Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-17
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 17/02/1999 (ANA)
- Kurdish issue a Turkish and int'l problem, Simitis says
- Kenya asked for clarifications on Ocalan case
- Opposition reactions
- Stephanopoulos cuts visit to Austria short
- Greek ambassador in Nairobi recalled
- Ecevit denies any contact with Greece over Ocalan apprehension
- Greek embassies hit by Kurdish protest
- Deadline for sealed binding tenders for Ionian announced
- Profit-taking overtakes stock market
- Long-term yields drop in 7-year bond auction
- Laliotis cites progress in public works projects
- Alpha Investments share capital increase
- Report on Greek telephony market
- Agriculture Minister Anomeritis covers farm issues
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Kurdish issue a Turkish and int'l problem, Simitis says
Prime Minister Costas Simitis said last night that Greece "has done its
duty to the fullest", on one hand safeguarding its crucial and substantial
national interests and on the other hand showing in practice Athens'
humanitarian solidarity, responsibility and sensitivity at a time when
other countries distanced themselves.
In a late night written statement in reference to the capture of rebel
Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan in Nairobi and his subsequent transfer to
Turkey, Mr. Simitis also called on the European Union to assume its
responsibilities in safeguarding Mr. Ocalan's fate, "who is now in the
hands of Turkey".
Mr. Ocalan was captured after leaving the Greek ambassador's residence in
Nairobi, Kenya, where he was given "temporary residence for humanitarian
reasons", Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos revealed earlier in the day
during an impromptu press confer ence at the foreign ministry.
The PKK leader, abducted under mysterious circumstances, was transferred to
Turkey where he will stand trial.
"I wish to categorically state that we had secured Ocalan's safe passage to
other countries where his protection and the granting of political asylum
"However, Ocalan in consultations with third parties opted to proceed to
unilateral talks with the government of Kenya and make his own moves," he
Condemning the occupation of Greek embassies and consulates by Kurdish
protesters throughout Europe and the holding of hostages, Mr. Simitis said
the Greek government's position on the Kurdish issue has always been
"We have as a principle, but also because our national interest so dictates,
to disagree with any kind of separatist movements. However, we are steadily
in favour of protecting the rights of minorities, social and human rights
and democratic freedoms in all countries," he said.
"At the same time, we have set out with clarity and consistency that Greece
will in no case convert the Kurdish issue into yet one more problem in
Greek-Turkish relations," he added.
Finally, he stressed Kenya's responsibility in the development of the
"It is the responsibility of the government of Kenya and those involved in
this affair to explain and account for the way in which Ocalan, instead of
the airport where he was heading, in order to end up in the Netherlands, as
he intended, was trapped a nd transported to Turkey."
Mr. Simitis submitted the written statement from his home, as he was ill
Earlier, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos called on Kurdish protesters
to end takeovers of Greek embassies and consulates in various European
capitals and cities that followed the capture of PKK leader Abdullah
Mr. Pangalos said that PKK leader Ocalan had given "temporary residence for
humanitarian reasons" at the house of the Greek ambassador in Kenya.
"But at his own responsibility and initiative, and despite the Greek advice
to the contrary, he tried to go to the Netherlands," the Greek minister
Mr. Pangalos said that en route from the ambassador's house to the airport,
which was followed by Greek embassy cars, Mr. Ocalan's car "deviated from
the route, and the embassy cars lost visual contact" with the vehicle.
Kenya asked for clarifications on Ocalan case
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that Greece has asked clarifications
from the Kenyan government concerning the circumstances surrounding the
capture of Mr. Ocalan.
He said Mr. Ocalan had been in direct contact with Kenyan government
officials - in whom the Kurdish leader had "shown trust" - with the aim of
travelling to the Netherlands.
The Greek government, he added, has no information about "the way things
turned out" and bore no responsibility from the moment of Mr. Ocalan's
departure "from where he was, with the responsibility of the Greek side" to
an unknown destination.
The spokesman said, Mr. Ocalan had personally entered into negotiations
with the Kenyan authorities and had "shown great trust in the assurances he
was given" by the latter.
The main opposition New Democracy (ND) party criticised the government's
handling of the Ocalan issue, describing it as "bizarre and dangerous".
Spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said the government had involved Greece in a
crisis and had failed at all levels.
"The government has achieved the impossible," Mr. Spiliotopoulos said,
charging that "it had managed to turn all against Greece and put the
country to shame".
The Communist Party of Greece said in a statenment that the "dramatic
developments in the Ocalan affair prove yet again in a clear and abhorrent
manner the role and objectives of the imperialistic order but also the
enormous responsibilities of the PASOK government which finds itself
involved in the refusal for the granting of political asylum as well as
Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) party leader Nikos
Constantopoulos said in a statement that the "dramatic developments
constitute a disgrace for Europe and Greece," adding that the Greek
government "has criminal responsibilities and owes clear and responsible
Mr. Constantopoulos said that the Greek government "became involved in the
worst possible manner in the whole affair and exposed our country in all
Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas slammed the
government for pursuing a "national strategy and policy that serves the
interests of the major powers of the West and Turkey, to the detriment of
our national interests".
"The government has done everything possible for our country to lose a
traditionally friendly ally, which is struggling for its self-determination
and could have been a deterrent force against Turkish expansionism against
our country," Mr. Tsovolas said .
Stephanopoulos cuts visit to Austria short
President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos and Austrian Parliament
President Heinz Fischer, who met here for talks yesterday, placed
themselves in favour of a European settlement of the Kurdish problem.
Mr. Stephanopoulos, who is cutting short his official visit in Austria due
to latest developments in the Abdullah Ocalan case, expressed his concerns
about developments following the arrest of the Kurdish leader in Kenya and
the occupation of the Greek embassy building in Vienna and other European
capitals by outraged Kurds.
A meeting Mr. Stephanopoulos had with Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima
lasted 40 minutes more than originally scheduled, with both men declined
Greek ambassador in Nairobi recalled
Mr. Pangalos told Parliament that the Greek ambassdor to Kenya, Giorgos
Kostoulas, had been recalled. The Kenyan government, according to Mr.
Pangalos, subsequently sent a letter to Athens requesting the ambassador's
Foreign ministry sources said Mr. Kostoulas will not return straightaway to
the foreign ministry, but will observe customary procedures in Kenya,
according to diplomatic protocol.
Ecevit denies any contact with Greece over Ocalan apprehension
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said here yesterday that "there was no
contact with Greece" in the operation to transfer Kurdish Workers Party
(PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan to Turkey.
In reply to a relevant question, Mr. Ecevit did not respond to the essence
of the issue. He merely confirmed a report that a private aircaft with
which Mr. Ocalan was transferred from Kenya to Turkey belonged to Turkish
businessman Parliament deputy Cav it Caglar.
Replying to the question on whether there was any contact with Greece, Mr.
Ecevit said "no, there was no contact."
Meanwhile, the White House denied yesterday that the United States had any
direct involvement" in the handover of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan to
Turkey, but refused to comment further on his capture.
"My understanding is that the US had no direct involvement in the handover,
" White House spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters, referring to Mr.
Ocalan's apprehension and his delivery to Turkey.
Greek embassies hit by Kurdish protest
By late evening yesterday, authorities had either evicted from or persuaded
protesting Kurds to end their occupations in a total of nine Greek
diplomatic missions in European cities, namely, the embassies in Bonn,
Moscow, Brussels, Copenhagen and Stockholm, as well as the consulates in
Paris, Marseilles, Strasbourg and Stuttgart along with the UN mission in
Premises still under occupation included the Greek ambassador's residence
in The Hague, the Greek embassies in London, Vienna and Berne, the
consulates in Zurich, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hannover and
Milan, the UN headquarters in Geneva and the Kenyan embassies in Bonn and
Responding to reporters' questions later, US State Department spokesman
James Foley said the US condemned the attacks against Greek missions in
"In the view of the United States is that hostage takings and other attacks
on Greek facilities in Europe being carried out by Kurdish protesters are
completely unacceptable and should stop immediately," he said, according to
an ANA dispatch from Washington.
Deadline for sealed binding tenders for Ionian announced
A deadline for sealed binding tenders for the purchase of 51 per cent of
state-run Ionian Bank's shares has been set for March 26, according to a
relevant interest invitation published in the press today by Commercial
Bank, Ionian's parent company.
According to the invitation, sealed binding tenders by interested parties
must be submitted at the offices of the JP Morgan firm in London (the
sale's financial sale adviser) and must be accompanied by letters of
guarantee totalling five billion drachmas.
The tenders must state clearly that the amount for the price will be
payable in cash, while the availability of relevant capital must also be
described. Lastly, they must be accompanied by a business plan for Ionian's
According to the invitation, JP Morgan must negotiate with the interested
parties and give a final reply within 20 work days at the latest as of
According to reports, Alpha Credit Bank, Eurobank in cooperation with
Ergobank and the Piraeus Bank group submitted non-binding tenders, which
gives them the right to participate in the second and final phase.
Profit-taking overtakes stock market
Equity prices succumbed to profit-taking on the Athens Stock Exchange to
end lower yesterday, halting a recent record-breaking rally.
The general index ended 2.02 percent off to 3,396.85 points reflecting
losses in banks and construction sectors.
Turnover was a record 171.05 billion drachmas and volume 39,819,132 shares.
Sector indices suffered losses. Banks fell 3.05 percent, Leasing dropped
2.95 percent, Insurance eased 1.02 percent, Investment ended 2.92 percent,
Construction plunged 4.53 per cent, Industrials fell 0.40 percent,
Miscellaneous dropped 3.75 percent and Holding ended 2.55 percent
off. National Bank of Greece ended at 20,500 drachmas, Alpha Credit
Bank at 34,750, Ergobank at 24,210, Ionian Bank at 17,000, Titan Cement
at 23,600, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,650, Intracom at 18,450, Minoan
Lines at 7,795, Panafon at 9,700 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,050.
Long-term yields drop in 7-year bond auction
Long-term yields dropped further during yesterday's seven-year bond auction
by the finance ministry.
The average weighed yield fell to 5.94 percent, down from the original
annual coupon of 6.0 percent and sharply down from a 8.25 percent yield of
a corresponding issue in April 1998.
Bids submitted in the domestic market of primary dealers totalled 930.2
billion drachmas, more than three times the asked price of 320 billion. The
finance ministry finally submitted bids totalling 384 billion drachmas.
Laliotis cites progress in public works projects
Addressing an international conference yesterday on major public works
projects, Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis announced that 20,000
infrastructure projects for developing Greece are at the stage of being
He reiterated that relevant funds amount to 4.3 trillion drachmas, adding
that not even a drachma or an ECU will be lost from the valuable funds for
Mr. Laliotis referred at length to the projects programme and announced
that 55 per cent of the Spata airport has been constructed to date and that
the project will be completed by March 1, 2001.
In another development, Mr. Laliotis has earmarked credits amounting to
about seven billion drachmas for road and flood protection works.
Alpha Investments share capital increase
The Alpha Investments firm will increase its share capital by 44 billion
drachmas, according to a decision by its general assembly of shareholders
For this purpose, 20 million new anonymous shares will be issued at the
rate of one new share for every old one at a sale price of 2,200 drachmas.
After the increase is carried out, Alpha Investments will be the first
portfolio firm having own capital exceeding 100 billion drachmas and assets
totalling 130 billion drachmas.
It was announced yesterday that the company posted profits of 22 billion
drachmas. Its dividend to be distributed amounts to 500 drachmas per share
and its payment will start on March 15.
Report on Greek telephony market
The unreserved purchase of shares of the two private mobile telephony
companies Panafon and Stet is recommended in a report by the Dresdner
Kleinwort Benson company, according to a report by Reuters.
Based on the report, the Greek mobile telephony market presents excellent
prospects and one of the largest enlargement rates with new subscribers in
At the end of 1998, the percentage of mobile telephone owners in the
country was assessed at 19.5 per cent of the total population, about 4.5
per cent below the European average, while the percentage is expected to
reach 28 per cent in 1999.
Dresdner Kleinwort Benson said that Panafon has offered high yields to its
shareholders on a permanent basis, while Stet's shares are also attractive.
It further said the two private companies have business expansion plans for
the immediate future, a good distribution system and exploit the experience
of their shareholder companies in European markets.
Agriculture Minister Anomeritis covers farm issues
The difficulties, new measures and future of Greek agriculture within the
bounds of the European Union were the dominant theme of statements
Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis made to the ANA.
Answering a question on the recent farmers' mobilisations, the minister
said "it is not correct for the union activities of a group to clash with
the interests of other social partners.
"We are moving ahead with a programme of reconstructing the countryside,
which focuses on the individual. We do not take measures under pressure,
nor do we take measures which benefit local or sectoral interests," he
Mr. Anomeritis noted that "the cost of production is not an abstract
notion. The decrease in fuel oil regards a 2 to 5 per cent cost, while in
some greenhouse cultivations it reaches 15 to 20 per cent."
Answering on the new institutional changes promoted by the government, the
minister said that the changes aim at creating strong farmers' cooperatives
that can enter the production, the traffic and trade of agricultural
He added that at times "when the private capital maximises its strength by
mergers, it is hard to understand why should we continue to have 7,000
local level cooperatives and dozens of unions, which are incurring debts on
a permanent basis."
Addressing the balance of agricultural payments, the minister said there is
a 350-billion drachma deficit of which 74 per cent stems from EU member-
states products, which proves that Greece was not a net beneficiary of the
Union's agricultural budget al locations, as has been said.
Overcast weather and sporadic showers will prevail in most parts of Greece
today and mainly in the northern and eastern regions today. Winds variable,
light to moderate. Overcast with intermittent rain in Athens with
temperatures will ranging between 7-13C. Overcast in Thessaloniki with
temperatures from 0-10C.
Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 285.855
Pound sterling 467.411 Japanese yen (100) 243.109
French franc 48.775 German mark 163.583
Italian lira (100) 16.524 Irish Punt 406.240
Belgian franc 7.931 Luxembourg franc 7.931
Finnish mark 53.810 Dutch guilder 145.182
Danish kr. 43.035 Austrian sch. 23.250
Spanish peseta 1.922 Swedish kr. 36.079
Norwegian kr. 37.061 Swiss franc 200.067
Port. Escudo 1.596 Aus. dollar 183.351
Can. dollar 189.532 Cyprus pound 550.560