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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-04-19

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, 19/04/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • PM says Kosovo crisis poses potential threat to regional peace
  • Tsohatzopoulos on Kosovo crisis
  • Request for creation of National Foreign Policy Council reiterated
  • Simitis departs for US to attend NATO anniversary summit
  • Clerides-Kranidiotis meeting
  • FM says Greece wishes Balkans to be a milticultural peninsula
  • Informal Balkan meeting on Greek initiative for regional stability
  • Alternate FM asks Burns for clarifications
  • Greek destroyer heads for Adriatic Sea
  • Giscard d' Estaing in Athens for Karamanlis memorial service
  • Greece's Jews hold memorial service
  • Yugoslav embassy warns of possible ecological disaster
  • Softex temporarily closes paper mill in Drama
  • Greek humanitarian aid arrives in Belgrade
  • Greek First Division soccer results
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

PM says Kosovo crisis poses potential threat to regional peace

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, Mr. 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 Greek government was obliged to protect vital national interests according to the criterion of "Greece first".

Mr. 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 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, the Milosevic 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," Mr. Simitis said.

Mr. 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", Mr. Simitis added, was like walking a tightrope.

Tsohatzopoulos on Kosovo crisis

Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos told PASOK's Central Committee that the continuation of the conflict in Kosovo appeared to be the "choice" of both sides.

Despite this, he added, now is the time for political initiatives "for it has been proven historically that when the warring sides adopt tough stances, under the table they feel that they are in an impasse".

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the initiative announced by the premier on Friday had come at the right moment and was not just to create an impression.

The latest developments, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said, are the result of a years- long course which began with the break-up of Yugoslavia and is connected with the plans of Serbia and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to establish an ethnically pure state .

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the European Union must work to safeguard the role of the United Nations "so that efforts to replace the UN's role with a new role for NATO do not bear fruit".

The governments of Europe, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said, were unable "to speak independently" firstly because they were devoting nearly all their energy at this "crucial" phase to EMU implementation" and secondly because of the "traditional divide" between " pro-Europeans and pro-Atlantists which appeared during discussion of a common foreign and security policy for the EU".

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos expressed the view that "certain countries" felt that without the support of the United States they are either uncertain of attaining success or doomed to fail and so, he said, they prefer to "sail together".

Request for creation of National Foreign Policy Council reiterated

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis on Saturday reiterated his request for the creation of a National Foreign Policy Council.

Mr. Karamanlis, who is currently touring northern Greece, called the refusal of the government to create such a body "a criminal mistake".

He criticised the European Union and the Greek government for their stance over the Yugoslavian crisis, adding that the "responsibilities are huge for those who are not activated in the face of distabilisation, which was caused in the Balkans".

He called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis with guarantees for human rights, guarantees for the existing borders and deployment of a peace keeping force of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) or the United Nations in Kosovo.

Mr. Karamanlis also criticised the government and rulling PASOK for lack of ideology and message to the people, in what his close aids called the kick off of the June 13 Euroelections.

Speaking in Serres prefecture yesterday, Mr. Karamanlis analysed his party's proposals in the event of an electoral victory.

The proposals included tax system restructuring through simplification and combating tax evasion, radical changes in the state's functioning, comprehensive programmes and strategies for agriculture and a twenty-year programme for the educational system of the country.

Simitis departs for US to attend NATO anniversary summit

Prime Minister Costas Simitis left yesterday afternoon for the United States, where he will attend a three-day NATO summit marking the alliance's 50th anniversary that opens in Washington on Friday.

Mr. Simitis is due to meet today with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York and with Archbishop Spyridon of America tomorrow, while on Wednesday he will address a lunch in his honour by the Council on Foreign Relations. His address will cover fore ign policy issues, including the Kosovo crisis, Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue. He will also outline the Greek initiative unveiled on Friday for defusing the Kosovo crisis and achieving stability in the Balkans.

Mr. Simitis will leave New York for Washington on Wednesday evening, where the next day he will attend a lunch in his hnour hosted by the board of directors of the Woodrow Wilson Research Institute on foreign, economic and social policy issues.

The 19 NATO leaders will attend on Saturay a formal dinner in their honour hosted by US president Bill Clinton at the White House.

Mr. Simitis will depart on Sunday, April 25 after the close of the NATO summit for Greece, where he is due to return Monday noon.

Clerides-Kranidiotis meeting

Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, on a private visit to Greece, met in Athens yesterday with Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis.

According to a Foreign Ministry announcement, the two men exchanged views on current developments in the Balkan region and on the prolonged Cyprus problem.

FM says Greece wishes Balkans to be a milticultural peninsula

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 yesterday.

Speaking at a memorial service in Athens for the six million Jews who died in the Nazi holocaust, Mr. 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".

Informal Balkan meeting on Greek initiative for regional stability

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

A representative of the German European Union 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 Bulgarian, Turkish and Romanian foreign ministr ies.

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.

Alternate FM asks Burns for clarifications

Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis on Friday evening called US Ambassador Nicholas Burns to the ministry to ask for clarifications regarding a White House "executive order" which places the Ionian Sea north of the 39th parallel in the zone of NATO operations against Yugoslavia.

A foreign ministry statement said Mr. Kranidiotis told the US envoy that the order was purely "of an internal nature" and could not have any international legal effects.

According to the statement, Mr. Burns reserved reply until after being fully briefed on the content and nature of the order.

Greek destroyer heads for Adriatic Sea

Greek destroyer "Themistoklis" yesterday sailed for the Adriatic Sea where it will replace its sister ship "Kimon" in the permanent Mediterranean NATO naval force.

An officer and a conscript sailor of the warship face court martial as they refused to serve with their unit in this mission.

Giscard d' Estaing in Athens for Karamanlis memorial service

Former French President Valery Giscard d' Estaing yesterday arrived in Athens to participate in today's events for the one-year memorial service since the death of former Greek president Constantine Karamanlis.

Former Italian President Fransico Cossiga is also expected to participate in the events.

Responding to questions on the Kosovo crisis, Mr. Giscard d' Estaing said that special attention should be paid to the population, which is facing violant circumstances, adding that Europe should promote a political solution in Kosovo.

Greece's Jews hold memorial service

The Jewish community of Thessaloniki yesterday 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 Yiannis 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-sacrif ice will remain in our memories forever".

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, Foreign Minister George Papandreou representing the government, and Parliament Vice- president Panayotis Kritikos.

Yugoslav embassy warns of possible ecological disaster

The Yugoslav embassy in Athens on Saturday issued a press release warning of a possible ecological disaster should NATO bombs hit accidentally or intentionally a detergent factory near Belgrade.

The announcement noted that the Serbian environment ministry warned that at Baric (detergent factory) there are 174 tons of acid containing floride and hydrogen at a 92 per cent concentration, which if hit could unlease a toxic cloud in the atmosphere, with what it called disastrous results for human health in the region as well as central Europe, depending on winds.

Athens News Agency

Softex temporarily closes paper mill in Drama

Athenian Papermills S.A. (Softex) yesterday temporarily closed the paper mill it owns and operates in Drama prefecture, northern Greece.

As a result 435 workers were temporarily laid off, as the company claimed fiscal woes.

Softex employee union leaders addressed a memoradum to Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Deputy Ministers Christos Protopapas and Anna Diamantopoulou and the Organisation for the Rehabilitation of Ailing Enterprises (OAE) president Dimitrios Tsouderos requesting the company reopens the factory.

Greek humanitarian aid arrives in Belgrade

Six trucks containing humanitarian aid collected by the Balkan Union of Friendship in cooperation with other Greek agencies arrived in the Serbian capital on Saturday.

The aid consisting of clothing, food and medicines will be distributed to families that suffered losses due to the bombardments. Contribution of aid will be conducted with the help of the Municipality of Belgrade, workers' unions and the Serbian Church.

In addition three trucks loaded with humanitarian aid reached Nis to provide supplies for the victims in that area.

Greek first division soccer results

Veria-Paniliakos Pyrgos 0-0 Kavala-Iraklis Thessaloniki 2-0 Panelefsiniakos-Proodeftiki Piraeus 0-1 Aris Thessaloniki-Xanthi 1- 2 Ionikos-Olympiakos Piraeus 1-3 OFI Heraklion-Panionios Athens 2-0 AEK Athens-PAOK Thessaloniki 2- 0 Apollon Athens-Ethnikos Astir 2-2 Playing today: Panathinaikos-Ethnikos Piraeus Olympiakos 65, AEK 61, Panathinaikos 53, PAOK 44, Xanthi 43, Aris 42, OFI 41, Ionikos 40, Iraklis 39, Kavala 36, Ethnikos 33, Apollon 29

WEATHER

Mostly fine weather throughout the country today, turning to local cloud in the north in the afternoon. Athens will be sunny and mild, with temperatures ranging from 10-20C. Same in Thessaloniki, turning overcast in the afternoon, and temperatures from 8-17C.

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
(C.E.)
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