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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-04-30

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, 30/04/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece in latest Moscow meeting for defusion of Kosovo crisis
  • Central bank says Greece likely to join euro in 2001
  • Greece abstains in EU vote from procedure to enforce oil embargo
  • Cook on Greece position over Kosovo crisis
  • Luxembourg daily advises locals to head for safe Greek isles
  • High-level contacts prior to today's KYSEA meeting
  • Greenpeace cites environmental dangers from war in Yugoslavia
  • Karamanlis: ND target is first place in Euroelections
  • Stephanos Manos unveils new party
  • Christodoulakis sees no economic slowdown in 1999
  • Stocks drop after two-day rebound
  • Greek firms badly hit by Kosovo crisis, Euro-group says
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece in latest Moscow meeting for defusion of Kosovo crisis

A meeting in Moscow yesterday between the foreign ministers of Russia, Canada, Greece and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan focused exclusively on Kosovo and ways of defusing the crisis.

Speaking after the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said talks Mr. Annan had in Moscow were very substantive, both at bilateral level and in the framework of the meeting.

Both Mr. Ivanov and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou placed special emphasis on the humanitarian dimension of the crisis.

Mr. Papandreou said, in a statement, that "Greece fully supports the efforts of the UN's Secretary General, as well as of Russia, which is exercising the particularly important role of an honest negotiator."

He also said finding a political solution to the Kosovo crisis is very important not only for the Balkan countries but for the entire world as well.

Referring to the humanitarian problem, Mr. Papandreou assured that Greece will intensify its efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Kosovo and expressed satisfaction over the agreement reached both with Russia and Switzerland, which will assist Greece in this effort.

Mr. Papandreou leaves for Tbilisi, Georgia, this morning to attend the delivery-assumption ceremony concerning the Black Sea Cooperation Organisation's Presidency from Georgia to Greece. He will also have a private meeting with President Eduard Shevardnadze.

Mr. Papandreou met privately with Mr. Annan.

The Greek FM said a proposal, which he also presented Wednesday night to his Russian counterpart, would facilitate the repatriation of the refugees "whose identification papers had been taken away from them" in Kosovo, which was a "key point in the co nsultations" currently taking place for a solution to the crisis, the sources added.

The sources said Mr. Papandreou and Mr. Annan also discussed all aspects of the Kosovo crisis and exchanged views on possible ways of overcoming the present impasse in order to enable a political solution of the crisis.

Central bank says Greece likely to join euro in 2001

Greece is very likely to qualify for entry into the euro zone in 2001 but entry cannot be taken as certain, Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos said in his annual report on monetary policy released yesterday.

The report said that the impact of the Yugoslav crisis on the domestic economy was negligible, and volatility in secondary market bond prices and the drachma were within normal levels.

But it warned that if the crisis were prolonged, there would be repercussions on economic activity, especially in tourism, transport and trade.

At the same time, attaining price stability in 1999 and in coming years hinged on the attitude of social partners.

The central bank called on enterprises to adjust their pricing policy in order to make Greek products more competitive.

As part of the anti-inflationary drive, the report hailed the establishment by companies of gentlemen's agreements to contain prices, and called for their continuing use.

A gradual relaxation of tight monetary policy was anticipated from mid-2000 when interest rates in Greece would converge towards the level of the European Union's 11 eurozone countries, the report said.

Unemployment in Greece remained steady at 9.6 percent compared to the EU average of 10 percent. In 1999 it was expected to fall to 9.4 percent.

Concerning the employment of non-Greek nationals, the report said that the number of foreign workers exceeded 500,000, and the number of aliens who had applied for a temporary residence and work permit (green card) was expected to reach 300,000 by the e nd of April.

Pensioners totalled more than 2.2 million, almost 60 percent of the population, and one of the highest rates among OECD countries. highest percentages among the OECD's members.

Greece abstains in EU vote from procedure to enforce oil embargo

NATO and European Union representatives continued yesterday to discuss details in applying an oil embargo against Yugoslavia.

The EU member-states' permanent representatives approved the embargo regulations, with the exeption of Greece, which abstained from the special majority vote.

NATO member-states continued to discuss the issue, as there are still objections over the legality of imposing an embargo on third countries as well as stopping non-EU and NATO vessels on the high seas, sources said.

The same sources noted that France and Greece expressed their reservations over the legality of a maritime blockade of Yugoslavia.

Cook on Greece position over Kosovo crisis

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook yesterday termed Greece an honourable mediator yesterday in reference to Athens' participation in the latest diplomatic initiatives for a peaceful and political solution to the Kosovo c risis.

"I have not yet been informed on diplomatic moves in Moscow by my good friend George Papandreou, but I am expecting him to brief me on his talks," he said.

Mr. Cook said he was aware that Greece is participating in the provision of humanitarian aid in and around Kosovo and expressed hope that it will participate with its presence, when the opportunity and moment arrives, in the restoration of security in the region. Asked whether he hopes for positive developments from diplomatic moves in Moscow, at a press briefing yesterday, Mr. Cook said "I hope for progress but I do not want to create great expectations. What is of interest is that Russia has moved progressively in its positions and is coming closer to our targets."

Luxembourg daily advises locals to head for safe Greek isles

State-owned 'Luxair' reportedly intends to redirect tourists destined for Turkey to Crete, Kos and Rhodes islands, according to the local daily "Luxemburger Wort".

"Greece is recommended as an alternative to everyone that wishes to spend their vacation in Turkey and the Dalmatian coast. LetYs not forget Greece with its fascinating islands. For those who love Turkey, a first rate solution would be Crete, Kos or Rhodes. Anyone that choses Crete, Kos or Rhodes as a vacation spot, in addition to high quality tourist services will also find sun, safe endless beaches, calm coves and legendary hospitality", the paper wrote.

High-level contacts prior to today's KYSEA meeting

Prime Minister Costas Simitis met with National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday to discuss a multi-million-dollar armaments programme for the Hellenic Air Force.

The meeting, at which the corresponding armaments programme for the Hellenic Navy was also raised, was in preparation for today's Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA), which will examine progress in both programmes and in particula r the purchase of new combat aircraft.

Asked by reporters after yesterday's meeting with Mr. Simitis whether KYSEA will take final decisions, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos replied in the affirmative, stressing that the government had committed itself to implementing the entire armaments programme for t he armed forces during 1999.

The 1.3-trillion-drachma Hellenic Air Force programme involves the purchase of new combat aircraft and the replacement of losses. The government in mid- February this year gave the green light for negotiations to begin for the purchase of 60-80 fourth generation Eurofighters as a medium-term measure in the framework of the armaments programme.

Speaking to reporters at the time, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the 'Eurofighter' would enter service with the air force after 2005 when the warplane is expected to go into mass production. The Eurofighter consortium groups British Aerospace, Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG (DASA), Italy's Finmeccanica and CASA of Spain.

Greenpeace cites environmental dangers from war in Yugoslavia

The environmental organisation Greenpeace said yesterday that only a political solution could put an end to the "bombing and slaughter" in Kosovo, as well as to guarantee peace in the region and alleviate the suffering of thousands.

Greenpeace representatives told a news conference that an immediate end to the war was imperative and warned that the environmental repercussions in the Balkans would be enormous.

Citing the findings of tests conducted by the universities of Thessaloniki and Thrace, they said the levels of dioxin in the atmosphere in Thrace were increasing when air masses arrive from Yugoslavia, while this was not the case when there were no such masses.

Dioxin, trace amounts of which were found in 'Agent Orange', the defoliant used by US forces in the Vietnam War, is a toxic compound that is carcinogenic and linked to birth defects in certain animals.

Stelios Psomas, the head of Greenpeace's office in Athens, said for this reason it was wrong "for certain people to rush to reassure citizens claiming that, irrespective of whether dioxins were coming from Yugoslavia, there is no risk for public health" .

Mr. Psomas said there was also a threat from the recycled uranium used in NATO bombs.

There has been much concern in Greece about NATO's bombing of chemical plants in Serbia and the consequences these actions have on the environment.

Karamanlis: ND target is first place in Euroelections

Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis stressed yesterday that ND's target is to gain first place in the June Euroelections, confidently predicting that voters will express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction for the current PASOK govern ment.

Speaking at a press conference, he also said the war in Kosovo will not affect voters' attitude.

Appearing to exclude the possibility of national elections being held together with the Euroelections, on June 13, Mr. Karamanlis said that "early elections are held by those who know they will win them and Mr. Simitis knows the truth."

Commenting on the Kosovo crisis, Mr. Karamanlis called for the country's disengagement from NATO's military operations, expressed opposition to bombings and criticised the government for its position.

Mr. Karamanlis said the country was indirectly involved in the military operations with the facilities it is providing, adding that Greece must be excluded, without this meaning that it will quit the alliance or exercise a veto.

Stephanos Manos unveils new party

Former New Democracy minister Stephanos Manos yesterday announced the founding of a new political party, the "The Liberals", which he said aims to attract voters from Greece's entire political spectrum. The independent deputy also presented the party's fo unding manifesto, signed by 350 citizens, in the Athens district of Gazi.

Not one of the 350 - who include business executives, technocrats and members of the country's cultural and intellectual community - has previously been involved in politics.

Mr. Manos said he wanted the party to express all citizens "whether they voted right, left, centre or are liberals". Mr. Manos spoke of "an impasse" on the political scene and in the country's political parties and said 'The Liberals' would seek the people's vote for the first time in European elections in June.

Mr. Manos, 60, was first elected deputy for Athens with the now main opposition New Democracy party in 1977. During his political career, he has held a number of portfolios including Environment, Industry, National Economy and Finance.

In early February 1998, ND's disciplinary council decided to expel him from the party for failing to attend a parliamentary vote on an amendment introduced by the PASOK government to the law on the restructuring of public utilities and enterprises.

Christodoulakis sees no economic slowdown in 1999

The Yugoslav crisis will not slow down the country's economic growth this year, Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said yesterday.

Mr. Christodoulakis, who was addressing a conference held in Athens by the Economist magazine, was more optimistic than National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, who has forecast that GDP growth could slow by 0.2 percent.

According to the deputy minister, it was "unrealistic and excessively pessimistic" to expect a 0.5 percent fall in 1999's economic growth.

The figure would entail a minimum 20 percent drop in this year's tourist arrivals compared with 1998, an unlikely prospect since initial indications pointed to a record year for tourism.

Mr. Christodoulakis added that despite any revision of forecasts due to the war, the country's gross domestic product was expected to increase by 3.7 percent in 1999.

Furthermore, Greece was expected to benefit from the aftermath of the crisis when a drive to restructure the region's economies would begin, he noted.

The European Investment Bank's chairman, Sir Brian Unwin, congratulated the government on making substantial progress in recent years towards economic convergence with the EU.

Speaking at the same conference, Sir Brian said that Greece was well on the road to European economic and monetary union (EMU) by 2001.

Stocks drop after two-day rebound

Equities halted their two-day rally to end yesterday's session moderately lower on the Athens Stock Exchange.

Traders said investors preferred to take mostly short-term profits, a normal reaction amid conflicting signs on the outcome of a diplomatic effort to end NATO's air strikes against Yugoslavia.

The general index ended 0.74 percent lower at 3,523.54 points, off the day's lows.

Profit-taking was seen chiefly in medium- and small-cap banking stocks, but supply was easily absorbed by the market.

Buying interest focused on construction stocks, which have so far remained largely unscathed by the Kosovo crisis.

Turnover was 119.550 billion drachmas and volume 26,150,359 shares.

Sector indices were mixed. Banks fell 1.71 percent, Leasing rose 1.29 percent, Insurance jumped 4.38 percent, Investment eased 0.80 percent, Construction surged 4.38 percent, Industrials rose 0.46 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.97 percent up and Holding fell 1.19 percent.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,700 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 21, 700, Ergobank at 26,550, Ionian Bank at 17,600, Titan Cement at 23,790, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,395, Intracom at 19,550, Minoan Lines at 7,330, Panafon at 8,000 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,850.

Greek firms badly hit by Kosovo crisis, Euro-group says

NATO's bombings of Yugoslavia have hit all sectors of the Greek economy, hurting about 3,500 businesses nationwide, regardless of size, the European Union of Enterprises and Businessesmen said yesterday in an statement.

The union urged the government to start assessing the damage suffered by all businesses so far, including the smallest ones, and ask for compensation from the European Union.

The statement said that hotels in Northern Greece and the Ionian Sea islands had already suffered a wave of cancellations from abroad costing 300 billion drachmas so far.

Exporting companies would never receive payment for their exports to Yugoslavia; agricultural cooperatives had incurred a drop in sales; transport companies faced major problems due to increased transportation costs and fuel, lubricants and shipping companies would lose out because of the oil embargo, the union said.

WEATHER

Hot and humid weather will prevail throughout Greece today. Possibility of intermittent rain in the north in the afternoon. Winds southerly, light to moderate. Athens will be sunny with few clouds and temperatures between 13- 29C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 11-26C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          305.000
Pound sterling       492.270
Japanese yen (100)   256.333
French franc          49.423
German mark          165.758
Italian lira (100)    16.743
Irish Punt           411.643
Belgian franc          8.037
Luxembourg franc       8.037
Finnish mark          54.525
Dutch guilder        147.114
Danish kr.            43.632
Austrian sch.         23.560
Spanish peseta         1.948
Swedish kr.           36.371
Norwegian kr.         39.140
Swiss franc          201.609
Port. Escudo           1.617
Aus. dollar          199.392
Can. dollar          206.931
Cyprus pound         559.488
Euro                 324.196
(C.E.)
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