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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-04-23

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, 23/04/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • G. Papandreou presents Athens` priorities to Albright
  • Simitis focuses Kosovo, Cyprus in Washington address
  • Gov`t: Kosovo repercussions on Greek economy can be `absorbed`
  • Greece takes delivery of S-300 anti-aircraft system
  • Humanitarian aid should be directed to both Serbs and Kosovars
  • Central bank chief says monetary policy intact
  • Greece sees closer economic ties with FYROM
  • Current account deficit narrows in Jan-Oct 1998
  • Stocks slump again in Kosovo doldrums
  • Firms club together ahead of 2004 Olympics
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

G. Papandreou presents Athens` priorities to Albright

Foreign Minister George Papandreou reiterated Greece's dual role as a NATO member and a Balkan country during a 45-minute meeting IN Washington yesterday with his US counterpart Madeleine Albright.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mr. Papandreou said he presented Athens' priorities, which include a solution to the Kosovo crisis throu-gh diplomatic means, provision of humanitarian aid to Albanians and Serbians affected by the war as well as the region's reconstruction following the end of hostilities through a "regional Marshall Plan."

The Greek foreign minister said Washington did not request from Greece further access to facilities for NATO military operations against Yugoslavia, while he added that in this phase "there is no decision nor intent" to deploy NATO ground forces in Kosovo.

He also said Ms Albright recognised the special role Greece is playing in dealing with the Kosovo crisis, while praising a Greek initiative dispatching humanitarian aid to the troubled Yugoslav province.

The Greek FM did not exclude the possibility that Athens' open channels with Belgrade could lead to a mediating role in solving the crisis.

"We have stressed our will to help in whichever phase a mediator is needed, and the US believes that at some point Greece will be needed to play that role," he said.

Mr. Papandreou also stressed Greece's view that the United Nations can play an important role.

Answering to a relevant question by a Turkish reporter, Mr. Papandreou said he has had close cooperation with Turkish FM Ismail Cem in confronting the Kosovo crisis, saying he believes cooperation between the two countries will crucially influence the " day after".

He said that he will meet with Mr. Cem, as Prime Minister Costas Simitis will meet with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel at a social level during the NATO summit, although there will not be an official bilateral meeting.

Simitis focuses Kosovo, Cyprus in Washington address

The Kosovo crisis is the greatest human tragedy in Europe since World War II, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said in address at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation in Washington yesterday.

Mr. Simitis said that all have a duty to put an end to the crisis and the refugees' drama, adding that the continuous use of force cannot lead to a permanent solution.

"For this reason, Greece urges its allies in NATO on a new peace initiative, seeking a political solution, aimed at the restoration of stability in the region," he said.

Mr. Simitis reiterated that Greece will not participate in military operations, being a neighbouring country, stressed categorical support for wide autonomy for Kosovo and opposition to the "ethnic cleansing" policy folowed by Serbia. He further stresse d the need for refugees to stay close to their homes and set out Greece's initiatives for humanitarian aid to be provided.

Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Simitis said they are governed by the principles of international law, reiterated that Turkish claims can be referred to the International Court at The Hague and pointed out that they are being aggravated by the escalation of Turkish allegations.

"Turkey, due to the extent of the political crisis existing inside it (confrontation between Islamists and Kemalists, the Kurdish issue, human rights, hostile attitude towards Greece), is playing a destabilising role in the region and constitutes a seri ous threat to Greece's sovereign rights. Consequently, our country spends a considerable part of its national resources on armaments," he said.

On the question of Cyprus, he said it remains a national priority and a solution in accordance with UN resolutions constitutes a basis.

Mr. Simitis highlighted Greece's role in the Balkans, saying that being a member-state of NATO and the EU in the region of southeastern Europe, it constitutes a factor of stability and cooperation and exercises a foreign policy of principles (respect fo r international law, acceptance of international organisations, etc).

Responding to another question on the percentage of the Greeks' reaction to the bombings, as recorded in opinion polls, Mr. Simitis said Greeks have friendly feelings for the US, but the situation is changing due to the bombings, adding that if the bomb ings continue there will be anti-NATO and anti-American feelings among the Greek people.

Gov`t: Kosovo repercussions on Greek economy can be `absorbed`

The government said yesterday that repercussions of the crisis in Yugoslavia on the Greek economy were not considered to be serious and could be "absorbed".

"The consequences which the crisis may have on the Greek economy, contrary to what has been presented by some sides, are not considered to be serious, " acting government spokesman Nikos Athanasakis said, adding that any repercussions could be absorbed.

"Nothing can prevent us from attaining the major targets which we have set, " Mr. Athanasakis said, referring to Greece's bid to join EMU.

Advising calm, he intimated that rumours were being spread "not out of any interest in the economy, but for more practical reasons of everyday life".

Asked by reporters about reports in yesterday's press concerning the formation of a special army corps for participation in operations in Yugoslavia, Mr. Athanasakis said the 501 infantry battalion was being prepared in accordance with a decision taken some time ago by the Greek side, to take part in a peacekeeping force in the event of agreement between the warring parties.

Greece takes delivery of S-300 anti-aircraft system

The Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft system has arrived in Crete, the government announced yesterday.

Acting government spokesman Nikos Athanasakis told reporters that the missile system had arrived in Crete but declined to provide details.

Originally ordered by Nicosia to bolster Cypriot defences, the anti- aircraft missile system drew criticism from the United States and European countries which feared that it would increase tension in the region.

Turkey had openly threatened to prevent their deployment by force. There were also fears in Athens and Nicosia that deployment of the S-300 might harm Cyprus' EU accession prospects.

Humanitarian aid should be directed to both Serbs and Kosovars

Humanitarian aid to Yugoslavia should be directed towards both the Serbs and the Kosovar refugees, Health Minister Theodoros Kotsonis said yesterday.

"We are neither with the Serbs nor the Kosovars. We are helping all people tried by this inexplicable war," he told a session of health ministers of Council of Europe member-states in Athens.

The session, whose main agenda item was prospects for the elderly in the 21st century, also dealt with the effects of the war in Yugoslavia.

Speakers generally appeared unaware of many aspects of the adverse effects of the NATO bombing, with most of them referring to the plight of refugees.

The representative of the German health ministry said he had received no information on the possibility of toxic pollution and environmental damage in the Balkans.

Hungarian Minister Gogac said his country was doing everything possible to help the refugees, and when asked if it intended to send assistance to Serbia as well, he said this was a political issue. Asked on the effects of the bombing on the environment , he said Hungary is distant enough not to be affected, and that this was one of the last things that should cause concern when people were "killed and kicked out of their homes."

FYROM representative Markovinski said his country was in a dramatic situation because of the swelling number of refugees, and stressed the danger of epidemics, describing the aid from Europe as minimal.

French Health Undersecretary Bernard Kouchner praised the activities of the Greek branch of the Medecins du Monde organisation in the Pristina hospital.

"Thanks to the actions of the Medecins du Monde-Greece organisation, all the Albanian-speaking and Serbian communities will have access to the Pristina hospital," he said.

MDM-Greece on Wednesday sent a new convoy of humanitarian aid to the hospital, comprising three truckloads of foodstuffs and medical supplies weighing 40 tons, and accompanied by three Greek doctors.

Central bank chief says monetary policy intact

Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos said yesterday that monetary policy would remain unchanged and retain its goal of taking the country into the euro zone, but new measures would be taken if necessary.

"The attainment of monetary stability and the general aim of Greece's entry into the euro zone mean that the anti-inflation drive by all parties cannot slacken, even a little," Mr. Papademos told a parliamentary committee.

"Timely corrective measures (will be taken if needed) to allow adequate safety margins for attainment of the final objective," he added. No new steps were needed at the moment and the measures already taken were tough, the governor said.

Mr. Papademos said that the repercussions of the Yugoslav crisis on the Greek economy had not been studied in detail.

If Greece remained stable, then financial markets would not be affected, he said.

Bond sales by foreign investors in the last 25 days were limited, and so was the impact on prices, Mr. Papademos said.

An estimated 200 billion drachmas' worth of bonds that were sold was a minor sum compared to the holdings of foreign investors totalling trillions of drachmas, he added.

The Athens Stock Exchange had shown volatility and resulting corrections, but foreign investors had not linked the outlook for the Greek economy to businesses in Kosovo, he said.

Mr. Papademos was optimistic that inflation would continue its decline and hold steady in about a year at new, lower levels that would meet alignment criteria with the European Union.

Greece sees closer economic ties with FYROM

Deputy National Economy Minister Alexandros Baltas said yesterday that further economic cooperation was possible with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on his return from a visit to the neighbouring country.

There was room for closer ties in financial services, energy, engineering, telecommunications, transport, joint ventures and exchanges of know-how, Mr. Baltas said.

Greece is one of the biggest foreign investors in FYROM with direct investments totalling 70 million US dollars.

Greek investments have created or safeguarded around 4,000 jobs, expected to exceed 5,000 on completion of projects in progress.

The investments in number are mostly concentrated in the consumer goods and clothing sectors.

Some major Greek-funded investments in FYROM are as follows:


Acquisition of 80 percent of USJE Cement by Titan Cement with Holderbank of Switzerland for 52 million DMarks - the biggest foreign investment in FYROM by the end of 1998
Acquisition of Strumnica Tabac by Mihailides A. Tobacco for 8.58 million DM, and the purchase of 10 million US dollars' worth of tobacco
The Mytilineos Group has signed an agreement worth six million dollars to operate the Zletovo and Sasa lead and zinc mines, rising to an anticipated 12 million dollars when equipment is included
Acquisition of 61 percent of Pivara Skopjie brewery by Balkanbru Holding Ltd, a joint venture between Hellenic Bottling and Athens Brewery, for 32 million dollars
Operation by Veropoulos, a Greek supermarket chain, of two outlets in Skopje called VERO for 10 million DMarks
Joint venture called Nikas Skop by Nikas of Thessaloniki and a local partner in a seven million DMark investment to build a plant
Delta Dairy has invested nearly five million DMarks to set up an ice- cream imports and distribution company
Lazaridis Marbles has invested 1.5 million DMarks in a joint venture with a local partner.

Current account deficit narrows in Jan-Oct 1998

The current account deficit narrowed in January-October 1998 to 3.190 billion dollars from 4.613 billion dollars in the same period of 1997, down by 1.4 billion dollars, the Bank of Greece said yesterday.

The central bank attributed the improvement to a drop in the trade deficit by 864 million dollars and a rise in the surplus of invisibles by 559 million dollars.

A major factor in the trade deficit's decline was lower spending on net fuel imports by 664 million dollars.

The rise in the surplus of invisibles was due mainly to an increase in foreign currency revenue from tourism and net receipts from the European Union.

Net capital inflows in the 10-month period were 7.8 billion dollars against 3.2 billion dollars in the same period of 1997.

The increase was due mainly to the high level of purchases of state securities by investors abroad.

In September-October 1998, the current account deficit grew to 451 million dollars from 405 million dollars a year earlier.

Foreign currency reserves at the end of March totalled 21.5 billion dollars, the central bank said.

Stocks slump again in Kosovo doldrums

Equity prices continued losing ground yesterday extending their losing streak for the sixth consecutive session.

The general index ended 2.05 percent down at 3,281.96 points, raising its six-day loss to 12.07 percent.

Turnover was a little over 100 billion drachmas, reflecting a reluctance by investors to open new positions in the market.

Traders said disappointment over a lack of progress in the Kosovo crisis combined with tension in the domestic bond market discouraged trading in stocks.

Banks dropped 2.59 percent, Leasing fell 0.95 percent, Insurance ended 2.76 percent off, Investment eased 1.97 percent, Construction plunged 2.73 percent, Industrials dropped 1.96 percent, Miscellaneous fell 3.13 percent and Holding ended 1.82 percent off.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 3.20 percent down.

Leading banking shares and industrials came under heavy pressure to end substantially lower.

National Bank of Greece ended at 19,510 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 19, 700, Ergobank at 24,900, Ionian Bank at 16,755, Titan Cement at 21,400, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,265, Intracom at 17,205, Minoan Lines at 7,090, Panafon at 7,315 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,655.

Firms club together ahead of 2004 Olympics

A group of companies yesterday agreed to form a consortium that will offer integrated sports, cultural and tourist services ahead of the 2004 Olympic Games to be hosted by Athens.

The consortium's share capital is 100,000,000 drachmas to be equally divided among each firm or group.

The members of the consortium are the Minos Kyriakou Group, the Vassilis Konstanakopoulos Group, the Bold-Asset Group, the Goldair Group, the Airtour Greece Group, Aktina Travel, Afea Travel and GS Travel.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather will prevail in most parts of Greece today. Overcast in western, central and northern Greece with the possibility of intermittent rain from the afternoon. Winds southerly, light to moderate. Partly cloudy in Athens with temperatures between 10-26C. Possibility of rain in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 6-21C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          305.318
Pound sterling       490.306
Japanese yen (100)   253.992
French franc          49.409
German mark          165.708
Italian lira (100)    16.738
Irish Punt           411.517
Belgian franc          8.034
Luxembourg franc       8.034
Finnish mark          54.509
Dutch guilder        147.069
Danish kr.            43.610
Austrian sch.         23.553
Spanish peseta         1.948
Swedish kr.           36.402
Norwegian kr.         39.236
Swiss franc          202.482
Port. Escudo           1.617
Aus. dollar          197.919
Can. dollar          205.284
Cyprus pound         559.488
Euro                 324.096
(C.E.)
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