President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos held "extremely friendly" talks with Albanian President Sali Berisha late Saturday evening at the request of the latter.
Mr. Stephanopoulos said mutual assurances were given as to the necessity for further strengthening of friendship and co-operation between Athens and Tirana. He spoke to reporters in London yesterday where he is participating in events commemorating the 50th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat (VE-Day). He will attend similar events in Paris and Moscow.
Mr. Stephanopoulos said he accepted an invitation from Mr. Berisha to visit Tirana and that the visit would take place soon. He added that Mr. Berisha thanked Greece for allowing thousands of Albanians to work in the country, clarifying that his talks with the Albanian leader did not focus on specific issues. "That is the government's task, not mine," Mr. Stephanopoulos said, underlining that his meeting with Mr. Berisha contributed to a further strengthening of Greek-Albanian relations.
Speaking to reporters immediately after Saturday's meeting, Mr. Berisha said "we decided to work closely in order to promote friendship and co-operation between the two countries," adding that there has been a clear improvement in relations between Greece and Albania.
President Stephanopoulos also expressed the hope that a solution would be found to Greece's dispute with the neighbouring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) but said he would not be meeting with his FYROM counterpart Kiro Gligorov.
The Greek head of state said he did not believe the FYROM president would have a desire for such a meeting "at the present time when there are no direct talks between the two countries. "Such a meeting will not take place because it would not be in accordance with the Greek foreign policy being exercised. Of course, if he approaches me, I shall not be rude," Mr. Stephanopoulos added. Mr. Gligorov is also in London attending VE celebrations.
On his arrival Saturday, President Stephanopoulos told reporters he would soon visit Bulgaria, while he has also been invited by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides to visit the island republic, but that no date had yet been set. Mr. Stephanopoulos also said he's held talks with the US Ambassador in Athens, Thomas Niles, about a visit to the United States and a meeting with President Bill Clinton. "This trip, which has not yet been scheduled, will be a good opportunity for me to come into contact with the Greek-American community," he added.
President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos represented Greece at celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of VE-Day, which started here yesterday. Heads of state and governments from almost 60 nations attended a service at St. Paul's Cathedral followed by an official dinner given by British monarch Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.
Speaking to reporters, President Stephanopoulos said the Second World War had not resolved the various problems of mankind, citing regional conflicts in a number of places and particularly the situation in former Yugoslavia. "The major powers must realise that over and above interests, there are also rules of international law for settling disputes. This is the position which Greece underlines in its dispute with Turkey over the issue of the continental shelf in the Aegean, " Mr. Stephanopoulos said.
"Mankind has paid dearly for the disputes between countries and it is absurd that some states should threaten to resolve differences using force," he added.
The president expressed regret over the fact that representatives of Serbia and Montenegro had not been invited to the commemorative events in London, with the excuse that they were involved in the civil war in the former Yugoslavia.
Mr. Stephanopoulos, together with other world leaders, departed from London by train for Paris yesterday afternoon. He is accompanied on his trip by Ioannis Pottakis, the Minister to the Prime Minister's Office.
A large business delegation from northern Greece visiting Tirana and Argyrokastro said a positive environment exists for Greek investments. "There is a good climate and large interest in the further development of economic relations and investment activity. The country has natural resources which are effectively not utilised," according to Nikos Afentoulides, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Macedonia-Thrace, who is heading the delegation to neighbouring Albania.
The delegation met Friday with Albanian Deputy Premier and Minister of Tourism and Public Works Sehi Dashamir, who expressed an interest in the signing of a protocol of co-operation in the tourist sector as well as protection of the Prespes Lakes region on the two countries' border. The delegation also met with Prime Minister Alexander Mexi.
Contacts in Argyrokastro revealed interest for investments in the dairy products sector, while it was agreed that specific proposals would be submitted on a future visit.
Veteran politician and former minister Georgios Mavros died Saturday at the age of 86 from inflammation of the respiratory system. Born in 1909 on the tiny Dodecannese island of Castellorizo, the lawyer and politician was married with one son.
Mr. Mavros was first elected to parliament in 1946 with the then Liberal Party. A close associate of the late premier Georgios Papandreou, he assumed responsibility for the government's economic policy in 1963 after Papandreou's Union of the Centre assumed power. The following year he assumed the post of governor of the National Bank of Greece, a position he held until 1966.
Mr. Mavros was actively opposed to the seven-year military dictatorship that followed and on its collapse in 1974 was elected president of the regrouped Union of the Centre. He resigned in 1977 when the party (renamed EDHK) won only 12 seats in national elections, remaining as honorary president until 1978. In 1981 he was elected state deputy as an independent candidate on the PASOK ticket. In 1984 he was elected Eurodeputy with PASOK and the following year member of parliament, again with PASOK. In 1986 he declared his independence. Following the collapse of the junta in 1974, Mr. Mavros served as foreign minister in the national unity government headed by former President of the Republic Constantine Karamanlis.
Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou expressed deep regret at the death of "the democratic politician and my personal friend George Mavros" and praised "the quality of his character, the prudence which he displayed in performing his duties in the government posts he held."
Former President Constantine Karamanlis said Mr. Mavros had been "a close associate during a critical period for the nation," adding he had had "the opportunity to appreciate his rare virtues."
Condolences were also sent by New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert, Political Spring President Antonis Samaras and Coalition of the Left and Progress President Nikos Constantopoulos. A funeral service will be held at the Athens Metropolitan Cathedral today.
The Foreign Under-Secretary responsible for Greeks abroad, Grigoris Niotis, arrived at the head of a delegation here yesterday, to attend celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. The delegation includes wartime resistance hero Manolis Glezos, who lowered the swastika flag flying over the Acropolis early in the German occupation.
As a member of the European Union and NATO, Greece can play a major mediating role in peace efforts concerning the former Yugoslavia, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said Saturday. Mr. Venizelos made the statement when asked if he had any information about the possibility of the embargo against Serbia and Montenegro being lifted.
"It would not be correct for one to speak in these terms," Mr. Venizelos said, adding however, that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was a "reliable counterpart" of the Contact Group and other international figures working for a settlement of the Yugoslav crisis. He said Greece was undertaking a number of initiatives not only in the Balkans but in the greater region, "as can be seen from Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias' visit schedule."
Mr. Papoulias recently visited Tehran for talks on the Bosnian crisis with his Bosnian and Iranian counterparts, Irfan Ljubijankic and Ali Akbar Velayati respectively. He returned Friday evening from Belgrade, where he had discussions with Mr. Milosevic. Mr. Papoulias is scheduled to visit Budapest today and may soon visit Bonn.
An earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale was recorded by the geophysics laboratory of Thessaloniki University at 12:26 p.m. local time yesterday. The epicentre of the quake was recorded in the area of Arnaia in the Chalkidiki prefecture, some 60 kilometres east-northeast of Thessaloniki, and is just one of a series of aftershocks following a strong tremble measuring 6 on the Richter scale which shook the area Thursday.
Mr. Christos Papaioannou, a professor of geophysics at Thessaloniki University, told ANA that aftershocks following an earthquake measuring 6 on the Richter scale could continue for up to 40 days. Yesterday's tremor was the strongest of the hundreds of aftershocks recorded since Thursday's earthquake, which caused only minor damage to approximately 80 houses.
According to Prof. Vassilis Papazachos, this was because a 16-kilometre-long geological fault from which the quake originated is located beneath an area where there are no villages.
The Greek weightlifting team won another four medals in the European championships over the weekend in the Polish capital. Kachi Kakiasvilis won the 91-kilo title on Friday, lifting a total of 407.5 kilos and adding a gold medal to those he garnered in 1992 and 1993. The Olympic champion of Barcelona shattered the world record in the "clean and jerk" competition with 228.5 kilos raised, half a kilogram more than previous record-holder Alexei Petrov of Russia. He also won the "snatch" event with 180 kilos. Fellow Greek Leonidas Kokkas took the silver medal in the same category with 212.5 kilos.
Tomorrow's scheduled meeting between Miltiades Evert and Constantine Mitsotakis, the present and former leaders of the New Democracy party, has generated intense interest among party members, given recent statements by Mr. Mitsotakis interpreted as a challenge to Mr. Evert's leadership and widespread press speculation. The meeting was arranged in view of Mr. Evert's trip to the United States from May 10 to 19.
ND party officials expect discussions will include the internal party situation and its opposition strategy. In an interview published in yesterday's edition of "Eleftheros Typos", the former ND minister of culture and Mr. Mitsotakis' daughter, Dora Bakoyianni, said an issue of leadership has not been raised, but that there is a problem concerning the "psychological unity of party cadres who have fought valiantly in the past, but are occasionally threatened with calculated rumours of expulsion when wanting to make proposals. "This must not be interpreted as undermining or as a challenge", she said, adding the problem was related to the performance, opposition tactics and utilisation of the party's potential.
Despite rumours of a forthcoming government reshuffle, the ruling PASOK party is currently preoccupied with preparations for its organisational conference in June, which, according to speculation, may include political undertones by certain top party members. The conference is considered of particular importance, not only for the party's organisational structure, but also because a new party profile is planned -- whose basic characteristics were described by the prime minister in a recent meeting of the central committee and the parliamentary party. There is speculation that disagreements and different approaches may surface on these issues, depending on the way they are posed.
New Democracy and Political Spring party leaders Miltiades Evert and Antonis Samaras sent congratulatory messages to newly elected French president Jacques Chirac.
Mr. Evert in his cable expressed the certainty that the new president will work for the unification of Europe and the Mediterranean in general within the framework of the Atlantic Alliance and the Western European Union.
Mr. Samaras expressed the hope that Mr. Chirac will work to strengthen relations between Greece and France, two countries currently celebrating joint struggles for freedom and democracy.