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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-04-09

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, 09/04/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Athens backs joint EU statement on Kosovo crisis
  • Kyprianou to mediate for the release of three US soldiers
  • Gov't comments on Cook statements citing Milosevic assets in Greece
  • Athens backs EU recommendation towards Contact Group on Yugoslavia
  • Greek banks donate to humanitarian effort
  • Harvard conference on literary inspiration from Greece
  • Planes carrying refugees to use Corfu airport for refuelling
  • Stocks rise again on hopes of political solution for Kosovo
  • Financial markets brighter with players opening new positions
  • Trade deficit rises in 1998
  • Telestet reports 105 pct jump in connections
  • New National Bank of Greece shares to trade Tuesday
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Athens backs joint EU statement on Kosovo crisis

Athens yesterday joined its EU partners in strongly supporting NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, although it also set out six points of its own for reducing tension in the troubled Balkans.

"In the face of extreme and irresponsible policies...the use of the severest measures, including military action, has been both necessary and warranted," a joint statement by the Union's 15 foreign ministers stated in Luxembourg.

"The EU holds personally responsible all those who propagated, allowed and executed the crude campaign of violent displacement, tortures and murders, and will support all efforts with a view to forcing them to appear before the International Penal Court for the former Yugoslavia," the statement added.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou tabled a statement during the meeting clarifying Greece's positions on the Kosovo issue.

Mr. Papandreou said Greece did not distance its position from the joint communique issued by the "15", which it voted for, but supported the following targets strongly and actively, including:

Achievement of an immediate ceasefire, an end to violence and the undertaking of efforts for a peaceful solution to the problem.

Effective handling of the huge humanitarian problems created by the hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Economic aid for the countries most affected in the region to enable them to tackle the immediate problems created by the crisis.

Adoption of a medium-term and long-term programme for handling the region's political and economic problems.

The undertaking of a major regional cooperation initiative in the sectors of security, consolidation of democratic institutions and economic restructuring.

Mr. Papandreou added that Greece, together with Bulgaria and Romania, will coordinate efforts in support of regional cooperation, and pointed out that some of the existing ideas will be raised for discussion at a NATO foreign ministers' summit, due to convene in Brussels on Monday.

On the question of the admission of Kosovo refugees into the country, Mr. Papandreou said Greece, as is the case with the other EU member-states, has not undertaken any specific commitment at a Union level. He further noted that the issue will be a subject of consultations in bilateral contacts Greece will have with Balkan countries, primarily with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Kyprianou to mediate for the release of three US soldiers

Cypriot House Speaker Spyros Kyprianou flew to Belgrade yesterday afternoon in advance of scheduled talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic today focusing on the release of three US soldiers.

His arrival marked the first time the airport opened since the start of the NATO bombings. Mr. Kyprianou, the acting president of Cyprus, landed at Belgrade airport on board a Hellenic Air Force C-130 transport plane.

In a brief statement to reporters, Mr. Kyprianou said the visit was an effort to deal with humanitarian issues, meaning the release of the three US soldiers held captive.

"We desire, due to good and friendly relations, to be able to add a small stone to this process and I hope, rather, I am certain, that the climate in the talks will be friendly and the talks will be constructive," he said, adding that he hopes his missi on will meet with a positive response.

Greek government spokesman Dimitris Reppas yesterday said he was optimistic over Mr. Kyprianou's initiative, but added that this optimism should not be excessive "because we do not know the circumstances under which talks will be held for the release of the three US soldiers".

Mr. Reppas said the Greek government welcomed the initiative.

Asked to comment on the fact that the Yugoslav government chose Cyprus to discuss the release of the three US servicemen, Mr. Reppas said Nicosia and Belgrade had traditionally enjoyed good relations within the Non-Aligned Movement while, in addition, Cyprus was not a NATO member.

Washington declined from taking a position on the initiative, stressing however, that their release should be "unconditional".

"Our ambassador in Greece and our embassy in Cyprus are talking to the relevant governments and we have been informed of their intentions, and we are not going to take a position of this," US State Department spokes-man James Rubin told the press on Wed nesday.

Gov't comments on Cook statements citing Milosevic assets in Greece

The Greek government said yesterday with respect to Yugovlav President Slobodan Milosevic that any foreign national was entitled to own property in Greece, provided such ownership was not in violation of the country's laws.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas made the statement in reply to reporters' questions about Mr. Milosevic's assets in Greece.

The questions followed accusations on Wednesday by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook that Mr. Milosevic had "sucked out" wealth from Serbia "during the same years (the Serbian people) have been impoverished," and that most of it had found its way to assets in Greece.

Athens backs EU recommendation towards Contact Group on Yugoslavia

Greece said yesterday it agreed with and supported the recommendation of the European Union's German presidency to the six-nation Contact Group on Yugoslavia concerning efforts to resolve the crisis in Kosovo.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the EU presidency would again put forward the recommendation at the forthcoming General Affairs Council.

Mr. Reppas said the recommendation provides for the cessation of ethnic cleansing operations, the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army and security forces from Kosovo, the return of refugees and the convening of the UN Security Council leading to a resolutio n on the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force.

The spokesman said NATO foreign ministers would hold an informal meeting on Monday to review developments in Kosovo and put forward views regarding the settlement of the problem and how best to tackle the refugee issue.

For the first time, he said, thoughts may be expressed about the use of ground troops, which Greece opposes.

Greek banks donate to humanitarian effort

The Union of Greek Banks (EET) has donated 300 million drachmas to the Greek government as a contribution to the humanitarian task undertaken by Athens to meet the needs of refugees from Kosovo. An EET delegation, including the Union's President Theodoro s Karatzas, was received by Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday for this purpose.

In a statement afterwards, noted that "the refugees concern us because human misery and human pain concern us. Because if we help, if we offer our solidarity, then we also help friendship between peoples, cooperation, we help a peaceful future in the Balkans."

Harvard conference on literary inspiration from Greece

The tradition of Hellenism, as espoused by Lord Byron, Henry Miller and James Merrill, among others, will be at the forefront at an international conference focusing on Greece, scheduled to take place at Harvard between April 16-17.

Entitled "The Spirit of Greece Inspires," the conference is aimed at promoting Greece as a country which inspires foreign writers.

Divided into two sections, its first day deals with the relation between writers and mythical Greece, while the second day focuses on the relationship between journalists with the Greece of reality. The event is organised by Harvard University's Seferis Faculty, the Socrates Kokkalis programme at Harvard's John F. Kennedy College and the literary magazines Harvard Review (Cambridge) and Mondo Greco (Boston). Sponsors include the culture ministry and the Socrates Kokkalis Foundation.

Planes carrying refugees to use Corfu airport for refuelling

Aircraft carrying Kosovar refugees will frequently be using Corfu airport to refuel, informed sources said.

Meanwhile, a company of Hellenic Army engineers will arrive in the Albanian town of Pogradec today to help prepare a camp which will receive thousands of refugees from war-torn Kosovo, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.

He said the company, numbering a few dozen engineers, will also be accompanying a shipment of tents, foodstuffs, clothing and other aid for the refugees.

In addition, he said, a Hellenic Navy landing vessel will arrive tomorrow in the Albanian port of Durres with a shipment of humanitarian aid.

Replying to reporters' questions, Mr. Reppas said Greece had refused to accept even one Kosovar refugee following the failure of European countries to agree on a joint position on the problem.

He stated that Greece was at the forefront of efforts to send humanitarian aid to Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Yugoslavia.

Humanitarian aid totalling 130 million drachmas in foodstuffs, divided into 10,000 individual packages, is being gathered at the initiative of entrepreneurs in northern Greece.

Each package contains tinned food, flour, rice, sugar, lentils, beans, marmalade, halva, merenda, salt, coffee, almonds, toilet paper and even nylon bags.

Stocks rise again on hopes of political solution for Kosovo

Equities yesterday moved higher for the second consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange supported by hopes of a political solution in the Kosovo crisis.

The general index ended 2.43 percent higher at 3,621.53 points, off the day's highs.

Its losses since the beginning of NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia are now 3.79 percent compared with 13.0 percent a week ago. Turnover was 134.215 billion drachmas and volume 22,804,539 shares. Traders expect the market gradually to become more stable following its recent wild swings.

Sector indices scored gains across the board.

Banks rose 2.82 percent, Leasing ended 2.35 percent higher, Insurance increased 1.65 percent, Investment jumped 3.43 percent, Construction rose 3.51 percent, Industrials were 1.75 percent up, Miscellaneous ended 2.28 percent higher and Holding rose 0.52 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies rose 3.7 percent with 16 stocks hitting the day's 8.0 percent limit up.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 247 to 33 with another 12 issues unchanged.

Thessaliki, Hellenic Telecoms, Boutaris, Strintzis and National Bank were the most heavily traded stocks.

A total of 47 shares hit the day's 8.0 percent limit up. Among them were Piraeus Bank, Macedonia-Thrace Bank, Xiosbank, Delta Dairy, Cambas, Atemke, GEK, Fanco and Tasoglou.

Development Invest, Veterin, Ionian Hotels, Boutaris, Intertyp, Xylemporia, Sato, St.George Mills and Attikat suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 23,340 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 23, 600, Ergobank at 24,990, Ionian Bank at 19,800, Titan Cement at 24,690, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,480, Intracom at 19,710, Minoan Lines at 7,300, Panafon at 8,295 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,140.

Financial markets brighter with players opening new positions

Domestic financial markets regained some optimism yesterday supported by hopes of an end to the war in Yugoslavia.

Traders said the investors had discounted positive developments in Kosovo and started opening new positions in the drachma and state securities.

Long-term bond prices rose by 50-60 basis points taking the yield spread with German bunds to 186 basis points, down from 192 the previous day.

In the foreign exchange market the drachma rose against the euro to end at 324.580 versus the euro at the central bank's daily fix from 326.960 a day earlier.

The US dollar was fixed at 300.080 drachmas from 300.740 the previous day.

In the interbank market, most money rates remained stable with the exception of one-month and 12-month rates which fell to 10.0 and 9.30 percent respectively.

Trade deficit rises in 1998

Greece's trade deficit rose by 328.4 million US dollars in 1998, up 2.2 percent from the previous year.

The figures exclude services and non-registered transactions. Imports in 1998 totalled 26.185 billion dollars from 26.427 billion in 1997, a drop of 0.9 percent.

Imports, however, were 7.2 percent higher in drachma terms.

Exports shrank to 10.592 billion dollars in 1998 from 11.161 billion the previous year, down 5.1 percent in dollars terms but 2.7 percent up in drachmas.

Telestet reports 105 pct jump in connections

Stet Hellas, one of the country's three mobile phone operators, yesterday reported an increase of 105 percent in new connections in the first quarter against the same period of last year.

In January-March, the company acquired 108,687 new subscribers against 52, 908 a year ago, taking the total of subcribers to 797,301.

Of the total, 56 percent of customers have contracts with the company and 44 percent have the firm's card phone.

New National Bank of Greece shares to trade Tuesday

New shares of National Bank of Greece, a blue chip on the Athens bourse, are to start trading on Tuesday, the bank said in a statement yesterday.

The shares are part of a 170.5 billion drachma share capital increase involving the issue of 14,843,024 new common shares at a nominal value of 1, 450 each.

Of the total, 14,160,698 shares are for preference distribution to existing shareholders at one new for 10 old. The price is 11,500 drachmas.

Trade will start on Tuesday when preference rights end.

WEATHER

Partly cloudy weather will prevail throughout Greece today with rain mainly in the northwest. Winds variable, moderate to strong, turning gale force in the Ionian Sea. Partly cloudy in Athens with possibility of rain late evening and temperatures between 12-23C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures will be from 9-19C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          297.679
Pound sterling       477.688
Japanese yen (100)   246.423
French franc          49.086
German mark          164.627
Italian lira (100)    16.629
Irish Punt           408.835
Belgian franc          7.982
Luxembourg franc       7.982
Finnish mark          54.153
Dutch guilder        146.110
Danish kr.            43.342
Austrian sch.         23.399
Spanish peseta         1.935
Swedish kr.           35.930
Norwegian kr.         38.337
Swiss franc          201.822
Port. Escudo           1.606
Aus. dollar          186.079
Can. dollar          198.995
Cyprus pound         557.742
Euro                 321.983
(C.E.)
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