa, central Greece. A number of projects in Greece and Turkey, long blocked, were also approved, he said.

Regarding Kosovo, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the situation presented difficulties and that substantial negotiations for its solution had not begun. He attributed clear responsibility to Albanian separatists, who with their stand, he said, sought independe nce in violation of the agreements.

He further referred to the particular significance of discussions on the European defence and security identity taking place in the framework of both NATO and the Western European Union.

Athens', Nicosia's defence needs independent of Turkish desires

Greece's and Cyprus' defence policies are not defined on the basis of the desires of the Turkish state, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday, calling "unacceptable" statements by Turkish officials that the Russian S-300 missile system could not be deployed on Cyprus or Crete.

These statements, Mr. Reppas said, constituted a "travesty" of the principles and rules of international law and at the same time illustrate the impasses of Turkish foreign policy.

"Turkey produces more problems than it can solve," Mr. Reppas said. "Turkey must meet the decisions of the United Nations and contribute to a resolution of the Cyprus issue with political means."

Responding to a pointed question on whether Greece would request Washington's intervention with Turkey, another country which does not abide by UN resolutions, in this case on Cyprus, Mr. Reppas said:

"Greece requires the implementation of the decisions of the United Nations, nothing more or less."

Bomb attacks at homes of 2 ethnic Greek leaders in S. Albania

Two explosions rocked the homes of leading members of the ethnic Greek organisation "Omonoia" in Sarande at about 1 a.m. yesterday. The first explosion was reported outside the home of the organisation's president, Georgios Lambovitiadis, and the second at the home of the organisation's secretary general, Vangelis Papachristou, only two days before "Omonoia's" fourth general conference is due to start. Local authorities announced that serious material damage was caused but gave no further details.

Gov't readies presidential decree on artificial insemination

Deputy Health Minister Theodoros Kotsonis yesterday told Parliament that a presidential decree would be issued to cover all ethical, moral, scientific and religious aspects of artificial insemination in Greece.

Mr. Kotsonis, who was replying to a relevant question by deputy Dimitris Piperias and prompted by a 62-year-old Athens woman who gave birth to a healthy infant earlier this month, wondered: "when in the history of man did political or religious powers ever stand in the way of science?". ..

Gov't says it will ban 'violent' toys, games

Deputy Development Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis told Parliament yesterday that the ministry was preparing legislation to ban "violent games and toys" from being sold on the Greek market.

Mr. Chrysohoidis said judicial officials had already begun working on having one electronic toy withdrawn from the market, following complaints from two deputies.

The toy, "Carmageddon II", awards players with points for killing pedestrians. PASOK MP Eleni Anoussaki first brought the issue to the Parliament when she raised questions over "Carmageddon I".

Oil prices seen steady despite Iraq crisis, industry official says

Managing director Eleftherios Tzellas of state-owned Hellenic Petroleum said yesterday that oil prices in the next two months were unlikely to be affected by the Iraq crisis, despite edginess in markets.

Forecasts based on orders showed oil prices at 11 US dollars per barrel in January and 11.2 US dollars per barrel in February, Mr. Tzellas told reporters.

Yesterday's prices were flat, he said.

Stocks end slightly down, shrug off air strikes against Iraq

Equities finished slightly lower on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday in scant trade, recouping losses of more than 1.60 percent early in the session.

The general index ended 0.28 percent down at 2,481.90 points in thin trade. Turnover dropped to 49.2 billion drachmas from 62.7 billion drachmas in the previous session on 14,856,000 shares traded.

The market remained unperturbed at US and UK airstrikes against Iraq.

The FTSE/ASE-20 blue chip index lost 0.23 percent to finish at 1,537.07 points.

The parallel market for smaller cap stocks underperformed the general index, closing 0.78 percent lower.

Sector indices closed lower across the board.

Banks fell 0.63 percent, Leasing dropped 0.68 percent, Insurance nosed down 0.35 percent, Investment shed 1.09 percent, Construction slumped 1.94 percent, Industrials slipped 0.03 percent, Miscellaneous lost 1.11 percent, and Holding dived 1.89 percent.

Of 266 shares traded declines led advances at 180 to 75 with 11 unchanged.

Making their trading debut on the bourse were information technology firms Infoquest, at 3,700 drachmas, and Despec, at 1,250 drachmas. Both firms ended 99 percent higher.

The 8.0 percent limit up or limit down does not apply to new listings.

WEATHER

Western Greece is expected to be partly cloudy on Friday, while northern Greece is forecast cloudy with scattered snowfall mostly on highground. The rest of the country is expected to have bad weather with rainfall, storms at the Aegean Sea and snowfall on highground as well as in central Greece areas. Winds northerly, strong to very strong. Athens is forecast cloudy with rainfall or sleet, scattered snowfall on highground and temperatures ranging from 5C to 10C. Thessaloniki is expected to be partly cloudy with scattered snowfall mostly on highground and temperatures ranging from 3C to 6C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 277.135 British pound 465.645 Japanese yen (100) 238.278 French franc 49.733 German mark 166.760 Italian lira (100) 16.843 Irish Punt 414.061 Belgian franc 8.086 Finnish mark 54.870 Dutch guilder 147.992 Danish kr. 43.850 Austrian sch. 23.706 Spanish peseta 1.960 Swedish kr. 34.530 Norwegian kr. 36.238 Swiss franc 206.455 Port. Escudo 1.628 Aus. dollar 173.149 Can. dollar 180.147

(L.G.)


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