Inflation fell below 10 per cent for the first time in 22 years and was running at 9.9 per cent on an annualised basis in April, National Economy Minister Yannos Papantoniou announced yesterday.
He said the single-digit inflation figure was the result of the economic policy being "consistently followed", adding that the buying power of the weaker income brackets was "further strengthened". Mr. Papantoniou noted that the Ministry's target-forecast for the year was to contain inflation at 7 per cent by December.
New Democracy party spokesman Vassilis Manginas said the government aimed solely at bringing down the inflation rate through a deep recession in the economy. At the same time, he added, no effort whatsoever is made to control wasteful spending, while the budget is burdened with thousands of new appointments. Its tactics are leading to a social explosion, he warned.
A Communist Party of Greece statement said the basic criterion of a country's prosperity was the living standard of working people, who created the wealth. Isolating one indicator should not provide any cause for rejoicing, it said, as the policy of austerity meant a reduction in the buying power of large masses of people.
Coalition of the Left and Progress party leader Nikos Constantopoulos said that the government's "rejoicing over the decrease in inflation was a cause for distress and vexation" during a speech on the island of Samos.
"The government knows that economic realities are critical and are becoming more so with the policy it is following. The present-day policy of reducing inflation has a painful cost of increasing social inequalities and unemployment and spreading poverty," he said.
Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias held out hope yesterday for positive developments in the torturous road to peace in Bosnia yesterday, after briefing Serb President Slobodan Milosevic on the results of his Tehran m eeting with his Bosnian and Iranian counterparts.
"Hope has not been abandoned," Mr. Papoulias told reporters after the meeting. He said he and Mr. Milosevic had discussed all problems linked to the Yugoslav crisis in light of the critical situation created by the latest developments in Croatia, in a "cordial and friendly climate".
He said further efforts for peace would follow on his return to Athens, given the good results achieved in the Tehran meeting and strengthened by the results of yesterday's talks with President Milosevic and Yugoslav Foreign Minister Vladislav Jovanovic; these results, he said, could help the general effort by the European Union and the Contact Group.
The Greek foreign minister and his Iranian and Bosnian counterparts Ali Akbar Velayati and Irfan Ljubijankic discussed ways of bringing peace to war-torn Bosnia in Tehran last weekend in the context of a joint initiative launched by the three countries in early March.
As an EU member, Greece was particularly concerned over latest developments and condemned all those who believed they could impose solutions by force, Mr. Papoulias said. "Greece will struggle for the condemnation of those believing that with hostilities and means of war they will be able to resolve the Yugoslav crisis."
He hailed a commitment undertaken by the Bosnian foreign minister in Tehran that the Moslems would continue to honour the extension of the ceasefire to enable the Contact Group to succeed in its mission.
He said he agreed with President Milosevic's statement that continuous contact should be maintained with both the Serb and Yugoslav leaderships since both Greece and Yugoslavia considered the present period crucial and looked forward to co-operation with those forces desiring peace both in Europe and the US.
Asked by the Athens News Agency whether Greece would continue to mediate in talks between Belgrade and Sarajevo, Mr. Papoulias said Greece had made every effort to see the peace process continue and would continue to do so. "Greece's mediation is of great importance and this was confirmed by the talks I had with the Serb president today," he said.
Referring to a joint initiative by Black Sea Economic Co-operation pact states, including Greece, to lift sanctions on Yugoslavia, Mr. Papoulias said a document had been submitted to the UN secretary-general and that there would be a follow-up effort to have the initiative implemented in the next few days.
Mr. Jovanovic said the Yugoslav side agreed with Mr. Papoulias that the Yugoslav crisis should be resolved exclusively in a peaceful way and by political means. "We condemned the use of force in all its forms and regardless of which side it came from and particularly the latest example of the use of force by Croatia against Serb Krajina," Mr. Jovanovic said.
Mr. Papoulias, who arrived in Belgrade at noon, and President Milosevic also discussed bilateral relations between Greece and Yugoslavia during their two-hour talks. The talks were attended by Greece's charge d'affaires in Yugoslavia Mihalis Spinelis, Foreign Ministry spokesman Constantine Bikas and the head of the bilateral relations department with Balkan countries Dimitris Kypraios.
On his return to Athens last night, Mr. Papoulias stressed the hope that the results of Greece's initiatives in former Yugoslavia would become evident in the next few days, initiatives acceptable not only to Belgrade but also to the European Union and the US.
He said shortly before leaving for Belgrade he had held talks with Bulgarian Foreign Under-secretary Mr. Kristov who had arrived as the Bulgarian Foreign Minister's special envoy. He further said the joint initiative to lift sanctions on Yugoslavia was discussed with Mr. Kristov as were bilateral relations between Greece and Bulgaria.
Mr. Papoulias is scheduled to visit Budapest on Monday and said that he might possibly visit Bonn as well because "I must certainly have a meeting with my German counterpart Klaus Kinkel."
Government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday decisions taken at the joint meeting between the Cyprus National Council and Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou on Thursday constituted an important moment in the history of the Cyprus issue.
Mr. Venizelos said for the first time unanimity was reached on the medium and longterm targets and moves towards a solution of the Cyprus issue, adding that in contacts Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides held with other political party leaders no objections were raised on points in the joint communique.
Reiterating a statement by Mr. Papandreou, Mr. Venizelos did not rule out the possibility of a pan-hellenic meeting in the future. Mr. Venizelos criticised the media, saying Thursday's decisions did not have the appropriate coverage in the news reports.
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides met yesterday with former conservative prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis to discuss issues and developments in the Cyprus problem.
Mr. Mitsotakis said the discussion was "sincere, friendly and useful" and said he was in complete agreement with certain aspects of Thursday's meeting of the Cyprus National Council with Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and Mr. Clerides.
"There is no doubt that in order for negotiations (on the Cyprus problem) to proceed, there must be a real prospect that this time they will bring a result," he said. "Otherwise, there is no point in talking".
President Kostis Stephanopoulos said yesterday that Greece was the only country in the region which would never consider using its armed forces for aggression.
Speaking during a visit to the National Defence Ministry, Mr. Stephanopoulos said that "a strong army means prestige and dignity for the country", adding that "in order for a country to exercise effective policy, it must have the strength and ability to confront any threat against it".
At the end of his visit, Mr. Stephanopoulos said that he was leaving the ministry "with a sense of security and confidence which I wish to convey to the Greek people".
Welcoming the president, National Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis said that Greece's armed forces were "fully ready to confront any threat against Hellenism, from wherever it may originate".
Mr. Arsenis said Greece could rediscover its historic role in the greater region and serve as a bastion for democracy and the defence of human rights, "a pole for peaceful co-operation between peoples and economic development in the greater region".
Chief of the National Defence General Staff, Admiral Christos Lymberis said that Greece's high defence spending "may deprive the Greek people of additional comforts, but it must be understood that we are faced with a military threat and claims against o ur national sovereignty and territorial integrity ...".
The government yesterday dismissed Turkish "lessons" on how to protect human rights and respect international laws. "Greece does not accept lessons, advice or censure concerning the protection of human rights and respect for the principles of international law from the Turkish government which is accountable to all international organisations for circumventing these rights and principles," government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said.
The spokesman also described as "groundless" and "slanderous" Turkish accusations that Greece was supposedly involved in acts of terrorism on Turkish soil or against Turkish targets. "All this is nothing but an attempt by Ankara to export Turkey's domestic problems," Mr. Venizelos said, adding that "such accusations by Turkish officials are a provocation... and Greece will never tolerate the accused playing the accuser."
Mr. Venizelos again expressed the government's regret over Wednesday's incidents in Thessaloniki when Turkish government spokesman Yildirim Aktuna was pelted with various objects as he arrived at the Turkish consulate. The episode was provoked by televised comments by Mr. Aktuna during a visit to Greece's Moslem minority in Western Thrace, when he referred to them as "fellow Turks".
Mr. Venizelos said that responsibility would be sought at an administrative level, noting that the crowd outside the consulate should have been at a greater distance from the building.
Meanwhile, an ANA report from Ankara yesterday said the Greek embassy had received scores of complaints and bomb threats over the incidents in Thessaloniki. The Turkish authorities, notified of the bomb scares, had bolstered security around the Greek establishment.
The report said protest action against the episode in Thessaloniki was highlighted by a rally staged by Turkish journalists outside the Greek embassy. "Demonstrators laid a wreath of carnations assembled on a black frame with an inscription saying 'let us not be enemies'," said the report.
A protest gathering was also held outside the Greek Consulate in Istanbul yesterday, where staff also complained about receiving bomb threats.
Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias is beginning a two-day visit to Hungary on Monday, for talks with Prime Minister Gyula Horn, counterpart Laslo Kovacs and Parliament President Zoltan Gal.
Apart from bilateral economic issues, talks will focus on Hungary's efforts for accession to the European Union and NATO, as well as on the Cyprus issue, in which the Hungarian side has shown interest.
The issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is also expected to be discussed, following FYROM Foreign Minister Stevo Crvenkovski's visit to Budapest earlier this week. Hungary, the current president of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, promised FYROM support in its bid for membership.
The two foreign ministers will exchange the documents ratifying the friendship agreement signed by the two countries in 1992.
Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias met with main opposition New Democracy leader Miltiades Evert yesterday in advance of the latter's scheduled visit to the US next week.
After the half-hour talks, Mr. Papoulias said he had briefed Mr. Evert on the country's foreign issues and the two men had a "wide-ranging discussion"'. "I believe the New Democracy president is ready for his visit to the US," Mr. Papoulias said.
Mr. Evert, he added, was also briefed in detail on developments in the Cyprus issue Thursday evening by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, who was in Athens with the Cyprus National Council for consultations with the Greek government and political leaders.
Replying to questions, Mr. Papoulias expressed the belief that Mr.Evert would place the weight of his US talks on Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus and Skopje issues. Asked whether he was concerned over the course of Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Papoulias replied: "I'm concerned about Turkey's course".
The government has informed international organisations and the competent bodies of the European Union about the production and trafficking of narcotics in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Public Order Minister Sifis Valyrakis told parli ament yesterday.
Replying to a question from main opposition New Democracy deputy George Sourlas, Mr. Valyrakis added that Greece's representations over the issue had not been met with a positive response from many countries. However, he said, the recent expose in the Italian magazine "Expresso", according to which a narcotics 'factory' is operating in Skopje, had raised sensitivity in the EU countries.
Mr. Sourlas requested more information on the issue and asked Mr. Valyrakis to name the countries which had not accepted Greece's protests.
Greece has authorised a total of 120 million dollars in export credits for a string of Balkan and Black Sea countries, National Economy Under-secretary Ioannis Anthopoulos said yesterday. He said the move aimed to promote Greek products and investments in the Balkans and Black Sea countries. The minister said the credit would be provided through the Bank of Commerce and the National Bank of Greece with a basic loan rate of bor +2 per cent.
The countries to which the export credits will be provided include the Ukraine ($40 million), Romania ($20 million), Georgia ($20 million), Azerbaijan ($10 million), Moldavia ($10 million), Armenia ($10 million) and the Russian region of Krasnodar ($10 million).
Greek medical experts said the number of AIDS cases in the country has drastically increased among female heterosexuals, during a one-day conference entitled "AIDS and Mass Media" held yesterday.
"Statistics for 1994 and the beginning of 1995 show that more women than men were infected by the deadly virus through heterosexual relations," said Professor of Epidemiology Angelos Hadzakis.
"Between the years 1984 and 1985 no woman in Greece was infected... Today, 74 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men have received the virus through heterosexual sex," Mr. Hadzakis told a news conference. He said statistics showed a drop in the number of homosexual AIDS patients since 1983 but a continuous rise among drug users. He said the total number of AIDS cases in Greece had reached 1,045 with over 12,000 HIV carriers.
Health, Welfare and Social Security Minister Dimitrios Kremastinos told the conference that AIDS is an issue of foremost importance to the government and made commitments concerning the resolving of problems faced by the carriers as well as patients. Mr. Kremastinos also underlined that the Health Ministry in co-operation with the Special Infectious Diseases Centre will intensify efforts on briefing the public.
The records of an orphanage in Thessaloniki were handed over to the northern city's public prosecutor yesterday after an Athenian daily revealed that hundreds of children had been "sold" over the 1935-1975 period. The daily 'Ta Nea' said the children at the city-run orphanage were sold to childless couples after being falsely declared dead, particularly during the 1946-1949 civil war in Greece.
The head of the public prosecutor's office in Thessaloniki said he had received the records for the 40-year period and would examine them to see if charges could be laid.
The Thessaloniki City Council said later that the administrative and operating procedures at the orphanage "Ayios Stylianos" were now "impeccable" and that its present-day character bore no relation to what it had been in the past. "Whatever happened at the Institute in the 1940s and 1950s has no relation whatsoever with its subsequent administrations or, even less, with the present-day administration and employees of the institute," an announcement said.
Greece's Pyrros Dimas broke three world records in the European weightlifting championships on Friday. His triple triumph came in the 83 kg category in which he set a snatch record of 177.5 kg to beat the mark of 175.0 set by Armenian Sergo Chakhoyan in Istanbul last November.
In the jerk, Dimas recorded 211.0 to beat the previous best of 210.5 by Turkey's Unat Sunay, also in Istanbul last November, while the Greek's total of 387.5 eclipsed the record of 382.5 set by the German Marc Huster in Istanbul.
Dimas won the 83 kg championship ahead of Poland's Andrzej Cofalik with 372.5 (167.5 and 205.0) while third place went to Turk Dursun Sevenic with 365.0 (165.0/200.0).
On Thursday, two other world records were beaten. In the 64 kg category, Greece's Valerios Leonidis scored 183.0 kg in the clean and jerk, surpassing Naim Suleymanoglu of Turkey whose record mark was 182.
In Athens, Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and the leader of the main opposition New Democracy party Miltiades Evert congratulated Dimas and Leonidis on their spectacular showing at the championships.