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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-04-18

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, 18/04/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Balkan meeting in Athens
  • Greek Jews of Holocaust remembered
  • Greece wants multi-cultural Balkans
  • Swedish teenager dies of heroin overdose
  • Kosovo developments 'dramatic', PM wars
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Balkan meeting in Athens

An informal meeting of senior foreign ministry officials of the Balkan countries takes place in Athens Monday in the context of a Greek initiative for stability in and the democratisation and development of the Balkans.

A representative of the German EU presidency has been invited to attend the meeting, which will focus mainly on the reconstruction of the Balkans, as well as the Balkan affairs directors of the Bulgaria, Turkish and Romanian foreign ministries.

Representatives of the Belgrade Economic Institute -- who had also been invited but are unable to attend -- will send their proposals in writing.

Greek foreign minister George Papandreou will make statements to the press before the informal meeting begins.

Greek Jews of Holocaust remembered

The Jewish community of Thessaloniki today held its annual memorial service in memory of the six million Jews, including 50,000 Thessaloniki Jews, who were killed in the Nazi concentration camps and crematoria during World War II.

After chanting hymns led by Rabbi Itzhak Dayan, the Thessaloniki Jews lit a candle symbolising their 50,000 lost parents, siblings and other relatives, and another six candles symbolising the estimated six million murdered Jews.

The ceremony was attended by Macedonia-Thrace minister Yannis Magriotis, local MPs and members of the Thessaloniki municipal and prefectural councils.

Addresses were delivered by president of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki Andreas Sephicha and Thessaloniki's Aristotelion University professor Pavlos Petridis on the holocaust.

Also in attendance were the Thessaloniki community's few last remaining survivors of the Birkenau and Auschwitz death camps.

In a press release, the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki said the memory was being honoured of the victims of the holocaust, but also that "of those who tried to avert their massacre and contributed to saving them. Those wonderful actions of self-sacrifice will remain in our memories forever".

"Today, when the nightmare of nazism appears to be reviving, we hope that our innocent brethren will be the last victims of racial hatred, and that love and fraternity will reign for ever in the hearts of people," the announcement said.

Thousands of Jews had sought refuge in Thessaloniki from the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, making the city a major centre of Jewry. Before the Nazi occupation, the city's Jewish population was flourishing at around 49, 000, most of whom (46,061) were sent to the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Of those, only 1,950 returned.

A similar memorial service was held in Athens, at the Jewish Cemetery located inside the Athens Third Ceremony, which was attended by Greek Orthodox Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, and foreign minister George Papandreou representing the government.

Greece wants multi-cultural Balkans

Greece desires the Balkans to be a multicultural peninsula with all its peoples, regardles of religion, raising their voices in unison for peace and security in the region, foreign minister George Papandreou said Sunday.

Speaking at a memorial service in Athens for the six million Jews who died in the Nazi holocaust, Papandreou said the Nazi holocaust during World War II was timely today given the current war in the Balkans.

Greece, he said, "insists on the creation of a multi-cultural Balkan peninsula, with all its people in unison -- regardless of whether they are Orthodox, Moslems, Slavs, etc., -- to voice our desire for peace and security in the region".

He said Greece had worked out specific proposals and initiatives and was pushing to achieve a peace process in the region. Soon, he added, it would submit those proposals, thus contributing to peace in the region.

Parliament vice-president Panayotis Kritikos, speaking at the same event, warned that the "strong" of the world should remember the holocaust as an example, particularly now that the Yugoslav drama was ongoing, "so that these black pages in the history of humanity will not be repeated".

Swedish teenager dies of heroin overdose

A Swede national was found dead this morning in a central Athens hotel room from an apparent overdose of heroin, police said.

They said Christian Sachlin, 19, was discovered dead this morning in his room at the Semiramis Hotel off Omonia Square.

Police said a used syringe containing traces of heroin was found near the body.

Kosovo developments 'dramatic', PM wars

Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Saturday described developments in the war- torn Yugoslav province of Kosovo as "dramatic" and a potential threat to peace and stability in the region.

Addressing his ruling PASOK party's Central Committee, Simitis said the Kosovo crisis was a "painful blow", the epicentre of which was the drama of the refugees.

With peace and stability in the region threatened, he added, the government was obliged to protect vital national interests according to the criterion of "Greece first".

Simitis said Greece's participation in international organisations such as NATO and the European Union conferred certain rights but also entailed obligations "and in view of this, our stance is determined by the objective of safeguarding Greece's interests".

However, he continued, Greece is also a Balkan country "and for this reason is following a careful, prudent policy because it is not and will not become part of the problems, but on the contrary will be part of efforts for a political solution".

The premier said Greece would not participate in military operations against Yugoslavia and stressed the government's opposition to "any act which may lead to a change of existing borders".

"Military intervention alone will not solve the problems. Up to now it has not been able to prevent ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, while the refugees, deaths and sickness have become a permanent phenomenon. Instead of being weakened, Milosevic's regime has become more stable, while countries of the region such as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Albania are facing the threat of political destabilisation," Simitis said.

The prime minister said the Greek initiative unveiled on Friday was based on the triptych: a political solution to the crisis as soon as possible, stability and development in the Balkans, and the tackling of humanitarian problems.

He added that the government would continue its efforts in this direction not only at next week's NATO summit in Washington but also through visits by ministers to other countries.

Simitis said the prolonged crisis in Kosovo had already had repercussions for Greece.

Citing National Economy Ministry figures, he said the anticipated growth in GDP would now be reduced by 0.5 percent.

"However," he continued, "Greece is visibly approaching the national target of EMU entry and for this reason must safeguard its achievements."

This "basic effort", Simitis added, was like walking a tightrope.

WEATHER

Scattered cloud throughout Greece on Sunday, heavier in the north-west with possibility of local showers. Winds westerly moderate, in sea regions strong at times. Mostly fair in Athens, with temperatures between 13-24C. Same in Thessaloniki, temperatures 13-20C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          300.874
Pound sterling       484.691
Japanese yen (100)   254.170
French franc          49.062
German mark          164.546
Italian lira (100)    16.621
Irish Punt           408.633
Belgian franc          7.978
Luxembourg franc       7.978
Finnish mark          54.127
Dutch guilder        146.037
Danish kr.            43.295
Austrian sch.         23.388
Spanish peseta         1.934
Swedish kr.           36.188
Norwegian kr.         38.882
Swiss franc          200.716
Port. Escudo           1.605
Aus. dollar          193.653
Can. dollar          201.872
Cyprus pound         555.540
Euro                 321.825
(L.G.)
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