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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-06-16

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, 16/06/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • PASOK gov't optimistic over prospects of victory in 2000 elections
  • First part of Greek brigade arrives in southern Kosovo
  • Stephanopoulos leaves for Romania today
  • Kranidiotis on G8 statement regarding Cyprus
  • European Business Congress in Athens
  • Greek intervention for release of 2 Australians by Belgrade
  • Research programme to ID dolphins, whales in Greek waters
  • AEK Athens announces record-breaking football trade
  • State telecom plans buyouts abroad
  • Stocks slip below 4,000 points in profit-taking
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

PASOK gov't optimistic over prospects of victory in 2000 elections

The government noted yesterday that it was not disappointed by Sunday's European Parliament election results, saying it continued to believe the ruling PASOK party will win next year's national elections.

Speaking after a meeting of the inner cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said no member of the inner cabinet had voiced disagreement with the government's basic policy choices.

"We confirmed the evaluation of the prime minister on the night of the elections, that the result was positive for PASOK even if it did not achieve its leading goal of coming out on top," he said.

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) polled 35.99 per cent of the vote, while ruling PASOK garnered 32.86 per cent. Each party will have nine seats in the new European Parliament.

Mr. Reppas said the inner cabinet based its confidence on PASOK's re- election next year on the belief that ND's 3 per cent lead was not supported by such a swing away from the ruling party that it would force it from office.

"It's not about a New Democracy victory but about PASOK losing votes," Mr. Reppas said.

He said those members of the party who had expressed criticism of the government nevertheless continued to "have an open line" to the party and had not proposed any alternative strategy.

Mr. Reppas attributed the ruling party's showing at European Parliament elections to the specific nature of the poll, and to the large number of Greeks who decided not to vote.

He also said that overwhelming popular sentiment against NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia had also had an impact.

The government spokesman also said the issue of a reshuffle was not raised during the meeting. However, according to reports, the issue was raised by Mr. Simitis himself, not to stress the need for a change in government but to forestall any discussion on the issue.

Mr. Simitis said, in essence, that talk of a reshuffle harms the government, thereby precluding anyone from raising the reshuffle issue, reports stated.

According to reports, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said in his address that the result of the Euroelections was marginal for PASOK, adding that there should be a turn in government policy in order to come closer to the citizen.

Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou placed emphasis on the issue of PASOK's organisation, saying it also appeared during the pre-election period that the dissolution and re-establishment of the party's organisation is necessary.

Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis appeared to endorse these views and, using a current military term, said "there are no 'ground forces' to back whichever government policy."

Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos spoke of partitioning between a "society of security" and a "society of insecurity".

Along these lines, Mr. Simitis later announced a full reorganisation of the ruling party, during a break of a PASOK executive bureau meeting.

He said the process would begin with the central committee session on July 9 and 10 and would be completed by the end of the year.

Mr. Simitis stressed that the government will maintain the same policies on the major issues of development, meeting criteria for EMU entry and other national matters.

Finally, he expressed the view that PASOK had put up a valiant election fight under "adverse conditions."

First part of Greek brigade arrives in southern Kosovo

The first detachment of a Greek brigade slated to serve in Kosovo arrived in the Urocevac district of southern Kosovo yesterday afternoon with another 440 men of the 501th mechanised batallion expected there tonight, the defence ministry said yesterday.

The area of deployment is described as a flatland, with roughly 35,000 people residing in the general vicinity. The area also features a number of road and rail intersections, and has not been affected by the NATO bombings of the Yugoslav province.

The Greek brigade, which will comprise 1,200 men and have its own area of responsibility, will come under the KFOR command.

The defence ministry is also considering the prospect of increasing the force by 300 men.

During a press conference, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos described the area as "hostile", with specific dangers emanating from mine fields and snipers, although he said past peacekeeping experience by several members of the brigade shou ld guarantee success in their task.

Defence Deputy Minister Dimitris Apostolakis said the Greek force would not take part in the unlikely event that military operations were generalised, while new decisions would have to be made regarding its further activity.

The batallion will include six helicopters, 40 armoured personnel carriers and six armoured vehicles.

Stephanopoulos leaves for Romania today

President Kostis Stephanopoulos will begin a three-day official visit to Romania this morning for talks with his Romanian counterpart Emil Constantinescu and other leading political officials of that country.

Mr. Stephanopoulos will also meet with the presidium of the Union of Greeks in Romania, representatives of political refugees, the Greek students' union and Greece-based entrepreneurs active in the Balkan country. Moreover, he will inaugurate an art exh ibition at the National Art Museum in Bucharest, set to display paintings by Greek artists.

Kranidiotis on G8 statement regarding Cyprus

Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis said a statement by the G8 foreign ministers regarding Cyprus, calling on both sides to resume dialogue based on UN Security Council resolutions and to avoid heightened tension on the island, is a "conditionally positive" development.

"The statement by the G8 foreign ministers constitutes a positive development and offers a new opportunity, provided the Turkish side will also respond positively, for a resumption of intercommunal dialogue under the general secretary and in the framework of the UN.

"The fact that the G8 session preoccupied itself with the Cyprus issue underlines that it is an exclusive international political problem for which the international community has responsibility," he said.

Mr. Kranidiotis said a fortunate end to this process, combined with the European prospects of Cyprus, will allow all the people of Cyprus to "enjoy the fruits of an encouraging European future."

He also said he looked forward to ratification of the decision taken by the FMs, and other leaders during the upcoming G8 summit.

European Business Congress in Athens

The European Business Congress (EBC) held its general assembly in Athens yesterday, focusing on the strengthening of economic and business relations between the European Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

EBC was created in 1997 at the initiative of Russian natural gas giant Gazprom and other business groups.

Prometheus Gas President Dimitris Kopelouzos and Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos addressed the assembly.

Gazprom officials noted that the company exports 200 billion cubic metres of natural gas per annum and expect an increase in sales outside Russia to 275 billion cubic metres by 2005.

Greek intervention for release of 2 Australians by Belgrade

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer yesterday said hopes for the release of two Australians jailed in Yugoslavia were raised after an intervention by Greek FM George Papandreou.

Mr. Downer said that during talks with Yugoslav government officials in Belgrade last Saturday, Mr. Papandreou referred to the release of Steve Pratt and Peter Wallace, Care Australia humanitarian organisation members. Both were charged and convicted of espionage.

Research programme to ID dolphins, whales in Greek waters

Delphis, the Greek society for the study and protection of dolphins and whales yesterday announced a research programme for the identification of such marine mammals in Greek and Cypriot seas.

The programme will be staffed with volunteers and run between June 30 and Oct. 20.

To date, the effort has been supported by Cyprus' agriculture ministry, the European Union's "NATURA 2000" programme and donations from several private firms and foundations.

AEK Athens announces record-breaking football trade

AEK Athens has reportedly completed the most expensive trade ever in Greece's first division football league, signing Barcelona's Dragan Ciric for a total of 1.7 billion drachmas.

The 25-year-old Serbian striker/mid-fielder stands to earn about 900 million drachmas over either a four-, or five-year contract, while Barcelona will take 800 million.

Final details are expected to be divulged today by club officials in Athens.

If AEK, in the Champions' League play-offs this August, sells the player within the next two years to an English, French or Italian team, the proceeds will be split with Barcelona.

State telecom plans buyouts abroad

Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) aims to be included among the five biggest telecommunications groups in Europe through the implementation of a modernisation programme and aggressive acquisitions policy in neighbouring countries.

OTE's chief executive officer, George Symeonidis, also told the firm's annual general shareholders' meeting yesterday that 1998 turnover increased by 15.9 percent to 939.5 billion drachmas, while pre-tax profits totalled 278.7 billion compared with 300 billion in 1997.

Net pre-tax profits after minority rights totalled 285.3 billion drachmas, down from 301 billion in the previous year.

OTE's investment programme was implemented, resulting in rapid progress in a digitalisation programme, now covering 74.5 percent of the network from 47 percent in late 1997, and exceeding initial targets.

Mr. Symeonidis said the organisation was designing its new structure and operation, and planned to participate in strategically important international alliances and investments, and plan new products and services.

Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mandelis, addressing the shareholders' meeting, expressed his confidence that OTE would be fully competitive, both in fixed and mobile networks, by December 31, 2000 when the Greek telecommunications market w ould be fully liberalised.

Mr. Mandelis said OTE ranked 314 in a global list of international companies, the best performance by a Greek company.

OTE's shareholders approved a dividend payout of 100 billion drachmas, or 200 drachmas per share, and a repurchase of 10 percent of the firm's equity at a maximum price of 9,000 drachmas per share.

Mr. Symeonidis said OTE's board had decided to support the firm's share price on the Athens Stock Exchange, which according to institutional sources, was undervalued.

OTE, following its listing on the New York Stock Exchange, is to proceed to a fourth flotation in the fall, offering a 14 percent stake of its equity.

The Greek state will retain control of the company, holding a majority share of 51 percent following the new sale.

An international roadshow and a book building process will last from June 21 to July 9, followed by a public offering to Greek investors on July 7- 9.

Mr. Symeonidis said OTE's strategic targets included: preserving its leading role in offering services in a competitive domestic telecommunications market, playing a leading role in the telecommunications market in southeast Europe and the Middle East, and establishing a strong presence in the European market.

Referring to OTE's investment in Serbian Telecommunications Organisation with a 20 percent stake, Mr. Symeonidis said management was in contact with Greece's foreign affairs and national economy ministries, the Serbian government and its OTE's partner, Telecom Italia (holder of a 29 percent share in the Serbian firm), to evaluate damage from the Yugoslav war.

He confirmed OTE's interest in acquiring a majority stake in the Bulgarian Telecommunications Organisation, BTK, through a joint offer with KPN of the Netherlands.

Stocks slip below 4,000 points in profit-taking

Equity prices continued moving lower yesterday, breaking the 4,000-point support level. The market was hit by profit taking in selected industrial blue chips and news of an increase in state treasury bill yields.

The general index ended 0.66 percent lower at 3,994.04 points, reversing an early strong rally which brought the index briefly 0.87 percent higher.

It was the first time the index ended below 4,000 points in the last 10 sessions.

Turnover was 160.763 billion drachmas with 29,671,666 shares changing hands.

Smaller capitalisation stocks outperformed the market with the parallel market index ending a spectacular 5.95 percent higher.

Other sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-1.26 pct), Leasing (+1.17 pct), Insurance (-0.59 pct), Investment (-0.01 pct), Construction (+2.92 pct), Industrials (-0.26 pct), Miscellaneous (+1.06 pct) and Holding (+1.43 pct).

The FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips fell 1.20 percent to 2,361.17 points.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 225 to 64 with another 11 issues unchanged.

WEATHER

Fair weather is forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday with scattered showers or storms in the afternoon in the northern Ionian Sea, Epirus, western central Greece, Macedonia and possibly in Thessaly and Thrace. Winds will be variable, light to moderate. Partly cloudy in Athens where temperatures will range between 21-36C.

Partly cloudy with the possibility of showers in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 19-34C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          309.157
Pound sterling       494.691
Japanese yen (100)   256.620
French franc          48.991
German mark          164.308
Italian lira (100)    16.597
Irish Punt           408.041
Belgian franc          7.966
Luxembourg franc       7.966
Finnish mark          54.048
Dutch guilder        145.826
Danish kr.            43.251
Austrian sch.         23.354
Spanish peseta         1.931
Swedish kr.           36.270
Norwegian kr.         39.257
Swiss franc          201.718
Port. Escudo           1.603
Can. dollar          211.256
Aus. dollar          204.134
Cyprus pound         557.107
Euro                 321.358
(L.G.)
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