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Athens News Agency: News in English, 00-01-14
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Papandreou-diplomacy14/01/2000 18:00:08
Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Friday said he saw a role for "people's diplomacy" in forging progress to a solution of the intractable Cyprus problem, following its success in smoothing Greek-Turkish relations.
Papandreou made the comments during an interview with CNN Television in London, where earlier he met with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.
The Cyprus issue topped the agenda in his talks with Cook, Papandreou said. Discussed were Cyprus proximity talks, set to resume in Geneva at the end of the month, and what could be done to help them progress.
He said one way to facilitate progress in "bringing down the last Berlin wall" on divided Cyprus was a more active role for the European Union in intercommunal contacts between such groups as youth and women's organisations and non-governmental organisations.
 Sports roundup14/01/2000 17:43:34
In another Euroleague matchup, PAOK Thessaloniki lost in Slovenia to Olympia Ljubljana 69-63 in Group F play, falling to third place along with Real Madrid at 18 points · one behind Olympia.
Aris˘ victory in the knockout game landed the club in the quarterfinals.
Panathinaikos finished the match with eight players, following three expulsions. Aris had one player thrown off the field with two yellow cards.
 Traffic-Thessaloniki14/01/2000 16:59:38
Cars and motorcycles parked illegally on downtown Thessaloniki's footpaths and walkways will be moved without further ado as of Monday, traffic authorities in the northern Greek port city said.
The measures are part of a public order ministry pilot programme to get tough on illegal parking in the central downtown region of the city.
Announcing the measures on Friday, Thessaloniki Traffic Directorate Chief Nikiforos Tzatzakis said that his service would give Thessaloniki drivers a chance to get used to the new status quo, with traffic police issuing warnings on Monday and Tuesday and removing licence plates and towing vehicles away as of Wednesday.
Some 350,000 to 400,000 vehicles circulate in the wider Thessaloniki area but there are only about 10,000 legal parking spaces.
Tzatzakis told reporters that where to park was not the Traffic Directorate's problem to solve, but suggested that residents make more use of public transport.
 ADEX-10-year bond contract14/01/2000 16:48:28
The Athens Derivatives Exchange (ADEX) began trading on a 10-year state bond futures contract on Friday, the first such contract to be traded on the Greek derivatives market.
Finance Undersecretary, Nikos Christodoulakis, launching the new derivatives product said it was "an important financial tool for bond investors to manage interest rates risks. This new category of products was upgrading the Greek market into a mature and modern bond market".
Christodoulakis referred also to a government decision to level taxation on corporate and state securities. This decision would strengthen and significantly expand Greek companies' funding capabilities beyond the traditional bank loans or share capital increases, he said.
 Bouncing checks-1999 report14/01/2000 16:36:12
Bouncing checks and bills declined in December 1999 to end the year lower compared with 1998 figures, Hellenic Bank Association said on Friday.
Unpaid bills totalled 24,008 in December, worth 6.29 billion drachmas, down 8.8 percent in volume and 15.6 pct in value from the same month in 1998.
Bouncing checks totalled 9,072 worth 20.8 billion drachmas, down 17.7 pct in volume and 5.2 pct in value, over the same period.
Unpaid bills totalled 303,198 in 1999, worth 83.9 billion drachmas, off 15.1 pct in volume and 14.9 pct in value compared with 1998 figures.
Bouncing checks totalled 117,916 woth 251.8 billion drachmas, down 8.7 pct in volume and 4.3 pct in value from 1998's levels.
Bankruptcy applications totalled 2,227 in 1999, up 0.7 pct from the previous year, while bankruptcies totalled 731, down 16 pct from 1998.
 Stock market report14/01/2000 16:22:24
Equity prices ended the last trading session of a subdued week sharply higher on the Athens Stock Exchange with the general index recovering to end above the 5,200 level.
It ended at 5,273.83 points, up 1.78 percent, unable to surpass the 5,300 level on lack of follow-through buying and low liquidity.
Turnover was a low 200.38 billion drachmas.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 189 percent to 2,727.40 points, while the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index jumped 2.49 percent to 973.72 points.
The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 4.28 percent higher at 1,668.09 points.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 285 to 39 with another four issues unchanged.
 Finance ministry-TAXIS14/01/2000 16:06:31
The finance ministry's new computerised database, TAXIS, will be fully operational today, while taxpayers' data are completely safe, a Finance ministry statement said on Friday.
The statement said that technical procedures to repair a damage on one of the main system's hard drives would be completed today. It also stressed that the finance ministry was capable of directly reproducing all tax data from a back-up system.
The finance ministry underlined that all tax bureaus operated normally on Friday using their local computer servers.
 Penalty rates-reactions14/01/2000 16:03:31
Greek borrowers and opposition political parties remained opposed to an amendment, proposed by the government, aimed to ease regulations on penalty rates charged by commercial banks for overdue loans.
The amendment is due to be tabled in parliament on Tuesday.
Borrowers called the government plan "timid" while the main opposition party ND tabled its own proposals in parliament.
ND's proposals envisages that commercial banks should reform debtors' accounts on the base that additional sums should be deducted while the remaining sum could not be higher than three times the initial capital of the loan.
The government-sponsored amendment was also opposed by some deputies in the ruling PASOK party.
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, however, said the amendment offered solutions to the problem, while the Hellenic Bank Association called the proposals bold and unprecedented.
 Government-Cabinet14/01/2000 15:08:34
Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Friday told his ministers to avoid being dragged into speculation about when elections will be called and to stay focussed on the work of their ministries.
The government is not prepared to succumb to opportunism, Simitis told a Cabinet meeting on Friday. Speculating about when elections would be held was negative and it was critical that each ministry meet targets that the government has set, he said.
The premier told the members of his government that it was imperative that the work achieved to date be supported and improved upon.
 Israeli sources -- Mideast peace process14/01/2000 14:45:18
The Labor government of Israeli Premier Ehud Barak wants a comprehensive peace deal with Syria this year instead of spasmodic steps at reconciliation with the Arab world, Israeli sources in Athens said on Friday.
?I believe Barak will tell the Israeli public opinion that we˘ll have either peace with security, or I tried and it˘s not possible at this stage?he˘s going to the core issues?full reconciliation,? an Israeli diplomatic source said in the Greek capital.
Barak this week predicted that the two countries might sign a peace agreement in two to three months, although direct approval of aging Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad is necessary.
Speaking during an interview with CNN, the Israeli PM also forecast that any such deal would easily pass the test of a promised referendum on the controversial land-for-peace swap.
In terms of talks with the Palestinian leadership, sources in Athens dismissed speculation that Palestinian leader will force Israel˘s hand by declaring independence and Jerusalem as his capital. ?Both sides must accept any agreement. No unilateral moves will be recognised. If he (Arafat) declares Jerusalem as his capital, so what? He won˘t have Jerusalem?If he moves with a unilateral step, then Israel can move with a unilateral step.?
In an unrelated development and in a reference to Israeli-Turkish relations and the Ocalan affair, the same sources said Israel made it clear to Damascus during the period when Turkey was pressuring Syria over the presence of the rebel Kurd leader in the country that it would not become involved whatsoever, ?we even reduced our forces on the border with Syria,? they said.
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