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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-12-21

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, 21/12/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Karamanlis lashes out at gov't policy, budget vote tonight
  • Pangalos goes to FYROM with "good omens"
  • Ethnic Albanian leader lauds Greek economic presence in FYROM
  • Christodoulos: Turkish underwear bearing Christ's image an 'insult'
  • KKE cadre Avdis' office firebombed, anarchists claim responsibility
  • Constantopoulos decries lack of gov't criticism over Iraqi strikes
  • Protesting students warn of road blocks
  • New Athens administrative courts in Ambelokipi
  • Twelve persons to face loan shark charges
  • Five convicted for soccer violence
  • Greek First Division soccer results
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Karamanlis lashes out at gov't policy, budget vote tonight

A Parliamentary debate on the 1999 state budget, which began on Thursday, culminates tonight with a vote.

Last night, main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis sharply criticised overall government policy. Mr. Karamanlis termed the budget "a budget of fictitious reality", adding that the government was unable to handle the country's major problems.

"You have failed and the overwhelming majority of the Greek people condemn government options, while the rift between the government and society is worsening. Prime Minister Costas Simitis and the government are isolated from reality. They are mere obse rvers," he said.

Mr. Karamanlis referred to five points which, according to him, are shaping the current political scene: "The economic options and the deadlock created by Mr. Simitis' talk of indicators; a considerably weakened government and the premier's inability to proceed with necessary structural changes, as well as PASOK's explosive internal situation."

Mr. Karamanlis said ND is the rising political force "and this was apparent in the municipal elections and it will appear in the Euro-elections and will be sealed in the national elections."

In response, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said the Greek economy's rate of growth was at 3.5 per cent this year while in 1993, when ruling PASOK came to power, it stood at -1.6 per cent.

He said privatisations under the PASOK governments brought to national coffers 1.06 trillion drachmas, while during the three-year reign of ND between 1990-93 the figure stood at 400 billion drachmas. Mr. Papantoniou called Mr. Karamanlis' references on agricultural policies "demagoguery".

In his speech Saturday, Labour and Social Security minister Miltiades Papaioannou said the government would spend 300 billion drachmas in the framework of its employment policy until the end of 1999, which would create 110,000 new jobs and would also incl ude programmes against social exclusion, and in favour of the elderly, the young, and women.

He said unemployment in Greece had been stabilised at 10.3 per cent while showing upward trends in the rest of the European Union, and that only four percent of Greeks were engaged in part-time employment, compared to an average of 18 percent in the oth er partners.

Pangalos goes to FYROM with "good omens"

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos will travel to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) tomorrow with "good omens", according to new FYROM Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski.

According to the Athens Sunday paper "To Vima", Mr. Georgievski said the Greek FM's visit "will have a historic dimension", adding: "we will have a major rewarming in relations between the two countries after this visit" and "it will be easy for us to agree on whatever issue from then on."

The FYROM premier and leader of the VMRO party, which in the recent past expressed some of the most extreme positions on the issue of the former Yugoslav republic's name, appeared much more moderate, saying his party's national policy was related to the country's independence from Yugoslavia.

Greece opposes the use by the neighbouring country of the term 'Macedonia', saying it implies expansionist designs against its northern province by the same name. An interim agreement between the two countries was signed in September 1995 concerning the normalisation of bilateral relations, while talks under UN auspices to find a solution for the land-locked republic's name are underway between the two countries.

According to Mr. Georgievski, the issue of the name will not be the first issue which he will try to have resolved, but will place priority on economic and cultural relations between Greece and FYROM. However, in referring to his country he insists on using the term 'Macedonia'.

Mr. Georgievski said FYROM, within the framework of economic cooperation and the opening to a free market, is ready to cooperate with Greek businesses, intending to award the construction of major road axes, as well as the development of railway lines with the Greek Railways Organisation(OSE), provided it shows interest.

Ethnic Albanian leader lauds Greek economic presence in FYROM

The leader of the ethnic Albanian Democratic Party in FYROM, Arben Tzaferi, over the weekend praised Greece's economic presence in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as positive.

Mr. Tzaferi made the statement on Saturday to the head of Greece's liaison office in FYROM, Alexandros Mallias.

The Greek envoy visited the ethnic Albanian leader in Tetovo to brief him on the visit by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos to FYROM tomorrow.

Mr. Tzaferi, whose party participates in the new FYROM government, said Greece is the only neighbouring country capable of contributing to the economic development of FYROM. "We are very open to Greek presence in our regions, but also because Greece is the sole neighbouring country of ours which is a member of the European Union and NATO," he said.

Christodoulos: Turkish underwear bearing Christ's image an 'insult'

Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos yesterday strongly condemned the appearance in neighbouring Turkey's markets of underwear briefs and T-shirts bearing the image of Christ on the front and of the Virgin Mary on the back.

According to press reports from Istanbul, Christ's image - apparently taken from an icon - is printed directly in front of the underwear brief.

After a church service, Christodoulos expressed his sorrow over the incident, saying it insults "one of the most sacred areas of man's soul."

"...It is not correct, not logical, it is not noble and civilised for people to be attacked on what they believe. I am certain that this action does not correspond with the deeper beliefs of the Turkish people, because Muslims respect God. However, an i ssue of human rights is now broached. No one has the right to insult another's religion," he said.

The Archbishop also reminded that several years ago western entrepreneurs had manufactured underwear with sayings from the Koran printed on them. A firestorm of protest from the Islamic world, Christodoulos said, immediately led to their removal.

"I am sure that the Christian world will rise up against this hubris and disrespect," he added.

KKE cadre Avdis' office firebombed, anarchists claim responsibility

The self-proclaimed anarchist group "Children of November" claimed responsibility for the firebombing yesterday afternoon of an office belonging to attorney Leon Avdis, the KKE-backed Athens mayoral candidate in last October's elections.

A phone call to the Athens daily "Athinaiki" by an unidentified person denounced what he called an "effort by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) to break up pupils' takeovers (of schools) and continue its (KKE) destructive action, as it also did at the march for the Polytechnic (last November)".

The explosion, from a makeshift device composed of gas cannisters attached to a plastic container filled with gasoline, caused a fire at the office - located on Solonos street. The only injury reported was of a 21-year-old woman being treated for shock.

She was at an adjacent foreign language institute at the time of the blast.

A number of students were also at the institute.

A subsequent fire was extinguished before it could do serious damage.

Also on the same floor are the law offices of the leader of the Coalition of the Left and Progress Nikos Constantopoulos.

Constantopoulos decries lack of gov't criticism over Iraqi strikes

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

Mr. Constantopoulos 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.

Mr. Constantopoulos 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 hygiene. The refugees' living conditions are nightmarish," Mr. Constantopoulos said.

Protesting students warn of road blocks

Students protesting education ministry reforms said yesterday they would raise road blocks on national highways and in major cities tomorrow to press their demand that the government withdraw the controversial changes.

Student committees from around the country meeting in Athens vowed to continue their protests until the education ministry withdrew the reform package. They said they aimed to cut off traffic on the national highways "from the Peloponnese to Evros".

Summary road blocks and occupations of schools have been the major characteristics of the weeks-long movement by students at high schools to have the education ministry change its tack on the reforms.

Students, teachers and parents are protesting on a number of issues, including teacher shortages, education ministry changes to grading and examinations at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, the introduction of open university type programmes, and changes to procedures for appointing new teachers.

Also sparking discontent are budget allocations for education, private schooling, and the prosecution of those occupying or vandalising school property.

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 estim ated to be a thousand.

The meeting yesterday decided occupations of school buildings will continue throughout the Christmas and New Year season at a number of locations, while students have also planned a rally in Athens on Jan. 15.

The committees said they would review their protest action again on Jan. 24.

New Athens administrative courts in Ambelokipi

Justice Minister Evangelos Yiannopoulos participated in a foundation-laying ceremony on Saturday for two under-construction eight-storey buildings expected to house Athens' administrative courts.

The two buildings are situated at the corner of Riankour and Panga streets in the densely populated Athens district of Ambelokipi. The ceremony was attended by party and judicial union representatives.

Mr. Yiannopoulos referred to efforts aimed at satisfying the long-standing demand by administrative judges and judicial employees for modern offices.

However, several dozen local residents gathered outside the construction sites and voiced their opposition, saying the new buildings eliminated precious green space in their neighbourhood. A heated verbal exchange between the residents and the minister followed.

Costs are expected to reach 5.8 billion drachmas, with a completion date set in 2000.

Twelve persons to face loan shark charges

Twelve people will face a Serres magistrate today over suspected involvement in a wide-ranging loan shark scam in northern Greece.

Among the group are the legal adviser for a bank, businessmen and a former senior public servant. None of the 12 has made any statement regarding the charges.

Press reports said the alleged long-running scheme had brought in up to 10 billion drachmas for the group. Their activity was uncovered when dozens of people filed complaints in 1996.

Five convicted for soccer violence

A Thessaloniki court on Saturday sentenced five football hooligans to five months in jail and fines of 50,000 drachmas for their part in violence that disrupted Thursday night's Aris-Olympiakos cup match.

All five filed for appeal and were released after the sentence was handed down.

Of the other four arrested during Thursday's unrest, three, who are minors, were placed in the custody of their parents, while another was acquitted of any involvement.

The nine were arrested for throwing rocks and planks at police. About 20 police officers were injured during the unrest - none seriously.

The violence forced referees to call off the match for 30 minutes. Olympiakos won the match 3-1.

Greek First Division soccer results

OFI Heraklion-Ionikos Piraeus 2-1 Proodeftiki Piraeus-Ethnikos Astir Athens 3- 0 Paniliakos Pyrgos-PAOK Thessaloniki 1-2 Panathinaikos-Apollon Athens 5-0 Panelefsiniakos-Kavala 1-1 Today's matches: Veria-Aris Thessaloniki, Iraklis Thessaloniki-Olympiakos, Xanthi-Panionios Ethnikos Piraeus-AEK. Standings: Olympiakos 31, AEK, PAOK 29, Panathinaikos 28, Xanthi, 25

WEATHER

Fine weather in most parts of Greece today but cloud and rain are expected later in the day. In the north, temperatures will range from 2-11C, in the Ionian and mainland 4-14C and in the Aegean 7-17C. Athens will be sunny with scattered cloud and the likelihood of rain in the afternoon. Temperatures will range from 5-14C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 2-10C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 276.312 British pound 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.E.)


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