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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-06-01

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, 01/06/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis says Greece has lowest crime rate in EU
  • Kaklamanis notes Europe's common policy weaknesses
  • EU FMs decide on basic principles for security andy defence policy
  • Greece strongly protests to Albania over bus hostage saga
  • ND leader argues Greece is not well guarded
  • Twenty-five Greek journalists to observe Ocalan trial
  • Vartholomeos says Patriarchate will not move from Istanbul
  • Police detain eight on suspicion of smuggling cocaine
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis says Greece has lowest crime rate in EU

Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Sunday defended his government's policy in guaranteeing security for Greek citizens, saying that Greece was a safe country and had the lowest crime rate in the European Union.

Addressing an election rally in Corinth a day after the tragic killing of a Greek taken hostage by an Albanian man in Thessaloniki, said that all illegal immigrants without the proper papers would be repatriated.

He said that some 45,000 foreigners working and residing illegally in Greece have been repatriated in the first three months of this year and only those economic migrants with green cards will be allowed to continue to stay in Greece.

Outlining the government's policy on police matters, Mr. Simitis said another 1,500 police officers were being appointed to the service to provide further security in Greece and that the newly-established border police force would further contain illega l migration.

As of 2000, he said, procedures will begin to enlist another 3,000 police officers into the force. He noted that a 30 billion drachma programme to modernise the Greek Police Force was already under way.

Mr. Simitis referred at length to the hostage incident, in which Albanian police shot the hijacker and one Greek hostage after the bus the hijacker had commandeered had passed into Albanian territory.

Greece acceded to his demand for 50 million drachmas and entry to Albania in the hope that he would release the eight hostages on the bus.

He rejected charges from the opposition New Democracy party that the country had been humiliated, saying that "the country's humiliation lies in the exploitation of such incidents for party point-scoring."

Kaklamanis notes Europe's common policy weaknesses

Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis said yesterday that the war in Yugoslavia has made evident Europe's significant weaknesses in a common foreign and defence policy.

Mr. Kaklamanis said that prevailing in the new world order is the mentality of "might is right."

He said that Greeks looked forward to the overthrow of this world "disorder" and to a return to the law in international relations. EU FMs decide on basic principles for security and defence policy

EU FMs decide on basic principles for security andy defence policy

EU foreign ministers yesterday decided on the basic principles allowing for a common European security and defence policy.

The ministers said that only a few minor points were unresolved in a wide- ranging plan to let the EU dispatch member states' forces on peacekeeping missions, and these were likely to be cleared up by the EU summit in Cologne, Germany on June 3-4.

German European Affairs Minister Guenther Verheugen told a press conference that "calculated steps, the most necessary" were taking place which are translated into the institutionalisation of missions capable of acting in crisis prevention and crisis ma nagement with or without NATO.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said that the search of a common defence identity for Europe was an important step.

Concerning the Kosovo crisis, Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis spoke of "slim chances" for an effective diplomacy, saying that Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari will, together with Russian Balkans envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, travel to Belgrade this week.

The council also considered "untimely "the upgrade of EU-Turkish relations in the framework of the Union's enlargement.

The issue was postponed and will likely be raised by the Finnish presidency, during the second half of 1999.

Meanwhile, Ankara in an effort to improve the climate between Turkey and the EU has contacted both Brussels and Athens. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit sent a letter to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, while Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem sent a letter to his Greek counterpart.

Mr. Papandreou said, however, that the letter made no mention of taking bilateral differences to the Court of Justice at The Hague, a basic Greek precondition for dialogue with Turkey. Mr. Papandreou on his part contacted Mr. Cem to congratulate him on his appointment as foreign minister and called on him to visit Greece.

Greece strongly protests to Albania over bus hostage saga

The Greek government strongly protested to the Albanian government over the tragic outcome of the hostage crisis, Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis told reporters later on Saturday.

He called the action by Albanian police "thoughtless" and as "disregarding human lives", adding that the neighbouring country's police blocked the Greek police forces at some distance from the bus, before intervening. Mr. Chrysohoidis said that both he and Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis had requested from Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo that first priority should be given to the protection of human lives.

The minister added that the Greek embassy in Tirana through a diplomatic note on Friday evening underlined the necessity for safeguarding human lives.

Mr. Chrysohoidis expressed his disappointment over the Albanian side's lack of respect to commitments.

The minister said that the Greek authorities had during the crisis moved according to a plan which placed first priority to human lives, adding that Greek police had asked the opinion of psychologists who confirmed that the hijacker was mentally unstabl e and extremely dangerous.

He said that the bus crossed the border after the hijacker threatened to kill the hostages, if he was not allowed to enter Albania. The Albanian side, the minister added, gave assurances that the same tactic would be followed.

Mr. Chrysohoidis said that despite assurances, the Albanian police started obstructing the hijacked bus and at about 40 km from Elbasan it blocked the road using two lorries. At that point the hijacker began shooting at the trucks.

Mr. Chrysohoidis disclosed that the Greek ambassador to Tirana had twice spoken with the hijacker failing however to convince him to release the hostages.

Anna Tsolaka, 43 and Maria Golfinopoulou-Krystalli, 25, two of the hostages on the bus hijacked by the Albanian gunman, were admitted to Ioannina hospital shortly before noon on Saturday.

Doctors at the hospital said the condition of both women was satisfactory and there was no cause for concern.

Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis expressed the strong displeasure of the Greek government over Albania's handling of the hostage drama to Tirana's Ambassador in Athens, Kastriot Robo.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Mr. Robo, Mr. Kranidiotis also expressed the hope that the incident would not have a negative effect on Greek-Albanian relations.

He said the two sides had agreed to set up a joint investigative committee to look into the circumstances surrounding the Albanian police operation.

Two Greek coroners said on Sunday that the hostage shot dead in the raid on the hijacked bus in Albania was killed by police gunfire.

The coroners were speaking in Tirana, where they carried out a three-hour post-mortem on Giorgos Koulouris, after flying to the Albanian capital from Thessaloniki.

Another passenger in the hijacked bus, Parthena Symelidou, 21, told reporters in Kato Scholari that Koulouris had repeatedly tried to help defuse the crisis during the 20-hour saga.

Three other survivors also returned to Thessaloniki on Saturday, in the prime minister's Falcon jet.

They were identified as Nikolaos Symelidis, 49, Kanela Karatsouli, 22, and Yiannis Tzioras, 30. The rescued hostages gave five hours of testimony to Albanian police before returning home.

Mr. Tsougas said that Albanian authorities had initially maintained that Koulouris was shot at close range by Flamour (Plisi). The claim was unfounded because the back of Koulouris' head and body carried no traces of gunpowder. The angle of the wounds showed that he was shot from a spot diagonally to the front, Mr. Tsougas said.

ND leader argues Greece is not well guarded

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Sunday expressed his sorrow over this weekend's events, which lead to the death of the hostage by Albanian police on Saturday.

Speaking at a party rally in Xanthi, northeastern Greece, Mr. Karamanlis also said that this event proved that the country is not well guarded and that citizens are unprotected.

Criticising the government, Mr. Karamanlis said that "the excuses whispered by the government are worse than its inability to confront the crisis."

He said that there is a need for a trained police force, adding that the protection of Greek citizens should be the first priority.

Mr. Karamanlis also spoke on farmers' income, insisting that it has decreased by 10 per cent over the past three years, adding that "farmers are at a deadend and I would like to remind ... (the current government) that when the rural areas have problems , all of Greece is sick."

He also critisised the government over public projects completion times, education issues and health care problems.

Twenty-five Greek journalists to observe Ocalan trial

Twenty-five Greek journalists have arrived in Mudanya to observe Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdulah Ocalan's trial on charges of treason, which began yesterday.

Communist Party of Greece (KKE) deputy Stratis Korakas was unable to observe the opening of the trial as a Council of Europe observer.

In statements to the press, while in Bursa, Turkey, Mr. Korakas said "I was informed with surprise that my name was crossed out of the Council of Europe's unofficial representatives list. I express my sorrow and anger, both over the action of the Turkis h authorities and over the stance of the CoE, which accepted the crossing out of its members from the list of observers," he added.

Ocalan, who was abducted as he was departing from the Greek embassy in Kenya in early February and was taken to Turkey, faces the death penalty, on charges that he attempted to break up the Turkish state during a separatist war, which began in 1984.

The German team of journalists in town is the largest with 64 members, while the British press has send 38 correspondents to cover the military court's proceedings.

According to Turkish press reports Ocalan accused Russia, Italy and Greece that in his case they did not act according to international law requirements.

In Athens, Coalition for the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) is organising a rally outside the Turkish embassy today, "to condemn the parody-trial of Abdulah Ocalan," a party press release said yesterday.

Synaspismos Eurodeputy Alekos Alavanos yesterday stated that the trial "is an offence against Europe and its civilisation."

Vartholomeos says Patriarchate will not move from Istanbul

Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, during a visit yesterday to the Panagia Soumela monastery in western Macedonia, said that a possible move of the Patriarchate from Istanbul is not even considered.

The Patriarch clarified that the Patriachate will not move from Istabul, which he called the "Queen of Cities", responding to statements of Patriarch of Antioch Igantios, who said that it would be better for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to move from Ist anbul.

Later in the day, he arrived in the norhtern Greek city of Thessaloniki, as he continued his first official tour of Greece.

Speaking to the people gathered to welcome him, the Ecumenical Patriarch condemned what he called efforts to create problems in the relations between the Patriarchate and the Greek Autocephalous Church over the episcopates of the so called "new lands."

The "new lands" consist of the episcopates of Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace as they were incorporated into the Greek state during the 20th centrury and in some cases almost a century after the establishment of the Greek church.

Those episcopates were placed under Greek church administration following a 1928 Ecumenical and Synodical Decree, but spiritually they are led by the Patriachate. However there are voices in the Greek church supporting a full and total incorporation of those areas into the Greek church.

Mgr. Vartholomeos yesterday also visited the ancient Macedonian tombs at Vergina, one of which is purported to be that of King Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.

Police detain eight on suspicion of smuggling cocaine

Greek police said yesterday they had detained eight Greek citizens suspected of involvement in a major cocaine smuggling ring operating out of Colombia.

Working in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Greek police said they had found and confiscated 440 million drachmas at the Athens home of one of the men.

According to reports, the international ring had moved some eight tonnes of cocaine, worth more than 15 billion drachmas, to the U.S. and Europe in the course of 1999.

The ring is estimated to be responsible for smuggling up to 50 tonnes of cocaine to the U.S. and Europe. About 10 tonnes of the shipments have been seized.

The operation involved cooperation between the Greek police, coast guard and finance ministry's financial crimes squad, SDOE.

According to the police, the 10-month operation culminated in raids on companies and residencies in Athens, Piraeus, Kifissia, Ekali and Kallithea on Friday.

They said most of those detained were businessmen involved in shipping as well as a number of merchant marine officers.

Police said they were continuing to sort through the documents seized during the raids and would be conducting checks on bank accounts. According to reports, up to five million dollars has changed hands over the past two months.

WEATHER

Fine weather is forecast throughout Greece today with local cloud in the mainland in the afternoon with the possibility of rain or rainstorms in eastern Macedonia and Thrace. Light to moderate winds in the Aegean. Hot and sunny in Athens with temperatures from 17-33C. Same in Thessaloniki with temnperatures between 16-32C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          307.758
Pound sterling       492.270
Japanese yen (100)   254.131
French franc          49.173
German mark          164.922
Italian lira (100)    16.659
Irish Punt           409.565
Belgian franc          7.996
Luxembourg franc       7.996
Finnish mark          54.250
Dutch guilder        146.371
Danish kr.            43.390
Austrian sch.         23.441
Spanish peseta         1.938
Swedish kr.           35.885
Norwegian kr.         39.134
Swiss franc          202.145
Port. Escudo           1.609
Can. dollar          208.003
Aus. dollar          200.275
Cyprus pound         557.504
Euro                 322.559
(C.E.)
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