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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 96-12-31

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Greek Press & Information Office, Ottawa Canada <>

ATHENS NEWS AGENCY BULLETIN (No. 1078), December 31, 1996

Greek Press & Information Office
Ottawa, Canada
E-Mail Address:


  • [01] Suspensions announced in aftermath of Distos' capsizing, 10 bodies recovered
  • [02] AGET statement
  • [03] Opposition
  • [04] Tsohatzopoulos visits Greek contingent in Bosnia
  • [05] Inclement weather continues to take its toll
  • [06] Black Sea Greeks' problems discussed
  • [07] Kaklamanis issues New Year's message
  • [08] Peruvian embassy bombed, MRTA guerrillas condemn attack
  • [09] Peru guerrillas condemn attack
  • [10] Makeshift bombs go off at two banks
  • [11] Wolfpack reported in central Greece
  • [12] Optimism reigns among KKE, Synaspismos for '97
  • [13] Athens Academy ceremony honors outstanding contributions
  • [14] Greek firms extend helping hand to Bulgaria
  • [15] State securities auctions target 1.5 trillion drachmas in January
  • [16] Arsenis to visit Cyprus

  • [01] Suspensions announced in aftermath of Distos' capsizing, 10 bodies recovered

    Athens, 31/12/1996 (ANA)

    Five port authority officers were suspended yesterday pending investigation into possible negligence over the handling of search and rescue operations after the capsizing of a Greek-flagged freighter, in which at least 10 people were killed and another 10 were still missing at press-time and presumed dead.

    The suspensions were announced by Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis, who said he had been notified of the maritime accident involving the cargo vessel "Distos" after "considerable delay".

    The minister said all five officers would face disciplinary action for the delay in briefing the ministry's leadership of the incident, which occurred late Saturday night off Kymi, Evia.

    So far, 10 bodies have been recovered from the capsized vessel, which was carrying a load of 5,300 tonnes of cement from the central Greek port city of Volos to Piraeus. Ten people are still missing, including the wives of two crew members and a 10-year -old girl. Divers continued search efforts yesterday for possible survivors.

    According to reports, salvage operations and the recovery of the remaining bodies were being hampered by choppy seas in the region. Since dawn, an air force helicopter has been carrying out flights over the region, joined by coast guard vessels, a tugboat and fishing boats.

    Out of 21 persons on board the vessel, only an 18-year-old merchant marine cadet survived when he jumped overboard as the Distos began to list after being hit by two large waves, which caused its cement cargo to shift.

    Autopsies of the bodies at the Athens mortuary early yesterday revealed the cause of death to be drowning.

    Coroner Nikolaos Kafiris said autopsies revealed that death occurred almost immediately after the ship capsized and was due to drowning, judging by the level of water in their lungs. He said contusions on the bodies were due to battering against the met al parts of the vessel, but were not a cause of death.

    Several relatives of the dead had earlier claimed that the delay in beginning search and rescue operations could have been fatal for the trapped crew of the Distos.

    [02] AGET statement

    Athens, 31/12/1996 (ANA)

    In a related development, AGET's shipping arm expressed its full confidence in the captain of the Distos, Ioannis Tsitsirikis.

    The AGET announcement stressed that at no time did the company assign blame for the accident on the vessel's captain.

    "The fact that he set sail under his own responsibility, appraising the prevailing conditions, has occurred many times in the past and does not constitute a reproach on his person or a questioning of his professional abilities," the announcement read.

    The announcement added that the company has never directly or indirectly pressured any captain to set sail despite adverse weather conditions in order to accelerate cement deliveries. It added that the last inspections of the Distos were carried out in February 1995 and 1996.

    The company also said it will seek justice through the courts because of what it called a "distortion of the above indisputable reality" by a small section of the media "damages the company's reliability."

    [03] Opposition

    Athens, 31/12/1996 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy president Miltiades Evert expressed his deep sorrow over the incident and pledged his support to families of the victims.

    "The state must seek the responsibilities, political or otherwise, wherever these may lie and to take measures which will avert similar such tragic occurrences in the future," he said.

    An announcement issued yesterday by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) reads: "The wreck reveals in the most tragic way that in our country there is a government of ship-owners, industrialists and bankers headed by Mr. (Prime Minister Costas) Simitis..."

    According to KKE, the shipping company that owns and manages the vessel is solely responsible for the tragedy.

    On its part, the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) called for an immediate judicial and administrative inquiry to find those responsible for the capsizing of the Distos.

    The accident, DHKKI added, illustrated the lack of security systems as well as indifference of the competent services and inadequate execution of duties on the part of the merchant marine ministry.

    [04] Tsohatzopoulos visits Greek contingent in Bosnia

    Sarajevo, 31/12/1996 (ANA/P. Dimitropoulos)

    National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said during a press conference here yesterday that the "effective" contribution of the Greek forces in Bosnia (ELDYB) justifies Athens' policy to participate in the implementation of the Dayton Accord, and in the stabilization of peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

    Greek forces participated in the previous IFOR mission in the area, and are currently in Bosnia as part of NATO-led forces operating under a United Nations Security Council mandate.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the Stabilization Force (SFOR) is now aiming for the successful holding of forthcoming municipal elections and the return of refugees.

    ELDYB participated in safeguarding the recent elections for the presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, distributing electoral material and receiving ballot boxes after the end of the voting procedure.

    Replying to reporters' questions on why a meeting between himself and the Bosnian foreign minister did not go ahead as scheduled, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the country is currently in a transitional period and "it seems that ministries and ministers are not yet working."

    He also reiterated Greece's wish to see a "peaceful co-existence" between the peoples of strife-torn Bosnia.

    Earlier, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos addressed the 250-strong Greek contingent in Bosnia and extended the ministry's New Year's wishes.

    Speaking in the community of Visoko, the minister said the Greek contingent was helping safeguard peace in the region through contributing to the creation of the appropriate conditions for the consolidation of the Dayton Accord.

    He added that the presence of the Greek troops further contributed to the reinforcement of both Greece's and the Hellenic Armed Forces' relations of solidarity with the former Yugoslav states and the peoples of these nations.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos was accompanied on his visit by National Defense General Staff Chief Gen. Athanasios Tzoganis and other military officers.

    [05] Inclement weather continues to take its toll

    Athens, 31/12/1996 (ANA)

    Snow continued to fall around the country yesterday, cutting off villages in mountainous areas and creating additional transportation problems, although a gradual improvement in the weather has allowed traffic to return to normal in other regions. Snow an d freezing temperatures gripped the entire nation late last week and have so far taken the life of one woman, who fell and hit her head in her frozen backyard, while dozens of people have been rushed to hospitals with fractures from falls on ice.

    According to reports, several mountainous villages in the Xanthi prefecture continue to be isolated in the wake of ongoing snow storms and poor weather conditions, with temperatures falling as low as -9C.

    Snowfall has also disrupted communications in the mountainous villages of Kavala and Ioannina as well as causing power cuts and phone problems in the Zagarohoria and Vovousa villages.

    Meanwhile, rain storms caused landslides on the Ioannina-Igoumenitsa national road and on the secondary road network at Souli.

    Snowfall and icy roads in Ioannina, Serres and western Macedonia have also forced most traffic to use snow chains.

    Sunday night's snowfall created problems on roads in Ioannina, Florina, Kastoria, and Kozani as well as the secondary road networks in the prefectures of Imathia, Pella, Pieria and Kilkis.

    Morning fog in Thessaloniki caused delays in flights arriving and departing from the city's Macedonia Airport.

    On the other hand, strong gale force winds in the northeastern Aegean caused ferry boat routes from Kavala to Thasos, and vice versa, to be canceled.

    In another weather-related development, traffic returned to normal on national roads in Fthiotida after rising temperatures caused ice to melt.

    [06] Black Sea Greeks' problems discussed

    Athens, 31/12/1996 (ANA)

    The members of the Parliamentary Overseas Greeks Committee discussed a number of issues facing repatriated Black Sea Greeks in the region of Xanthi during a visit to the prefecture for talks with the president of the prefectural administration, Pavlos Papadopoulos, Xanthi's Prefect Panayotis Saltouros and other local officials.

    The visit took place within the framework of progress assessment of the on-going social integration and employment program for the repatriated Pontians.

    Committee President Grigoris Niotis said a housing program was proceeding according to schedule and had already covered 97 per cent of the Pontians' housing needs.

    He added, however, that problems had arisen regarding social integration and employment programs, adding that a solution to these problems would result from a broader development plan for Thrace.

    The committee is due to submit to Parliament a series of draft bills aimed at improving living conditions for the Pontians.

    Mr. Niotis, explaining the reasons for the committee's visit during a meeting later in Komotini, said members "came to be briefed on problems concerning the settlement of Black Sea Greeks, which continue to exist", adding that "an effort must be made for a harmonious incorporation of the Black Sea Greeks in Thrace..."

    The president of the Unified Prefectural Self-Administration of Rodopi-Evros, Yiannis Nikolaidis, thanked the delegation for its visit to Thrace, saying that the "permanent committee is discussing problems of expatriate Hellenism in the heart of the problem of Thrace."

    [07] Kaklamanis issues New Year's message

    Athens, 31/12/1996 (ANA)

    In a New Year's message, Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis said 1996 was one of the most difficult experienced by the country and the people after the restoration of democracy.

    He said the year was characterized by the deaths of well-known personalities in the political and cultural sectors as well as by the Imia islets incident.

    Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Kaklamanis said that for as long as the neighboring country continues to make provocative claims against Greek national sovereignty, and as long as Cyprus continues to suffer under Turkish occupation, Greeks must not rest.

    In a similar message, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said 1997 finds Greece confronted with very serious problems, "such as US and NATO plans to divide Cyprus and the Aegean", revision of the Maastricht Treaty and the government's economic policy, "which offers plenty of privileges to the oligarchy."

    The Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) said that what are required are bold and progressive reforms and radical changes in correlations and social activation, otherwise the country's backwardness will be consolidated.

    Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) party leader Dimitris Tsovolas said 1997 is a crucial year for Greece and requires rallying and struggling to avert harmful developments being methodized by the great powers and the economically powerful.

    [08] Peruvian embassy bombed, MRTA guerrillas condemn attack

    Athens, 31/12/1996 (ANA)

    A bomb exploded outside an apartment building housing the Peruvian embassy in Athens yesterday evening, slightly injuring one passerby.

    An organization calling itself "guerrilla fighting group" later claimed responsibility for the time-bomb explosion in a telephone call to a local radio station.

    The explosion caused extensive material damage on the second floor of the apartment building, located on Vassilisis Sofias Avenue in central Athens.

    According to reports, further casualties were averted thanks to a warning call, which prompted police to evacuate the building.

    The shadowy terrorist group first made its appearance by exploding a bomb at the Athens Polytechnic last November during events marking the anniversary of a student uprising against the military junta ruling Greece in 1973.

    [09] Peru guerrillas condemn attack

    Lima, 31/12/1996 (ANA/Reuter)

    Meanwhile, a spokesman for Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) guerrillas yesterday condemned the bombing of the embassy. "We reject this sort of display of solidarity because it does not contribute to the solution of a crisis," Isaac Velazco told Reuters in a telephone interview from Hamburg.

    The "guerrilla fighting group", which claimed responsibility for the attack, said the bomb was a demonstration of solidarity with the MRTA guerrillas, who currently hold 83 hostages in the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima.

    "Those who feel they are revolutionaries by this action should know that an isolated action in the context of a country's class struggle does not help, but prejudices the process," Mr. Velazco said.

    "We do not justify violence for the sake of violence. This solidarity has to be expressed within the negotiation process," he added.

    [10] Makeshift bombs go off at two banks

    Athens, 31/12/1996 (ANA)

    Home-made incendiary devices exploded outside two banks early yesterday morning in the central Athens residential district of Exarchia, causing damage but no injuries, police said.

    Two small liquid gas canisters planted outside the entrance of a National Bank of Greece branch on the corner of Mavromichali and Fanarioton Streets exploded at 1:29 a.m., damaging the entrance.

    The second explosion occurred at 1:31 a.m. at a Commercial Bank branch on the corner of Skoufa and Asklipiou streets, damaging the bank's automatic teller machine, next to which a home-made bomb comprising three small liquid gas canisters had been planted.

    [11] Wolfpack reported in central Greece

    Athens, 31/12/1996 (ANA)

    Packs of wolves have been decimating livestock herds near Pitsi, some 60 km west of Lamia, as local residents are reportedly arming themselves with shotguns.

    The approximately 80 residents of the community, which has been cut-off since Christmas, have been returning to their homes early in the evening for safety reasons. Yesterday, armed groups of villagers searched the area for about 10 wolves, blamed for t he killing of 30 sheep and goats over the past four days.

    "We have never had wolves in the past, but now they are increasing continuously," community President Elektra Kretsa said, adding that "although relevant services have been notified since the summer, they have done nothing else than remind us that wolves are a protected species."

    With snow 50 cm deep covering the ground, residents have been taking shelters in their residences when night falls as howling is being heard around the village.

    [12] Optimism reigns among KKE, Synaspismos for '97

    Athens, 31/12/1996 (ANA)

    Optimism prevails in the two parties of the Parliamentary left, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos), regarding their prospects in 1997.

    The orientations of the two parties are totally different, and their aims diametrically opposed. Their plans for 1997 hold a special interest for political developments.

    Specifically, KKE wishes to increase its impact on society and social organizations, while Synaspismos seeks to play a prominent role in Parliament, utilizing a crisis in the main opposition New Democracy party, but also on national issues with various initiatives leader Nikos Constantopoulos is considering to undertake.

    KKE, steadfastly pursuing the building of an "anti-imperialist, anti-monopolistic front" set up during its congress last May, considers that the recent mobilizations of the farmers and various categories of workers create favorable conditions for attainment of the goal.

    It also believes that the crisis will intensify in 1997, that the European Union has nothing positive to offer the Greek economy, that NATO will be substantially involved against Greece in the Aegean and Cyprus, and that all these factors are capable of spurring social forces that will find expression in its positions.

    Mr. Constantopoulos is said to be aiming to stress the weaknesses of the bipolar political system and the importance of the role of a small party for parliamentary democracy. He is reportedly planning to visit countries in the Balkans, the Middle East, Cyprus, and perhaps Turkey, with the aim of promoting Greek positions in view of the critical state of the country's foreign affairs.

    In conclusion, one may say that although the parties of the left are not likely to exercise crucial influence in political developments in 1997, they nevertheless are capable of contributing to the political climate.

    Both parties are expected to try to roll their sleeves up in view of municipal and Euroelections in 1998, so as to further strengthen their forces.

    [13] Athens Academy ceremony honors outstanding contributions

    Athens, 31/12/1996 (ANA)

    The Athens Academy last night gave awards and honored 75 individuals from the scientific and social fields, such as Mary Angel for her struggle in support of AIDS sufferers, artists such as the photographer Nelly and conductor Odysseus Dimitriadis, as well as anonymous persons, such as fisherman Antonis Hatziantoniou, who discovered an ancient statue off Kalymnos.

    As of this year the Academy also initiated an award for the Olympic Ideal, "with the purpose of praising the spiritual and social significance of the Olympic contest," Athens Academy President Yiangos Pesmazoglou said during the ceremony.

    Beneficiaries of the positive sciences awards included the Greek Girl Scouts Giorgos Markoyiannis for his book "Safety Manual for Fishing Vessels" and Athanasios Katerinopoulos and Eftychia Zisimopoulou for their research on minerals at the Lavrion mine s.

    Awards given for letters and fine arts included Mr. Hatziantoniou and pupil Stelios Tzinevrakis, who handed over to antiquities authorities the bronze female statue they found off Kalymnos.

    [14] Greek firms extend helping hand to Bulgaria

    Sofia, 31/12/1996 (ANA/N. Hios)

    Greek firms and banks active in Bulgaria are now taking a leading role in providing assistance to charitable institutions in the neighboring country.

    At a special ceremony at the offices of the Association of Greek Businessmen in Bulgaria, Greece's ambassador to Sofia, Panayiotis Karakassis, called on all those present to extend a helping hand to the Bulgarian people who are currently going through difficult days.

    Bulgaria's government lacks funds for welfare spending and Bulgaria has been particularly hard hit by the recent cold snap, with four patients dying at an unheated mental hospital and recent snowstorms leaving 470 Bulgarian towns and villages without power.

    The Ionian Bank branch in Sofia has "adopted" the Preslaf orphanage in the city of Sumen and the children's sanatorium for heart conditions in the city of Bankja, paying for all operating expenses as well as donating 1.5 million lev in money and food.

    Meanwhile, the Bulgarian Investment Bank, which is managed by Greece's Commercial Bank, has donated $3,000 to the Santanski orphanage to install central heating.

    The Intracom Group is sponsoring the Ran Bosilek orphanage in Sofia, paying for all operating costs, the renovation of the building and for basic infrastructure. At a special ceremony, Bulgarian Olympic gold medallist Stefka Konstadinova distributed Christmas gifts on behalf of the Group.

    Intracom has also undertaken the full and free computerization of the National Gallery of Sofia and representatives of Greek firms have offered to cover the entire needs of Greek schools for 1997.

    [15] State securities auctions target 1.5 trillion drachmas in January

    Athens, 31/12/1996 (ANA)

    Four issues of state securities will be auctioned during January as the finance ministry raises its borrowing requirements to 1.5 trillion drachmas in the first month of 1997.

    One-year treasury bills will be issued on Jan. 2, taxed with a 7.50 per cent rate and bearing an 11.20 per cent interest rate. Their net yield after tax will be limited to 10.36 per cent.

    According to an announcement by the finance ministry, the tax will be received in advance at their time of issue. Ministry announcements said the state's loan needs for January will amount to about 1.5 trillion drachmas.

    According to an announcement by the National Mortgage Bank yesterday, its bonds, which will be issued in this order, will have a face interest rate of 12.50 per cent and will be subject to a 15 per cent tax rate. Consequently, the net yield of these bonds will be higher than that of treasury bills and will be set at 10.63 per cent.

    According to the finance ministry's announcements, apart from the one-year treasury bills, three-month bills with a 10.20 per cent interest rate will be issued and six-month ones with a 10.50 per cent interest rate.

    Additionally, for the first time bonds will be issued on Jan. 20 without zero coupons and with a two-year duration, namely, two-year treasury bills, while the possibility will be provided for renewal of treasury bills maturing on this date.

    Tendering will take place on Jan. 24 for bonds with a stable interest rate, a three-year duration and for bonds of a fluctuating interest rate, a seven-year duration with Jan. 27 as the date of issue. Lastly, treasury bill titles will be issued on Jan. 31, as well as two-year bonds without zero coupons.

    On the question of the public debt's development in 1996, the ministry announced that at the end of the year the central administration's debt as a percentage of GDP is expected to be 120.5 per cent, presenting a slight reduction (0.3 per cent) compared to 1995 (120.8 per cent).

    At the end of 1997, an even greater decrease is expected with this percentage reaching 116 per cent of GDP. The small decrease shows a stabilization trend due to the first stage surpluses of past years. Referring to the issue of new products, the ministry announced that the issue of index-linked bonds will start later.

    Lastly, the bulletin lists tax rates for the independent taxation of state securities in other European Union countries which are higher than the 7.50 per cent rate applied in Greece. The rate is 30 per cent in Germany, 25 per cent in Spain, 20 per cent in Britain, 19.9 per cent in France and 12.50 per cent in Italy.

    [16] Arsenis to visit Cyprus

    Athens, 31/12/1996 (ANA)

    Education Minister Gerassimos Arsenis will be the keynote speaker at a special event in honor of the late Cypriot President and Archbishop of Cyprus, Makarios III, to be held in Nicosia on January 19.

    The event is organized by the Pancyprian Love March of Archbishop Makarios III, the Cyprus education and culture ministries and the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation.

    End of English language section.

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