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Athens News Agency: News in English, 02-01-16
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM denies that Olympics are 'expensive' in Parliament address16/01/2002 21:56:42
Hosting the 2004 Olympics in Athens will win Greece the 'gold medal' of a stronger position in the international community and a stronger society, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Wednesday, during a debate about the progress of Olympics projects in Parliament.
"Every discussion about the Olympic Games in Athens is a discussion about Greece in 2004, about the country's future," Simitis added.
The prime minister stressed that the success of the Games required the creative contribution of all political forces in the country, of public sector services, the private sector, society and the public, while he accused the main opposition of attempting to 'distort the facts' in order to present the Olympics as a loss-making enterprise.
Turning to the budget for the Games, he said the government would carefully monitor how it was implemented in practice, so that there were no unjustifiable budget overruns that did not serve the needs of the Games and would lend fuel to opposition arguments that the Olympics were 'expensive'.
"The Games are not a loss-maker but a unique and decisive investment in a modern and strong Greece," Simitis stressed.
More specifically, he said the budget for the 2004 Olympics would be 2.66 billion euros (906 billion drachmas), which would go toward sports facilities, activities linked to the Paralympics and the Cultural Olympiad and for new facilities for hospitality etc.
An additional 1.27 billion euros (432 billion drachmas) were earmarked for infrastructure projects throughout Greece in the framework of the 'Greece 2004' programme, he said.
The prime minister noted that the sums originally set for specific projects might change upward or downward as the Games drew nearer but the aim was not to surpass the original total budget.
The Olympics would trigger the development and modernisation of Greece and bring it closer to true convergence with European Union countries, the prime minister stressed, estimating that the Games would be responsible for an additional 0.5 per cent of GDP growth for every year leading up to 2004, of 1.3 per cent during 2004 and by 0.3-0.5 per cent for several years afterwards.
In addition, the Games would create between 30,000-40,000 new jobs a year and through them Greece would acquire 38 major new sports facilities and roads, as well as additional infrastructure in transport and hospitality, the renovation of 14 hospitals in Athens and other cities hosting Olympics venues and a wide-reaching technological upgrade of security service equipment and infrastructure.
Simitis said that environmental legislation, transparency and protection of the public interest were all being strictly observed in preparations for the Olympics.
Responding to the prime minister, main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis accused him of being "divisive" in his statements and also of failing to meet obligations to keep Parliament informed about the progress of Olympics preparations every three month, according to laws passed by Simitis' own government.
He also said the government appeared to have no strategy or method for carrying out Olympics projects, all of which faced delays of between three and 36 months, while some had been scrapped altogether.
Karamanlis particularly stressed the question of budget overruns, saying that the cost of most projects was between double and quadruple initial estimates.
In 1997, the initial budget was 850 billion drachmas, the ND leader noted, while the latest figures presented by deputy press minister Tilemachos Hytiris in a press conference came to a total of 2.4 trillion drachmas.
"He himself explained that the initial budget was largely fictitious and that budget overruns were inevitable," Karamanlis said. "If you call your own initial budget fictitious, why should anyone believe any of the ones that follow?" he added, commenting on Tuesday's announcement by the government that the cost of the Olympics would not exceed previous estimates of 1.5 trillion drachmas.
"Either this budget is fictitious also, or the government must point out what projects have been scrapped to keep the budget at a low level," he said.
 Reports cite interception of Turkish warplanes over Aegean16/01/2002 21:55:34
Sixteen formations of Turkish warplanes infringed on Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) rules in the Aegean on Wednesday, according to press reports from the Greek capital.
Turkish fighter planes also violated Greek national airspace in Northern and Southeastern Aegean.
Defence ministry sources said that this activity was not extraordinary.
 National, Alpha banks still battling to save merger16/01/2002 19:50:59
Senior officials of National Bank of Greece and Alpha Bank, the country's two largest credit institutions, on Wednesday were battling to save a planned merger that has been dogged with wrangling over the allocation of management powers.
National's governor, Theodoros Karatzas, and Alpha's chairman, Yiannis Kostopoulos, are both eager to resolve the acrimony and agree on a managerial structure that would permit the creation of a bank able to compete on a European level, sources of both banks said.
"The good relations that link the two leading bankers, their experience in overcoming obstacles, their power, and their will to create a major bank with a European structure (lend hope)," a senior National Bank executive told the Athens News Agency.
Sources at Alpha confirmed the spirit of good will, at least at the top level of the echelon.
Both banks, which are blue chips on the Athens bourse, have been secretive about meetings on the merger talks in order to avoid market speculation.
 Contract signed for extension to Athens metro line16/01/2002 19:00:47
Attiko Metro, operator of the Athens metro, on Wednesday signed a contract with engineering contractors AEGEK and Meton to build an extension to one of its lines.
Under the terms of the agreement, the two firms will extend the metro's No.2 line from the inner city suburb of Dafni eastwards to Ilioupoli.
The project for 57.2 million euros has a deadline of 680 calendar days, including construction of a 1,216 metre tunnel and a station for Ilioupoli.
 New telephone codes mandatory from Sunday16/01/2002 18:49:46
A new system of telephone codes nationwide will take mandatory effect on Sunday following a transition phase when both the old and new arrangements were in use.
State-run Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), a heavily traded stock on the Athens bourse, said in a statement on Wednesday that all fixed-line phones will have 10-digit numbers, with the area code and a "0" preceding the local number.
For example, numbers in Athens will be preceded by 010, regardless of whether the call is local or long-distance, taking the figure to 10 digits, the statemen said.
Special OTE three- or four-digit information and help numbers will remain unchanged, it added.
 National Bank of Greece opens branch in Yugoslavia16/01/2002 18:36:36
National Bank of Greece, a blue chip on the Athens bourse, announced on Wednesday that it had opened a branch in Yugoslavia, expanding its presence to 17 countries.
State-run National, the country's largest commercial bank, will serve both retail and corporate clients at its new Belgrade branch, it said in a statement.
The bank is major player in the Balkans with a leading position in Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - Thursday16/01/2002 18:05:05
Indicative tourist buying rates per euro
U.S. dollar 0.888
Pound sterling 0.618
Danish kroner 7.490
Swedish kroner 9.287
Japanese yen 116.76
Swiss franc 1.482
Norwegian kroner 7.975
Cyprus pound 0.580
Canadian dollar 1.413
Australian dollar 1.727
 Weather Forecast: Rain on Thursday16/01/2002 17:55:39
Cloud and rain are forecast throughout the country on Thursday, with islolated storms mainly at sea. Snow will fall on high ground on the mainland. Winds variable, moderate to strong. In the north, temperatures will range from -1C to 8C; in the Ionian and on the rest of the mainland from 3C to 13C; and in the Aegean islands from 7C to 15C. Rain and possibly a storm in Athens with temperatures between 8C and 12C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 3C to 8C.
 Greek stocks continue drifting lower16/01/2002 16:42:17
Equity prices continued drifting lower on the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, undermined by uncertainty over the outcome of efforts made to save a merger plan between National Bank and Alpha Bank, Greece's two largest commercial banks.
Traders said a negative climate in international markets also depressed sentiment.
The general index ended 0.77 percent lower at 2,502.18 points, with turnover a low Dr 36.7 billion, or 107.8 million euros.
The Telecoms, Metals and IT sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses (1.40 percent, 1.03 percent and 0.76 percent, respectively), while the Wholesale, Publishing and Construction sectors scored gains.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.65 percent lower, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index fell 0.28 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index eased 0.24 percent.
Alpha Bank's share eased 0.11 percent, while National Bank ended 0.33 percent lower.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 189 to 109 with another 58 issues unchanged.
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