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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-04-29

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, 29/04/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greek, Russian FMs maintain need for political settlement to Kosovo
  • Greece vindicated on Kosovo crisis
  • Brittan opens Economist conference in Athens
  • Environmentalists warn of imminent catastrophe from NATO bombs
  • Demonstrators in Thessaloniki prevent passage of NATO tanks
  • Survey shows public distrust of politicians
  • Swedish royal couple in Nafplion
  • Papantoniou sees inflation unscathed by war
  • Oil specialist, workers to acquire Prinos oilfield
  • Foreign exchange from shipping up 11.8 pct in Sept-Oct
  • Stocks rise on hopes of Kosovo solution
  • Minoan Flying Dolphins to invest 250 million dollars
  • Spyros Farming to expand to Iraq
  • US-backed SECI meeting in Athens focuses on SE transports
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greek, Russian FMs maintain need for political settlement to Kosovo

The foreign ministers of Greece and Russia, George Papandreou and Igor Ivanov, yesterday agreed that every possible effort must be made for a political settlement of the Kosovo crisis.

Speaking at a joint news conference after nearly three hours of talks, Mr. Ivanov said he had agreed with Mr. Papandreou to establish a joint working group to coordinate the dispatch of humanitarian aid and tackle the refugee problem.

Both foreign ministers stressed that the United Nations must play a significant role in efforts to resolve the crisis.

Mr. Papandreou said the agreement to coordinate humanitarian aid efforts would be particularly useful, and stressed that Greece was the only country which is active through non-governmental organisations for the provision of assistance inside Kosovo.

He said he had discussed 'the day after' with Ivanov, adding that Greece believed Russia's role would be decisive in this respect. Asked by reporters whether the deployment of an international peacekeeping force in Kosovo had been discussed, Mr. Ivanov said the issue had been discussed at length.

Both men expressed strong opposition to any use of ground troops in Kosovo.

Mr. Papandreou said intervention on the ground would leave "serious and long-lasting wounds" in the region. Mr. Papandreou, who arrived in Moscow today, was due to have talks later with Russia's special envoy on the Yugoslav crisis Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Mr. Papandreou also said there was a coincidence of views regarding the need to intensify diplomatic efforts to find a political solution to the problem of Kosovo.

The Russian envoy announced that he will leave for Bonn today and will be visiting Rome and Belgrade afterwards, adding that he is prepared to make as many visits as are necessary provided a diplomatic settlement to the crisis is promoted.

He further said he was even ready to travel to the United States if necessary and appealed for a simultaneous end to both bombings and hostilities in Kosovo.

Today, the second day of the Greek minister's visit to Moscow, Mr. Papandreou will meet UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is also in the Russian capital.

Greek and Russian diplomatic sources said it is very possible that a "quadripartite meeting" will be held this afternoon between Mr. Annan and the foreign ministers of Greece, Russia and Canada.

Greece vindicated on Kosovo crisis

Addressing a meeting of the ruling PASOK Parliamentary group, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Greece's insistence from the outset for a political solution to the Kosovo crisis had been vindicated, in view of the fact that NATO military activity had not succeeded in preventing ethnic cleansing in the war-torn Yugoslav province.

He warned that the "dramatic" developments in Yugoslavia were having major repercussions for the entire region and constituted a potential threat n ot only for the Balkans but for Europe in general. The premier reiterated that Greece would not participate in any military operations against Yugoslavia.

The triptych of Greek policy, he said, is based on the need for a political solution to the crisis, the development and incorporation of the Balkans in the European structure and the confronting of humanitarian problems.

Mr. Simitis said Greece was pursuing these objectives within the framework of "intense diplomatic activity" at all levels since the effort must be in cooperation with other European countries, citing Germany in particular.

No one can remain indifferent to the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees, he said, adding that Greece had taken a leading role in the despatch of humanitarian aid, being the only country which has sent assistance also to Kosovo.

Mr. Simitis said NATO's new role "which is summed up by the phrase 'crisis handling'" also raises the question of the legal basis for any intervention.

"Everyone agreed that this basis must be the rules of international law and the UN Charter," Mr. Simitis said.

Mr. Simitis reiterated that Greece's participation in NATO was absolutely necessary, since matters of security and defence were now resolved at a supra-national level. If Greece did not participate in these processes, Simitis said, including those of the Western European Union (WEU), in which Turkey participates as an associate member, Ankara would play a decisive role in all regional issues. Greece, he said, cannot be a non-aligned country because it has "political and military problems".

Brittan opens Economist conference in Athens

The vice-president of the European Commission, Sir Leon Brittan, opened the Economist magazine's 3rd Roundtable with the Government of Greece yesterday evening in Athens, by focusing on the issue of globalisation.

"Globalisation is the key to success for Europe, which must take advantage of the market," he said.

"The question posed is not how one stops globalisation, but how to tap it and benefit from it," he added.

Sir Leon set out the positive features accruing from European Economic and Monetary Union and the euro for European businessses -which are now rid of currency risks- and for consumers, and stressed that the structural reforms needed for EMU are the same required for successfully facing the challenge of globalisation.

Regarding Greece, Sir Leon emphasised it was on the right track and should maintain it. He further noted that when reforms were delayed, things were made worse.

He cited among the reforms required the need for reforming the tax and social security systems, restricting wage rises, privatisations, flexibility in the labour market.

Environmentalists warn of imminent catastrophe from NATO bombs

More than two dozen Balkan environmental groups comprising the 'Balkan-Net' organisation warned yesterday of the dangers and long-term repercussions from the ongoing NATO bombing of Yugoslavia on the environment, not only in the Balkans but all of Europe.

A statement containing the warnings was also adopted by a further 14 European environmental organisations.

"The bombing of chemical plants, refineries and petrochemical complexes creates toxic clouds which are dangerous not only for the citizens of Serbia but for the peoples of all the Balkan countries and other European states, such as Austria, Hungary and Italy," the statement read.

The statement stressed that the threat takes on nightmarish proportions given that Serbia has some of the most important underground waters in Europe.

"The use of recycled uranium by NATO in its attacks against Serb targets releases microscopic airborne particles which can easily be absorbed by military personnel and civilians alike.

NATO is risking the long-term contamination of vital natural resources and the environment, putting innocent civilians at risk, and especially children, not only in the Balkans but in the whole of Europe," the statement added.

Demonstrators in Thessaloniki prevent passage of NATO tanks

Demonstrators believed to be mostly Communist Party of Greece (KKE) supporters and Greek Railways Organisation (OSE) employees yesterday prevented the transportation by rail of 30 light tanks and other equipment from Thessaloniki to the NATO force station ed in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

A large group of demonstrators blocked the railway line near the old railway station in the northern Greek city, preventing the passage of a train which had started out from the port carrying light tanks and other military vehicles which were unloaded from the British-flagged freighter 'Sea Centurion' on Tuesday.

According to reports, the Sea Centurion unloaded 200 military vehicles, including light tanks, bridge-building equipment and other military material.

The demonstrators stood on the railway lines shouting slogans against the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and throwing stones at the train.

The train was forced to return to the port.

Thessaloniki has been used as one of the main transit points for the supply and reinforcement of NATO troops and equipment in FYROM.

According to recent statements by NATO officials, some 4,000 British and German troops are scheduled to pass through the port city shortly, for deployment at Skopje airport and Kumanovo.

Survey shows public distrust of politicians

The Andreas Papandreou Strategic Studies Institute (ISTAME) presented its survey on "The governing of Greece" at the Foreign Ministry's amphitheatre.

The survey, carried out at this time of the year in 1998, discerns a "deep structural confidence crisis" towards the political scene which, however, is not expressed directly in a lack of confidence in the political system itself.

A third of the electorate never trusts the government, seven out of 10 trust it circumstantially and three out of four believe that the government serves the big interests. One out of two citizens believes that public money is squandered and more than half believe that there are "quite a few corrupt people" in the government (while 13.4 per cent consider all of them to be corrupt).

Society's opinion of politicians and political parties is characteristic. A total of 83.3 per cent of people asked agree "rather absolutely" that whoever acquires power "always looks after his personal interests", 81 per cent that "those who are elected members of Parliament quickly loose contact with the people", 84.8 per cent that the parties are only interested in the citizens' votes and not in their views and 65.2 per cent that the political parties constantly criticise each other but in reality the y are all the same.

Swedish royal couple in Nafplion

Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, currently on an official visit to Greece, visited the city of Nafplio at noon yesterday. The royal couple arrived by helicopter from Delphi.

They visited the Nafplion museum where they were welcomed by Culture Minister Elizabeth Papazoi, before taking a guided tour of the institution.

Afterwards, the royal couple visited the archaeological site at Asine, where excavations had been conducted by the present Swedish king's grandfather.

The prefect of Argolida also hosted a dinner in honour of the Swedish royal couple before they returned to Athens.

Papantoniou sees inflation unscathed by war

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday that inflation would not be hurt by the Kosovo crisis.

A beneficial side-effect might even be seen with the crisis slowing demand, possible encouraging a further decline in inflation.

However, a sharp decline in inflation anticipated around June could be delayed for two or three months, Mr. Papantoniou added.

No new economic measures needed to be taken because of the Yugoslav war in order to ensure alignment with the EU.

The effect of the crisis was estimated as a 0.2 percent decline in the rate of growth, and was not expected to rise to more than 0.5 percent of GDP, even if the crisis was prolonged, he said.

Despite the war, the government would go ahead with tax breaks the government had pledged beginning on January 1, 2000, the minister said.

Oil specialist, workers to acquire Prinos oilfield

Eurotechnical ,a private sector oil specialist, and workers at Prinos oilfield in northern Greece are to acquire the facility on June 1 and restart operations.

Production halted after North Aegean Petroleum Corp., a Canadian-led consortium, pulled out citing high costs and low returns.

The new ownership formula devised by Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos will allow 274 workers to retain their jobs following redundancies ordered by NAPC.

Foreign exchange from shipping up 11.8 pct in Sept-Oct

Foreign currency inflows from shipping increased 11.8 percent in the period September-October 1998 to 403.4 million US dollars compared with 360.8 million dollars in the same period of 1997.

Inflows totalled 1841 million US dollars in January-October 1998 from 1726 million dollars the previous year, an increase of 6.7 percent.

Stocks rise on hopes of Kosovo solution

Equity prices continued their rebound for the second consecutive session yesterday pushing the general index above 3,500 points for the first time in six sessions.

The index ended 3.45 percent higher at 3,549.70 points, off the day's highs.

Turnover was 121.088 billion drachmas and volume 22,951,585 shares.

Traders said hopes of a diplomatic solution to the Kosovo crisis combined with a strong performance in international stock markets helped sentiment.

Sector indices scored gains.

Banks rose 3.68 percent, Leasing jumped 4.47 percent, Insurance increased 2.82 percent, Investment ended 3.86 percent higher, Construction soared 4.99 percent, Industrials increased 3.54 percent, Miscellaneous ended 3.58 percent up and Holding rose 1.20 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 1.61 percent higher, while the FTSE/ASE 20 index increased 3.35 percent to 2,230.16 points.

Minoan Flying Dolphins to invest 250 million dollars

Minoan Flying Dolphins is to invest 250 million dollars over two years on five ships, it announced yesterday.

The firm is a joint venture between passenger shipper Minoan Lines and hydrofoil operator Ceres.

It recently acquired licences from the Merchant Marine Ministry to ply new domestic island routes.

Spyros Farming to expand to Iraq

Spyros Farming, which is listed on the Athens bourse's parallel market for smaller cap stock, plans to expand to Iraq.

It intends to sell chemical fertiliser to Iraq, where the market is mostly state-owned and estimated to be worth 300 million dollars.

US-backed SECI meeting in Athens focuses on SE transports

Representatives of 10 southeast European nations met in Athens yesterday for the first tentative steps towards implementing a US-brokered initiative to improve transports and commerce in a region now dominating international headlines because of the Kosov o crisis.

A "memorandum of understanding" (MoU) was the product of the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI) meeting, an idea that Washington has promoted following the Dayton peace accords in Bosnia, and ostensibly targets the "harmonisation of laws g overning road transports" in the SE European region.

The event was hosted by Greece's transport ministry, and held at the Athens seaside resort of Vouliagmeni.

US ambassador Richard Schifter, the chief SECI mediator and a special adviser to the US secretary of state, afterwards answered one of the most germane questions on most delegates minds, namely, whether currently NATO- targetted Yugoslavia w ould at some point in the future be invited to join.

Touching on the issue of why Washington is so interested in southeastern Europe, an area including all of the Balkans, Schifter pointed to the United States' intent to "promote peace" after the Dayton accords through "facilitating cooperation" among the countries in the region, while rejecting notions that the US was dictating policy to countries on the European Union's doorstep.

"We did not make the rules, that was done by the nations of the region," he said.

He also emphasised that both Greece and the EU were behind the initiative, downplaying questions over whether SECI could conflict with EU regulations, guidelines and the Schengen Pact.

"We're not duplicating what other people are doing. We thought it would be useful to encourage a coming together in terms of geography. We really want Europe to expand in the region, tomorrow in factIwe're not going to tell the EU what to do," he said, stressing that Greece (an SECI member) Italy and Austria were involved, while the Commission was also fully briefed on SECI.

WEATHER

Fair weather will prevail in most parts of Greece on day with a further rise in temperatures. Partly cloudy in the west with intermittent rain or storms in the north in the afternoon. Winds variable, light to moderate. Mostly fair in Athens with temperatures between 12-28C. Possibility of rain in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 10-24C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          303.651
Pound sterling       491.556
Japanese yen (100)   254.448
French franc          49.390
German mark          165.647
Italian lira (100)    16.732
Irish Punt           411.367
Belgian franc          8.031
Luxembourg franc       8.031
Finnish mark          54.489
Dutch guilder        147.014
Danish kr.            43.583
Austrian sch.         23.544
Spanish peseta         1.947
Swedish kr.           36.416
Norwegian kr.         38.986
Swiss franc          201.381
Port. Escudo           1.616
Aus. dollar          198.708
Can. dollar          205.503
Cyprus pound         560.480
Euro                 323.977
(C.E.)
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