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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-04-12

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, 12/04/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece to keep out of any NATO land operation in Yugoslavia
  • President Stephanopoulos condemns NATO bombings
  • NATO land forces' deployment seen as "possible".
  • Kyprianou blames NATO for failure of Belgrade mission
  • Simitis says important G8 effort under way for peace in Kosovo
  • Athens backs joint EU statement on Kosovo crisis
  • Athens backs EU recommendation towards Contact Group on Yugoslavia
  • Dutch helicopter makes forced landing in Thessaloniki
  • Greek banks donate to humanitarian effort
  • Athens police arrest smuggler of illegal immigrants and 25 Iraqis
  • 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

Greece to keep out of any NATO land operation in Yugoslavia

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos repeated on Sunday that Greece would not take part in a possible NATO land operation in Yugoslavia.

Tsohatzopoulos also forecast that extending military operations from airstrikes to ground warfare was a step that the parties involved would manage to avoid.

Furthermore, a political solution to the Kosovo crisis would eventually be found.

Failure was inherent in NATO's policy of confrontation and bombings, which, by definition, had its limits. Conditions were quickly evolving towards the chance for political solution, Tsohatzopoulos said.

A withdrawal of Serb forces and the unimpeded return of all refugees to Kosovo, guaranteed by an international force, were a realistic base to work towards peace, he said.

The minister was speaking during a tour of military units in Attica to wish troops a happy Easter.

President Stephanopoulos condemns NATO bombings

President Kostis Stephanopoulos on Sunday denounced NATO bombings in neighbouring Yugoslavia.

"I wish the best for the country and for peace in the region. Because it is inadmissible for bombings to occur in Europe," Stephanopoulos said.

He was replying to reporters' questions during a tour of the children's wing of a hospital in the western town of Rio, where many of the young patients are from Albania and other countries.

The president distributed Easter eggs and gifts.

NATO land forces' deployment seen as "possible".

Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos has said NATO deployment of land forces to end ethnic cleansing in Serbia's Kosovo province is now a possibility.

"The deployment of land forces is now a visible possibility ... when the crisis broke out with Yugoslavia, NATO decided to seek a political solution through the use of military means, but unfortunately Belgrade's decision to carry out ethnic cleansing and expel more than 400,000 people led to an escalation," he said.

"This escalation is disastrous, it will not lead to a solution, on the contrary it will intensify the impasse if there are no initiatives and proposals by all sides leading to the negotiating table for a political solution," Tsohatzopoulos added.

He set out as the only realistic basis for such a solution the unimpeded return of the refugees.

Kyprianou blames NATO for failure of Belgrade mission

President of the Cypriot House of Representatives, Spyros Kyprianou, has blamed NATO for his failure to secure the release of three US soldiers held by Belgrade.

"I am disappointed. Both the Americans and their allies did not take seriously this initiative, which was of a humanitarian nature. I expected NATO to stop the bombing of Yugoslavia during the mission, but on the contrary this intensified," he said after the end of talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on Friday.

He clarified, however, that he had not received any assurances in advance that the bombing would stop during his mission.

It appears that NATO only cleared an air corridor for Kyprianou to be able to fly to the Yugoslav capital in safety.

"We've deconflicted the airspace so they can go," Kenneth Bacon, the Pentagon spokesman said before Kyprianou flew aboard a Hellenic Air Force C- 130 transport plane form Athens on Thursday.

The US has maintained that the three soldiers, captured near the Yugoslav- FYROM border on March 31, should be released unconditionally," as they were being held "illegally".

Yugoslav sources claimed that Kyprianou was aware of the condition for an end to the bombing if the release of the three soldiers was to be on the agenda of the talks, and that Kyprianou was hosted only as a friend of Yugoslavia.

Despite leaving Belgrade empty-handed, the Cypriot official described his talks as "very useful," and expressed the view that Yugoslavia desired a political solution to the Kosovo crisis, and for this reason it was making goodwill gestures.

Simitis says important G8 effort under way for peace in Kosovo

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Friday that "an important effort" by the Group of Eight (G8) major industrialised nations was currently under way aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the Kosovo crisis.

He said the objective was to initiate political dialogue from which a plan could emerge for peace in the region.

"Greece supports this effort. I and my associates are in daily contact with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. I hope there will be a result in the next few days. But things are difficult," Simitis said.

The G8 comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

The rotating chairmanships of both the G8 and the European Union are currently held by Germany.

Athens backs joint EU statement on Kosovo crisis

Athens 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.

Athens backs EU recommendation towards Contact Group on Yugoslavia

Greece said 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.

Dutch helicopter makes forced landing in Thessaloniki

A Dutch helicopter believed to be part of the NATO force currently deployed in Albania had to make a forced landing near Thessaloniki airport on Friday due to a technical problem.

According to initial reports, the Chinook helicopter had taken off from Tirana and was headed for Athens.

While flying in Greek air space, the pilot saw that oil was leaking and he headed for the "Macedonia" international airport in Thessaloniki, northern Greece.

About one kilometre north of the airport, the pilot was forced to bring the helicopter down in a rurual area.

None of the helicopter crew were injured in the landing.

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 Theodoros Karatzas, was received by Prime Minister Costas Simitis 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."

Athens police arrest smuggler of illegal immigrants and 25 Iraqis

Athens police on Friday were hopeful of breaking up a gang which is believed to have smuggled large numbers of illegal immigrants into the country, after arresting 25 Iraqis and the Greek driver of the truck in which they were being transported.

The Iraqis - nine men, four women and 12 children - were discovered when police stopped a truck in Athens late Thursday night driven by Christos Siamis, 43.

Siamis tried to escape but was arrested.

He later told the police that he had picked up the Iraqis in Thessaloniki vegetable market and brought them to Athens.

Financial markets brighter with players opening new positions

Domestic financial markets regained some optimism 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, 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.

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

Cloud and scattered showers are expected in many parts of the country on Tuesday. Athens will be overcast with temperatures ranging from 12C to 21C. The same in Thessaloniki with rain likely in the evening. Temperatures ranging from 8C to 18C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Rates until Tuesday (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.S.)
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