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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-04-21

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, 21/04/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis: efforts intensify for political solution to Kosovo crisis
  • Central bank chief bullish on Greek euro entry
  • Stocks end slightly down in jittery trade
  • Greece, FYROM seek closer economic ties
  • PM inaugurates Metropolitan Museum exhibitions
  • Simitis meeting Spyridon in New York
  • Gov't, scientists on reports of toxic fallout from NATO bombings
  • Political leaders' messages on occasion of '67 coup
  • Papantoniou tallies Greek humanitarian aid in Balkans
  • Klima confident of Greece's EMU entry
  • WEATHER
  • FOREIGN EXCHANGE

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis: efforts intensify for political solution to Kosovo crisis

Prime Minister Costas Simitis last night announced an intensification of efforts for a political solution to the Kosovo crisis while addressing an expatriate rally here.

Mr. Simitis spoke of the "complicity" of institutions and actions which will lead to Yugoslavia accepting to withdraw troops from Kosovo, the safe return of refugees, the deployment of an expanded international force with clear legitimacy, as well as the simultaneous end to hostilities.

He said that he is determined to promote this policy (with support from other countries as well) in NATO, the EU and in Balkan countries.

Analysing the Kosovo crisis, Mr. Simitis said all are calling for peace, a political solution and the restoration of stability. At the same time, Greece is shaping an autonomous foreign policy based on the principles of respect for the inviolability of borders, human and minority rights, a peaceful solution to differences and cooperation.

He said that for Greece, invoking these principles is not rhetoric, it is a living need stemming from historic experience, from Turkish aggressiveness in the Aegean and the continuing "international crime" of the military occupation of part of Cyprus.

Mr. Simitis stressed categorically that Greece should primarily defend its own interests, but respecting its rights and obligations emanating from its participation in international organisations, such as NATO and the European Union.

Mr. Simitis reiterated that Greece considers the need of respect for borders in the Balkans as being a basic precondition and is opposed to continuing Serb operations in Kosovo, which must stop.

"In this context, Greece proved that it can function as a factor of peace and stability in the region in this crisis as well, thanks to its double identity as a member-state of NATO and the EU and as a country in southeastern Europe. This double identi ty requires credibility both towards our partners and towards the Balkan countries and especially those directly involved, such as Yugoslavia, Albania and Skopje. And so, Greece is not participating in military operations and made it clear that it does not constitute a part of the problem, since the existing Turkish threat is one issue and the crisis in Kosovo another," he said.

Mr. Simitis reiterated that an extension of the crisis will create considerable dangers for the wider region.

He proposed a "Stabilisation and Development Plan for the Balkans" after the end of military operations with a "Marshal plan" for the region, the establishment of a mechanism responsible for resolving crises and the recognition of the "elig ibility" of all countries to join the EU.

"Greece is promoting the holding of a Balkan summit in Athens, while giving particular emphasis to tackling the refugees' humanitarian problems, planning the holding of a wide conference on this issue," he said.

Mr. Simitis said handling Turkish aggressiveness is necessary, since a part of Ankara's establishment is steadfastly pursuing aggravation and tension.

"Greece will not give an alibi to these deadlocks, since its position is that 'it is not contesting anything and is not negotiating anything' since Greece sovereign rights (Thrace, Aegean and Cyprus) are non-negotiable," he said.

Central bank chief bullish on Greek euro entry

Central bank governor Lucas Papademos said yesterday that he was optimistic Greece would enter the euro zone despite the difficulties.

Mr. Papademos, who was addressing a meeting of the European Parliament's monetary committee, said the Bank of Greece's policy was effective. He outlined the technical preparations the authorities were making before entry into the euro zone by January 1, 2001, the government's target date.

"Greece has made major progress in meeting the criteria for economic convergence. It has managed to lower inflation, stabilise the drachma's parity and reduce interest rates," Mr. Papademos said.

In order to attain the planned entry date, the criteria would have to be met by the end of the year.

The country had made good progress and was nearing the criteria, he added.

The impact of a devaluation of the drachma in March 1998 had dropped out of consumer price inflation, which had declined since June.

It fell to 3.9 percent year-on-year in December from 4.7 percent in the same month of 1997. The rate in March was 3.4 percent, expected to approach 2.0 percent by mid-summer, Mr. Papademos said.

The public deficit was expected to fall to 1.9 percent of gross domestic product in 1999 from 2.4 percent in 1998.

The public debt was continuing its downward trend, falling to 106.1 percent at the end of 1998 from 109.4 percent a year earlier. Its rate of decline was expected to accelerate in line with a gradual alignment of short- and long-term rates with the eu rozone norm, Mr. Papademos said.

Stocks end slightly down in jittery trade

Equity prices ended a nervous session slightly lower on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday after a mid-session plunge, finding support in bargain hunting.

The general index ended 0.37 percent down at 3,373.62 points, off the day's lows of 3,289.

A positive report by Deutsche Bank on the Greek market's prospects and a forecast by the Bank of Greece governor that inflation would drop to two percent by the end of the year helped sentiment.

Traders said the market was also encouraged by the prime minister's reassurance that the country would participate in EMU despite the Kosovo crisis.

Dealers noted that domestic institutional investors were relatively calm in the last few sessions buying into selected stocks, while most foreign institutional investors remained neutral after a restricted sell-off on Friday.

Sector indices ended lower.

Banks fell 0.04 percent, Leasing rose 0.65 percent, Insurance eased 2.51 percent, Investment dropped 2.71 percent, Construction ended 0.24 percent off, Industrials fell 0.59 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.97 percent lower and Holding eased 0.66 percent .

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 1.22 percent down.

Turnover was 130.996 billion drachmas and volume 25,841,566 shares.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,000 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 20, 400, Ergobank at 26,500, Ionian Bank at 17,890, Titan Cement at 21,990, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,305, Intracom at 17,900, Minoan Lines at 7,120, Panafon at 7,365 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,400.

Greece, FYROM seek closer economic ties

Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will seek closer economic cooperation through the creation of joint ventures in financial services, telecommunications, energy, transport and infrastructure.

Deputy National Economy Minister Alexandros Baltas said after a meeting with FYROM's Prime Minister, Ljupco Georgievski, in Skopje that Greece wanted to help the neighbouring country's economic development.

Mr. Georgievski urged Greek businesses to participate in his country's privatisation programme and expressed the view that Greece could become a major investor in FYROM.

In Athens, Hellenic Petroleum denied a report in a FYROM newspaper that its preliminary agreement to upgrade and probably buy the country's state-owned OKTA refinery was off. The deal also involves building an oil pipeline between Thessaloniki and Skopje.

Hellenic Petroleum's president and managing director, Eleftherios Tzallas, said the agreement was proceeding normally.

PM inaugurates Metropolitan Museum exhibitions

Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Monday inaugurated the ancient Greek halls exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Mr. Simitis, on a seven-day visit in the US to attend events for NATO's 50th anniversary, said "the uniqueness of the Greek art is owed to its timelessness, which is the result of its focus on man. Not only on man's shape, but also on man's feelings, ma n's relation to other human beings and the environment... Reflecting the philosophy of the times, Greek art managed to express the contradiction between fact and infinity, that is to say the question of human nature.

"The classical period is the continuation of the ancient period. The clarity in the shapes, combined with the impression of the monumental and the spark of the initially imperceptible movement, formed a solid basis for simplicity in expression, a simpli city that secures the timeless message," he said.

"This inseparable ensemble of classical philosophy, art and scientific theory is, I believe, one of the most beautiful expressions of man's quest to create in harmony to the human and natural environment. I am certain that for that reason, the rooms we are inaugurating today will offer a motivation for concern and thought toward an artful quest in the 21st century", the prime minister concluded.

Simitis meeting Spyridon in New York

Greece counts on the Orthodox Church's organisations abroad to successfully face current problems, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said here yesterday.

"Greece at this point is facing major challenges in Europe, the Balkans and further afield. To deal with these challenges it needs the assistance and the contribution of all. It needs the assistance of expatriate Greeks everywhere, who must have the una nimity to promote and defend our national issues and the country's progress," he said after visiting Archbishop of America Spyridon.

"The Church is always a supporter, an aide and a protagonist in dealing with the Cyprus problem, on the issue of Greek-Turkish relations, but now also on the problem of the Balkans, the role which Greece will play and the ways in which we can achieve peace. " For Greece it is especially important that there may be peace in the region..." he said.

Gov't, scientists on reports of toxic fallout from NATO bombings

Environment Minister Costas Laliotis denied yesterday that Greece was being affected by toxic clouds or radiation from the NATO bombings of chemical plants in Yugoslavia.

"To date, all the measurements and reports from relevent agencies have shown that there is absolutely no problem," Mr. Laliotis said after a meeting of researchers.

He added the government was continually monitoring air and water pollution levels and that these checks would be extended throughout northern Greece, while a Greek Atomic Energy Committee report also noted no increased radioactivity in the region - in l ine with similar reports from an agency in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

The minister called on the press and media to base their reports on expert advice and agencies involved with monitoring the situation, saying there was no need "for irresponsible statements and panic".

Deputy Health Minister Nikos Farmakis said there had been no change in pollution levels since the NATO bombing campaign of Yugoslavia began 24 days ago.

Any toxic elements from Serbia are being blown north and not south, Christos Balafoutis, the director of Aristotelian University's Meteorological Laboratory said.

Political leaders' messages on occasion of '67 coup

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday pointed to the need for national unity and referred to the war in Yugoslavia in his message on the occasion of the 32nd anniversary of a military coup d'etat in Greece on April 21, 1967.

"Once more it is proved that the abuse of democratic and human rights can only bring suffering to peoples and nations. War arouses the most detestful instincts..." Mr. Simitis said, adding that if democracy fails to expand in every corner in the Balkans " we will strengthen the interventionism of powers that desire to rule over our destiny and our future in order to serve their own interests."

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis, in his message, said "democracy is daily tested by its capability to offer effective solutions to sharp social problems, pressing anwsers to citizens' demands, hope and future projection to the young, guarantees for rights and freedom."

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) reminded of "NATO's role in the secret preparation, imposition and support of the military coup..." stressing "the need for democratisation of the armed forces".

The Coalition of Left and Progress stressed "the need for a radical change in policy and correlations in our political life", while the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) maintained that "the very same major powers that planned the coup and imposed the colonels' junta in Greece and Cyprus (also) harbour and support the Turkish provocativeness and agressiveness against our country".

Papantoniou tallies Greek humanitarian aid in Balkans

National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday said Greece has committed 45 million euros for humanitarian and development aid, out of a European Union total of 800 million euros, for the Balkans.

Addressing a press conference after the annual meeting of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), where he presided, he also said EBRD decided to support the reconstruction of Kosovo as well as other Balkan regions in the spirit of a new "Marshall" type plan.

Mr. Papantoniou said that following the war Greece's position in the region will be strengthened, as the Greek business sector has strong ties in the area.

Klima confident of Greece's EMU entry

Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima yesterday expressed optimism over Greece's European Monetary Union (EMU) accession course, saying this course would not be influenced by the war in Yugoslavia.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, the Austrian chancellor said he was "especially hopeful" that the war in Yugoslavia will not affect economic progress in Greece, adding that the European Union is also a community of solidarity and of European values, and this solidarity includes the relevant support for its member-states, which find themselves in special circumstances.

Speaking about a Balkan conference he proposed to take place in Vienna, he said it could be organised under the auspices of Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), of which Austria will hold the rotating presidency next year.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather with rising temperatures will prevail throughout Greece today. Winds variable, light to moderate. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 8-24C. Partly cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 5-22C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          303.393
Pound sterling       490.108
Japanese yen (100)   257.176
French franc          49.263
German mark          165.221
Italian lira (100)    16.689
Irish Punt           410.308
Belgian franc          8.010
Luxembourg franc       8.010
Finnish mark          54.349
Dutch guilder        146.636
Danish kr.            43.479
Austrian sch.         23.484
Spanish peseta         1.942
Swedish kr.           36.273
Norwegian kr.         39.051
Swiss franc          201.510
Port. Escudo           1.612
Aus. dollar          196.986
Can. dollar          203.856
Cyprus pound         559.369
Euro                 323.144
(C.E.)
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