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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-12-19

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, 19/12/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Thessaloniki metro contract to inner cabinet early January
  • Domestic bond prices hit record highs
  • Greece wants to see peaceful Iraq solution
  • Coalition of Left and Progress blasts gov't over Iraq stand
  • Metropolitan Bishop backs cremation for non-Orthodox
  • Court rules against airport strikes
  • Students blocks roads in major towns
  • U.S. writer on symbolic hunger strike
  • Zorba's grandchildren Greeks again
  • Concern over Kosovo
  • Stocks end up, boosted by block trades
  • Equities end week lacklustre after early plunge
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Thessaloniki metro contract to inner cabinet early January

A contract forged by the government with a French-Greek consortium to build a metro from scratch in Thessaloniki will be sent to the inner cabinet for approval early in January, Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis on Friday.

The document will then be signed and sent to parliament for approval in line with practice for major public works, allowing the co-financed project to begin.

The contract with the Thessaloniki Metro consortium led by Bouygues of France has already been debated repeatedly by the public works commission, and a few details are still to be clarified, Mr. Laliotis said.

The minister was speaking after a cabinet meeting on progress in public works around the country.

He also said that the central line of the Athens metro being built would be completed at the end of 1999, and a second line in October 2000.

All public works co-financed under the European Union's second Community Support Framework would be completed by the end of 2000, Mr. Laliotis said.

"Not a drachma nor an Ecu of EU funds will be lost," he added.

Domestic bond prices hit record highs

Prices in the secondary bond market hit record highs on Friday fuelled mainly by institutional investors abroad apparently discounting Greece's entry into European economic and monetary union by the target date of January 1, 2001.

Bond prices ended the week 0.20-0.30 basis points higher with electronic trade totalling 40 billion drachmas.

The 15-year bond was at 105.05, the 10-year bond at 110.60-100.90, and the seven-year bond at 107.30.

Interbank rates in the money market remained firm with the overnight rate holding steady around 12.20 percent.

In the foreign currency market the drachma remained strong, reinforced by foreign currency inflows.

The national currency currently stands 7.8 percent higher than its central parity in the European Union's exchange rate mechanism.

The central bank on Friday absorbed 250 million marks at its daily fix in order to halt the drachma's rise.

At the fix, the mark was 167.900 drachmas, the Ecu 329.830 drachmas, and the US dollar 278.540 drachmas.

Greece wants to see peaceful Iraq solution

Deputy Foreign Minister Yannos Kranidiotis on Friday expressed the government's concern over the developments in Iraq, telling reporters after a Cabinet meeting that the government was carefully monitoring the developments "because instability in the region is something that could have repercussions on Greece, too".

Kranidiotis expressed his conviction that the operations should be terminated as soon as possible and an effort should be made to find a political solution through peaceful means.

"The international community must exercise its influence so that international law and the international rules are always employed and avoid the phenomenon of double standards," he said.

Coalition of Left and Progress blasts gov't over Iraq stand

Coalition of the Left and Progress leader Nikos Konstantopoulos on Saturday lashed out at the government for failing to condemn outright air strikes against Iraq by the United States and Britain.

Konstantopoulos claimed that the government's "disgraceful stance" over the attacks was a form of legitimisation.

"The US and British bombings are a wilful provocation to humanity and trample international legality underfoot. The Greek government should do the same as any sensitive and democratic person who respects law and order, " he said.

Konstantopoulos was speaking during a visit to an open-air encampment in Koumoundourou Square, central Athens, where hundreds of homeless Kurdish refugees have been living in tents for months.

Again blasting the government, he said it had neither secured European Union funding for hosting Kurdish refugees nor housed them in hotels.

In addition, despite sensitivity shown by residents and businesses near the encampment, the situation could lead to tension, racism and problems of hygeine.

"The refugees' living conditions are nightmarish," Konstantopoulos said.

Metropolitan Bishop backs cremation for non-Orthodox

Ioannina Metropolitan Theoklitos on Friday dissociated himself from a position taken by Archbishop of Athens Christodoulos on debate over whether to allow cremation in Greece.

In statements, Theoklitos maintained that the state had the right to go ahead with the introduction of legislation to allow cremation.

Cremation is currently not allowed in Greece as it runs counter to Orthodox Church dogma.

Last month, several parliament deputies tabled an amendment to allow persons not belonging to the Orthodox faith freedom to choose cremation instead of burial.

Court rules against airport strikes

An Athens court on Friday ruled that labour action called by civil aviation unions was illegal and an abuse of labour law.

The court ruling related to an air traffic controllers' four-hour walkout slated to begin at 11 a.m. on Friday, and a telecoms workers 12-4 p.m. walkout on the same day.

Civil aviation employees said earlier this week that they would hold a range of walkouts in the lead up to Christmas to press demands for more personnel and wage-related and other issues.

The walkouts are expected to have a serious effect on flight scheduling over the busy Christmas season.

Students blocks roads in major towns

High-school students took their protests literally to the roads on Friday when they held coordinated road blocks in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra and other major towns around the country.

Students blocked roads at four intersections in the wider Athens area, causing traffic jams in midday traffic.

At the education ministry in Athens, students from the Pallini Music High School strummed guitars, played violas and sang songs against the education ministy's reforms.

The approach of the Christmas and New Year holiday break appears to have had little effect on hundreds of students still occupying school premises in protest at the education ministry's reforms.

Nationwide the number of schools under occupation is estimated to be a thousand.

U.S. writer on symbolic hunger strike

An American writer has launched a symbolic hunger strike on the buffer zone dividing the free section of Cyprus from the Turkish-occupied north, protesting the US stance on the Cyprus issue, an ANA dispatch from Nicosia said.

It said Matthew Stowell had begun a hunger strike on Wednesday morning that would be concluded tonight.

Stowell's Limassol-born wife Olga Glyki and women relatives of the missing persons from the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island republic were keeping vigil with the author.

Zorba's grandchildren Greeks again

The two surviving grandchildren of the real Zorba the Greek, on whom the central character of Nikos Kazantzakis's eponymous book was based, and for decades a symbol of the indomitable Greek spirit, will receive Greek citizenship on Friday night at a special ceremony in Thessaloniki.

Anna Gaiger and Vangelis Yiantas, the children of Zorbas' youngest daughter, Katerina, live in Belgrade and have been trying for some time to receive Greek citizenship.

George Zorbas provided the role model for Kazantzakis's character of Alexis Zorbas. Zorbas was born in 1878 in Kozani and, after wandering the Balkans and the world, settled in Skopje, where he died in 1942.

The character was immortalised by actor Anthony Quinn in the 1963 film directed by Michael Cacoyiannis and co-starring Alan Bates and Irene Pappas.

Concern over Kosovo

Greece and its Balkan neighbours are extremely concerned about the possibility of more tension in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, Greece's Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis told new Yugoslav ambassador to Greece Dragomir Vucicevic on Friday.

Kaklamanis said every effort possible was needed to find a resolution to the problem.

Vucicevic briefed Kaklamanis on the course of the Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement and added that Belgrade wanted political dialogue with the leaders of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo to continue, but that they were not responding to the invitation.

Stocks end up, boosted by block trades

Equities finished higher on the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday with the market fluctuating around stubborn resistance at 2,500 points during the session.

The general index ended 0.68 percent up at 2,498.73 points in moderate trade bolstered by block trades. Turnover jumped to 71.4 billion drachmas from 49.2 billion drachmas in the previous session on 17,704,000 shares traded.

Around 20 billion drachmas of turnover represented block trades after the close.

The parallel market for smaller cap stocks underperformed the general index, closing 0.47 percent lower.

Sector indices finished mixed.

Banks rose 0.65 percent, Leasing slumped 1.39 percent, Insurance nosed down 0.12 percent, Investment sprinted 1.94 percent, Construction increased 0.52 percent, Industrials crept up 0.27 percent, Miscellaneous edged up 0.05 percent, and Holding gained 0.45 percent.

Of 280 shares traded advances led declines at 137 to 120 with 23 unchanged.

Equities end week lacklustre after early plunge

The Athens Stock Exchange ended the week calm after an initial slump, and investors shrugged off airstrikes by the US and UK on Iraq along with bourses abroad, analysts said on Friday.

The general index gained 1.54 percent, or 38.01 points on the week to end at 2,498.73 points against 2,460.72 points a week earlier.

The week's turnover was 301.438 billion drachmas to post a daily average of 60.3 billion drachmas, down from 76.2 billion drachmas a week earlier.

The market's early drop in the week was mainly due to domestic institutional investors indulging in window dressing to enhance their end-of-year books, the analysts said.

Investors abroad bought selectively into blue chips but most foreign capital went into bonds, not equities, they said.

The market tried to consolidate later in the week, also brushing off the Iraq crisis as its repercussions are believed to be minor and short- lived.

The bourse's industrial sector posted the highest gains at 1.54 percent, the same as the general index, and Leasing the biggest losses, shedding 3.26 percent.

From the start of the year the index has gained 68.88 percent. It stands 11.57 percent down on its all-time high of 2,825.52 points in July.

WEATHER

Clear weather is forecast for most parts of the country on Sunday, turning to cloud and rain in western Greece later in the day. Winds westerly, northwesterly, moderate to strong. Athens is to enjoy mostly sunny weather with temperatures ranging from 4C to 14C. Sunshine is forecast for Thessaloniki with temperatures ranging from 2C to 12C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 276.312 Pound sterling 464.911 Japanese yen (100) 239.965 French franc 49.652 German mark 166.557 Italian lira (100) 16.813 Irish Punt 413.565 Belgian franc 8.073 Finnish mark 54.808 Dutch guilder 147.763 Danish kr. 43.813 Austrian sch. 23.674 Spanish peseta 1.957 Swedish kr. 34.502 Norwegian kr. 35.910 Swiss franc 205.379 Port. Escudo 1.624 Aus. dollar 171.909 Can. dollar 179.155

(C.S.)


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