|Saturday, 16 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 98-03-21
From: The Greek Press & Information Office, Ottawa Canada <firstname.lastname@example.org>
 Athens views Greek-Turkish non-aggression pact `favourably`
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)Athens said yesterday it was "ve-ry favourable" towards the signing of a non-aggression pact between Greece and Turkey as long as this accord would not be contrary to international law and international treaties.
"The Greek government is very favourable towards the signing of a non-aggression pact (between the two neighbouring countries) which of course will not be accompanied by restrictions, commitments or conditions contrary to international law or not in lin e with the rules and international treaties governing the status quo in the region," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters.
He was referring to recent statements by Turkish Defence Minister Ismet Sezgin to a Greek private television station, in which he did not rule out the possibility of signing such a pact with Greece.
"We are thinking about it," Mr. Sezgin had said.
Mr. Reppas also said the Greek response to Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem's proposals was handed to the Turkish ambassador in Athens and reiterated Greece's standing position on the proposals, in essence a rejection of Mr. Cem's five-point plan.
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos on Thursday had sent the Greek response to Mr. Cem's proposal. Mr. Pangalos also repeated his invitation to Mr. Cem for a meeting in Rhodes on the sidelines of the meeting of the Western European Union forei gn ministers.
Greece presently holds the six-month presidency of the Western European Union (WEU).
Last week Mr. Cem reiterated a previous five-point proposal to Greece and a meeting with Mr. Pangalos in Ankara.
Athens said that the five-point proposal was a simple restatement of issues already being dealt with and of the standing Turkish position for dialogue on all issues.
Athens said Ankara's suggestion for a high-level meeting to determine points of contention could only be held in regard to the delineation of the Aegean continental shelf.
 Pangalos in Washington
WASHINGTON, 21/3/1998 (ANA - T. Ellis)In a related development, Mr. Pangalos and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright were due to hold a half-hour discussion early this morning (Greek time) on Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue, in the light of rece nt proposals by Athens and Ankara and in view of upcoming negotiations for Cyprus' EU accession.
Talks will also include the situation in Kosovo and the possibilities for US-Greek cooperation on the issue.
The Greek FM, who was due to arrive here at 11 p.m. Greek time last night, would later meet US President Bill Clinton's national security advisor Sandy Berger at the White House.
Mr. Pangalos is accompanied by high-ranking Greek diplomatic and foreign ministry officials.
 PM cites positive repercussions of currency adjustment on farm products, subsidies
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis underlined the positive repercussions resulting from the adjustment of the Greek currency's exchange value, saying that subsidies producers enjoy in drachmas will increase.
He added that farm produce will be cheaper in European and international markets, while funds provided for the improvement of structures and measures will increase in national currency.
Mr. Simitis was the main speaker at a conference entitled "Agenda 2000 and Greek Agriculture", organised yesterday by the ruling PASOK party's cooperative and agricultural sector and the party's Parliamentary group at the Europarliament.
The conference focused on prospects open to Greek agriculture in connection with both the implementation in Greece of the European Commission's proposals (Agenda 2000) and negotiations underway in the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Mr. Simitis referred at length and with emphasis on PASOK's effort to have the agricultural police it has set out implemented accurately to achieve the competitiveness of Greek agriculture, the viable development of rural areas and social protection for citizens.
He said the adjustment of agricultural policy will enable agriculture to undertake the multi-dimensional role belonging to it, the farmer to come close again to the environment and the consumer and the farmer to realise that the development of rural are as does not contrast to that of agriculture.
Mr. Simitis said a strong Greece is not possible unless it has a competitive agricultural sector. He added that the development of agriculture is linked to the remaining and the attraction of young and economically active people in rural areas, the secu ring of employment and income from different sources for people living in rural areas with the creation of an autonomous economic base, a decrease in contrasts and inequalities in the distribution of incomes and the enjoyment of social services and the pr otection, restoration and upgrading of the environment and of natural resources.
Referring to government efforts to assist farmers and their families to take initiatives both at exploitation and cooperative level, Mr. Simitis underlined, among others, the creation of preconditions for an increase in the mobility of the factors of pr oduction, namely human resources, land and capital, as well as organising a comprehensive social protection system.
Mr. Simitis said better security for farmers against income fluctuations resulting from natural disasters is being promoted as well as the reshaping of the institutional framework for organising and operating cooperative organisations, producer groups a nd inter-professional organisations, the creation of a company for utilising farmland, the leasing of farmland and the provision of counter-incentives for the agricultural use of land by non-farmers and the creation of an Organisation for Agricultural Voc ational Education, Training and Employment (OGEEKA).
Mr. Simitis referred to the repercussions stemming from changes in Common Agricultural Policy (KAP) and more specifically with regard to the prices of grain, beef and milk and the existence of offsetting the loss of income, adding that securing funds fo r structural actions is important for Greece and from the proposed development of an environmental policy.
He further said that funds to serve KAP are inadequate and efforts will be made to widen them, enlargement to central and eastern European countries must be accompanied by the deepening of policies, particular emphasis will be placed on revising the KOA of Greek products, efforts will be made to enable Europe to shape a strategy helping agriculture and Greek products in light of discussions at the World Trade Organisation, while the model promoted by the EU for Greek agriculture is the one adopted by Gr eece. Agriculture constitutes an important lever in this model regarding a multifaceted development of rural areas.
The focal point of the address made by Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas concerned the negotiations due to start in September 1999 at World Trade Organisation level.
He also referred to alliances being shaped and being pursued in relation to the extension of liberalisation, the handling of the distortion of international trade, the widening of agricultural reform etc.
 Greek-Israeli talks set for Monday
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)An Israeli delegation is due in Athens on Monday for a second round of talks within the framework of political dialogue between the Greek and Israeli foreign ministries.
An Israeli Embassy announcement yesterday said the delegation would be headed by Colette Avital, the foreign ministry's alternate secretary general for West European affairs, who will have talks with Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis.
The Greek team will be headed by foreign ministry political director Ilias Gounaris.
Discussion is expected to focus on bilateral relations and regional issues of common interest.
 Blair praises Nicosia's invitation to Turkish Cypriots
BONN, 21/3/1998 (ANA - P. Stangos)Addressing a joint press conference with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl here yesterday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised the fact that the government of Cyprus addressed an invitation to the Turkish Cypriots to participat e in accession negotiations between Cyprus and the European Union.
He also expressed a hope that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash will reconsider his negative response.
On the question of the handling of Turkey and its claim for accession to the EU, Mr. Blair rejected the existence of differences in policy between Britain and Germany and defended decisions taken at the EU's Luxembourg summit.
"In connection with Turkey, an issue which we discussed, the Chancellor and myself are of the view that it is appropriate for Europe to maintain strong and good relations with Turkey. And we feel regret over the fact that on the part of Turkey there was
a negative response to the decisions taken in Luxembourg," Mr. Blair said.
According to press reports, the issue of Turkey preoccupied talks between Mr. Blair and Mr. Kohl at the initiative of the German side, due to recent direct criticism against Mr. Kohl by Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz and the tactics followed by Ank ara to divide the EU, distinguishing between German policy and that of France and Italy.
The same sources said that Mr. Kohl and Mr. Blair agreed that decisions taken in Luxembourg concerning Turkey's accession prospects "do not constitute an object of renegotiation" and, additionally, the two leaders agreed that "efforts must be intensifie d to enable Turkey's participation in the European Conference as soon as possible."
 Van den Broek: No progress in EU-Turkish relations unless Ankara improves relations with Athens
BRUSSELS, 21/3/1998 (ANA - G. Daratos)European Commissioner Hans van den Broek stated yesterday that there can be no progress in relations between the EU and Turkey unless there was an improvement in Greek-Turkish relations as well as respect by Ankara of human r ights.
Mr. van den Broek was responding to a question by PASOK Eurodeputy Yiannis Roubatis.
"Stronger relations between Turkey and the EU will be the product of respect toward minorities within Turkey as well as that country's relations with neighbouring Greece," Mr. van den Broek said.
Mr. Roubatis had asked the EU Commissioner in charge of external affairs if 15-member Union plans to make it clear to Turkish leadership that a "policy of tension" Ankara is following, as he stated, only leads to further divergence from the EU.
 Greece, Cyprus reiterate decision to upgrade joint defence pact
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)The defence ministers of Greece and Cyprus yesterday confirmed their decision to further strengthen and upgrade a joint defence pact, agreed between the two countries in 1993, as well as to proceed with Cyprus' armaments programme in order to boost the is land's defences.
Specifically, visiting Cypriot Defence Minister Yiannakis Omirou met yesterday for lengthy talks with his Greek counterpart Akis Tsohatzopoulos.
"We will do everything in our power to ensure the greatest possible sense of security on Cyprus," Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said.
"The message we are sending is that Greece and Cyprus will march side-by-side to safeguard the vital interests of Hellenism, for peace and stability in the region," Mr. Omirou said.
Against this background, the two ministers agreed that cooperation should continue at a faster pace on matters of armaments, military exercises and training. They also agreed to meet more regularly in order to take any additional measures required to at tain the common objectives.
Both Mr. Tsohatzopoulos and Mr. Omirou expressed the view that Cyprus' accession to the EU will enhance the island's position in the region, since it will constitute the Community's "forward post" in the eastern Mediterranean for the implementation of i ts policy in the region.
Referring to the deployment of Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles in Cyprus, Mr. Omirou noted those interested in peace and security should direct their attention to Turkey, asking it to respect international law and order as well as UN resolutio ns on Cyprus.
"This would create the conditions for the total demilitarisation of Cyprus," the Cypriot minister added.
Earlier, Mr. Omirou was briefed by Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis on developments prior to negotiations for the island republic's accession to the European Union, which are due to open on March 31.
Also discussed were recent developments on the Cyprus problem, particularly the increased intransigence of the Turkish Cypriot side, which has refused an offer to participate in the negotiations.
Mr. Omirou and Mr. Kranidiotis also discussed defence issues and confirmed the desire of both governments for constant coordination between the two countries in order to attain Cyprus' target of EU accession and resolve the Cyprus problem.
Mr. Kranidiotis on Monday will meet with the UN Secretary General's special advisor for Cyprus, Diego Cordovez, to discuss recent developments following the envoy's three-day talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and Cyprus President Glafcos C lerides in Cyprus.
Although prospects for Cyprus' accession were good, Mr. Kranidiotis said, there will be difficulties along the way which will require alertness and cooperation between Greece and Cyprus.
Mr. Omirou said he had briefed Mr. Kranidiotis "on the recent reinforcement of the Turkish occupation troops in Cyprus, which moreover have been deployed in offensive array".
He called on international and European public opinion to understand that "while we are ready to defend peace and stability in the region, on the basis of a just settlement of the Cyprus problem, the Turkish side is, unfortunately, continuing to act in a manner which undermines peace and stability in this sensitive area of the Mediterranean".
Meanwhile, President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopouls also received Mr. Tsohatzopoulos and his Cypriot counterpart Mr. Omirou.
Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis also met with Mr. Omirou.
Both men agreed to do their utmost in a coordinated effort between Greece and Cyprus in order to inform international public opinion of the Cyprus problem.
Mr. Omirou said he was certain that Greece's partners in the Union were now accepting the idea of Cyprus becoming a member state. "The Cypriot candidacy has shown that it is closely related to the interests of the Union," he said.
 Greek multinational for ce plan gaining ground
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)A proposal by National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos for a multinational rapid deployment force in the Balkans appears to be gaining ground, particularly after recent talks in Sofia on the issue, according to government spokesman Dimitris Reppas.
The foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey, Romania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria, at a meeting in Sofia on March 10, signed a declaration condemning the ethnic violence in Kosovo and calling for peaceful dialogue.
Mr. Reppas emphasised that any multinational force would need to have the agreement of all the countries in the region.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, he said, had been having and would be continuing talks with his counterparts on the issue.
 Yugoslav defence minister in Athens
BELGRADE, 21/3/1998 (ANA/AFP)Yugoslav Defence Minister Pavle Bulatovic will pay an official visit to Greece beginning tomorrow until Tuesday, at the invitation of his Greek counterpart Akis Tsohatzopoulos, according to a report by the Tanjug agency yesterday.
Mr. Bulatovic will hold talks in Athens on the issue of "strengthe-ning security and confidence" in the Balkans and developing "military, economic and scientific cooperation in the defence sector," Tanjug added.
 G. Papandreou on int'l day against racism
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday said that Greece will fight against racism everywhere, placing added emphasis on the Council of Europe (CoE) in view of an upcoming Greek presidency.
In light of today's "International Day Against Racism", he said the "values of tolerance may seem self-evident today, but they were not always and are not even today so universal and self-evident for all."
Mr. Papandreou added that the idea of equal development of social freedoms and democracy cannot exist together with racist violence and ghettos.
 Stephanopoulos receives Varvitsiotis
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)Former New Democracy minister Ioannis Varvitsiotis visited President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos at noon yesterday to brief him on the course of a committee's work for revising the constitution.
Mr. Varvitsiotis stated that he expressed concern to Mr. Stephanopoulos on the drachma's stability and on national issues.
 Simitis briefs president on fiscal developments
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday briefed President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on developments after the Greek drachma's entry into the EU's exchange rate mechanism and 14 percent devaluation over the weekend.
After the 45-minute meeting, Mr. Simitis told reporters that the drachma's ERM entry reflected Greece's ability to participate "with arguments and positions" in the European developments, and that the progress achieved was recognised.
"We shall take advantage of that progress," he said, adding that the EU was "entering a new period of mobility in view of the decisions on participation in economic and monetary union (EMU) to be taken in May, the commencement of enlargement negotiation s, and the decisions to be taken on economic issues, Agenda 2000 and new policies".
Mr. Simitis described the discussion as "very cordial and in-depth".
 Karamanlis disputes PM`s remarks, says drachma devaluation wasn`t planned
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis yesterday dismissed "as a lie" statements by Prime Minister Costas Simitis claiming that last weekend's devaluation was planned in advance or that Greece is now nearer to the European Union.
He also lambasted the premier's statements that the drachma's entry onto the Exchange Rate Mechanism was a success.
In his first public appearance before the party's central committee and after his sports injury, the ND leader said the "glass legs" of the economy had collapsed and that the government did not have the will and boldness to proceed with structural chang es in the public sector.
He also gave his support for the transfer of public utitlities to private control rather then mere partial privatisations which had failed, as he said, adding it was important who managed and who controlled them.
"The policy of (partial) privatisations belongs to the last decade and is due to the government's dogmatic prejudices and dishonest ideas," he said.
Mr. Karamanlis claimed that the crime rate was at unacceptable levels, the result being that the ordinary citizen felt insecure.
"New Democracy is a liberal party, and a liberal policy and a free society cannot function if security is not guaranteed…liberalism and social sensitivity are intertwined concepts," he said.
In addition, he earnestly dismissed charges that the main opposition espoused populism and lacked political positions.
"Who is being accused of populism and who are the accusers' Are they those who turned populism into established practice, with frightful consequences for Greece, making it the laggard of Europe' And I am not only referring to PASOK, but to all those who , for whatever dishonest reasons, go along with the government's options," he said.
Former ND leaders Cosntantine Mitsotakis and Miltiades Evert were absent from the session.
 ... ReppasResponding to Mr. Karamanlis' statements, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said they were mere words of a "man without ideas, positions and documented proposals on the country's problems."
"The New Democracy leader monitors the government's initiatives and comments from time to time," he said.
He addressed a number of questions to Mr. Karamanlis, notably, what his party's aims were in relation to the country's participation in Economic and Monetary Union, whether it disagreed with the spectacular improvement in macroeconomic indicators, and if ND could recount any institutional changes it introduced while in power.
 Athens to hosts EU conference on eastern Mediterranean policy
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)A roundtable conference on "EU policy in the Eastern Mediterranean - Is the Barcelona Process working'" will be held in Athens April 2-3, it was announced yesterday.
The controversial issue of the European Union's economic and strategic role in the Eastern Mediterranean basin as a major player in its development and political stability will be debated at the conference, a spokesman for the organisers told the ANA.
Organised jointly by the Lambrakis Research Foundation, the Hellenic Foundation for Europe and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and the Philip Morris Institute under the auspices of Greece's Foreign Ministry, the conference will be held at the Athens Concert Ha ll.
Developments surrounding the Mediterranean since the launching of the EuroMediterranean Process (EMP), or partnership programme, at the Barcelona Conference in November 1995 – aiming to promote closer financial and economic cooperation with a view to fr ee trade and economic modernisation – and the apparently little progress achieved so far have underlined the fundamental fact that this geostrategic area continues to be dominated by a mosaic of distinct sub-regional constellations, each evolving accordin g to its own indigenous pattern of relations, according to the organisers.
At the same time, they said, Europe was trying to establish a "zone of stability" around its southern borders through closer political and economic relations with its neighbours and enlargement discussions with Cyprus.
The roundtable discussions will look at new and more effective EU strategies to develop closer economic ties with the region and encourage eastern Mediterranean countries to look westward for stronger trading links, and will assess the disputed option o f improving their access to EU markets and to capital and new technologies.
Europe's subordinate role in the Middle East peace process will also be put into question, as the debate will focus on key issues such as investment, infrastructure, culture and democracy in this predominantly Islamic region with diverse and conflicting ethnic, cultural and religious traditions, the organisers continued.
Guest speakers will include Greece's Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou, National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou, Former US Ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter, EU Council of Ministers special envoy to the Middle East peace proce ss Miguel Angel Moratinos, former Cyprus president George Vassiliou, European Commission advisor Tho-mas Jansen, NATO Political Affairs Division Officer for Mediterranean countries Alberto Bin, Cairo's Ibd Khaldoun Centre for Deve-lopment Studies chairman Saad Eddin Ibrahim, and director of the East Jerusalem-based Palestinian Centre for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development, Riad Malki.
 Greek-American lobby working to eliminate visas for Greek citizens
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)United Hellenic American Congress national chairman Andrew Athens yesterday announced that he and Greek-American leader Andrew Manatos are working to get members of the US House of Representatives to reverse a recent House subcommittee decision retaining visitor-visa requirements for Greek nationals. An announcement stated that according to existing regulations, if more than 2 per cent of people applying for a visa to the US are turned down, then the visa system must continue in that country. The announce ment noted that at present, 2.81 per cent of applicants from Greece are rejected, while Mr. Athens and Mr. Manatos' amendment would raise the cut-off level to 3 per cent, thus ending the requirement for Greek citizens travelling to the United States. The announcement added that the 3 per cent limit was recently adopted by a unanimous vote of the US Senate, while if the same is accepted by either the US House of Representatives or in the House-Senate conference then the travel-visa requirement for Greece will be eliminated.
 US Senate resolution on Greek Independence Day
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)United Hellenic American Congress national chairman Andrew Athens yesterday announced that the US Senate passed a resolution commemorating March 25 as "Greek Independence Day", as well as a national celebration of Greek and American democracy.
This 13-year-old tradition began when the then-14-year-old Greek expatriate Eleni Chamis, of Winston Salem, North Carolina, began a campaign which with the pro bono help of a public relations firm that led to the drafting necessary legislation.
A resolution commemorating the 177th anniversary of the beginning of the Greek independence struggle was sponsored by 53 Senators and was unanimously passed, the announcement stated.
PSEKA and Pan-Cyprian Association President Philip Christopher said "the passage of this resolution over the years has provided an important opportunity for Greek-American leaders to remind…of our important role in America..."
 President calls for more awareness of forestry issues
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)President Kostis Stephanopoulos issued a statement yesterday calling for the proper and systematic protection of forests on the occasion of International Forestry Day today.
In his statement, the president mentioned the personal negligence and illegal actions that cause destructive forest fires every year.
"Greece has a terrible experience to learn from and no excuses can be made for our indifference. It has to be understood by us all that our future is closely connected to forest preservation," he said.
 More police to go on the streets
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)The stepping up of police patrols to combat a recent increase in crime in Athens have already brought results and the first signs are encouraging, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.
Public Order Minister George Romeos told an all-party parliamentary committee yesterday that 400 patrols went out on Wednesday night, 2,000 people were questioned and 40 arrests were made.
Mr. Romeos said earlier this week that street patrols would be stepped up by bringing in officers normally on desk duties.
Mr. Reppas said that the patrols would be further intensified as of Monday when 1,000 new officers join the force after completing training.
 Drink and smoke fail to dampen Greek spirit but they lose their lives on the roads
BRUSSELS, 21/3/1998 (ANA - P. Pantelis)Greeks drink a lot, smoke even more and somehow manage to live longer than other Europeans, according to this year's Eurostat report.
Greek men have an anerage life span of 75 years while Greek women stay ahead by living well into their 80th year, on the average. Greek women have an average birth rate of 1.31 children, with the European average being 1.44.
In terms of smoking, Greeks are well ahead and likely to stay there. Greeks average 3,012 cigarettes per person per year, while the next nation in line is Spain with a rate of 2,119 cigarettes per person.
In alcohol consumption, Greeks are on the bottom of the list with only 10.8 lt per person, a position it also has on the subject of suicides.
Traffic accidents claim the lives of 43 Greeks out of 100,000 every year.
 FAGE, UNICEF cooperation
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)The FAGE dairy maker is cooperating with the Greek committee of UNICEF with the purpose of strengthening the organisation's programmes for the benefit of children all over the world.
The packaging of FAGE's Junior yogurt will bear UNICEF's mark on the external label, under which the photographs of 21 children will be portrayed with information on their lives.
Cooperation, due to start this month and last for a year, concerns products of FAGE's "Junior Series" which will be made available in Greece and Cyprus. In the framework of cooperation, FAGE will offer 100,000 US dollars to the Greek committee of UNICEF .
Receipts obtained through cooperation will be provided through UNICEF's programmes for the survival and prosperity of children in various developing countries in the world.
 Prosecutor calls for composer's conviction on murder charge
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)A Kavala court prosecutor yesterday asked for the conviction of a popular Greek music composer on murder charges, while a verdict is expected today.
Composer Akis Panou, during his plea, admitted to yesterday to killing his daughter's married boyfriend last summer, claiming it was a crime "of honour" and committed during the heat of the moment. His daughter is currently carrying the victim's, Sotiri s Yialamas, unborn child.
 New five-year plan to save Olympic Airways
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)Olympic Airways' board of directors yesterday discussed a new five-year operational plan for the state-run national carrier, which aims to adapt to the current international environment and turn the loss-making company profitable.
The plan includes four parts: improving competitiveness, financial performance, productivity through changes in labour regulations and reducing operating expenses.
Particular measures include a rationalisation of route schedules, renewal of the aircraft fleet, strategic cooperation agreements with other airlines and increasing profitability through development of non-core activities in ground handling and catering , as well as charter operations.
Olympic workers discuss government's plan: Workers at Olympic Airways were closeted in a marathon meeting yesterday to discuss the specifics of the government's new five-year revitalisation plan to save the ailing national carrier from closure.
Transport Minister Tasos Mantelis told a news conference yesterday that the restructuring programme for 1998-2002 aimed to save 50 billion drachmas a year.
Speakers at the meeting condemned the government's plan, saying that workers would be bearing the burden of the measures.
Sources said the meeting would continue today to allow an in-depth examination of the government's plan and to allow time for workers to draft a response.
 DEPA presents investment plans
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)Public Natural Gas Enterprise (DEPA) managing director Savvas Papafilippou in London yesterday presented a detailed plan on natural gas distribution networks to some 30 foreign companies.
He announced that 49 per cent of the DEPA's municipal network shares will be sold to foreign firms, which will also assume the management.
Mr. Papafilippou will also present DEPA's plans and investment potential in Houston, Texas, on Monday.
 Better absorption of EU funds in '97
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)The European Union yesterday announced that Greece absorbed EU funds from the Delors II structural aid package at a satisfactory rate in 1997.
The announcement stated that Greece had absorbed 8.782 billion Ecu by the end of 1997, while another 6.985 billion Ecu or 44 per cent of the total remains to be absorbed. The EU member-state average stands at 41 per cent.
 Plan for further privatisation of OTE announced
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)The management of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) yesterday announced plans to further privatise the state-run utility by up to 15 per cent by the end of the year.
Other plans include expansion of investment in the Balkans, increased digitalisation of the network from 48 to 70 per cent within 1998 and gradually reducing rates by 2000.
OTE managing director G. Chrysolouris said investments abroad would be directed toward Bulgaria and Romania only, where telecom utilities were on the road to partial privatisation. Consolidation of such ventures would be sought through cooperation with Greek entrepreneurs who are already active in these countries, he said.
Romania's Rom Telecom will float 30 per cent of its stock in the European market in the near future at a price approximating US$4 billion. The size of the flotation dictates OTE participation in a consortium with another, larger organisation. Business sources said this concern would probably be France Telecom, which recently launched two mobile telephone networks with Rom Telecom.
The Bulgarian government has also committed itself to selling a significant portion of the country's telecoms utility, with Deutche Morgan Granfell as consultants on the issue.
OTE already holds a minority stake in the Serbian telecom organisation.
Mr. Chrysolouris also said that OTE's CosmOTE mobile telephony subsidiary had already began gradual delivery of sets to subscribers, expected to reach 100,000 in the end of the year.
Finally, he announced that following further deregulation there would be a greater reduction in rates due to increased competition.
 Economic News
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)Greek stocks sprint through 1,900 pts in heavy turnover: Greek equities yesterday ended the week in a jubilant mood setting new all-time highs and breaking resistance at 1,900 points for the first time in history.
The general index ended 3.13 percent higher at 1,919.91 points to show a 24.88 percent gain on the week.
Trading remained at record levels with turnover at 108.7 billion drachmas to total 472 billion for the week, or a daily average of 94.6 billion drachmas from 21.2 billion the previous week.
Traders said the market strongly supported the government's move last weekend to place the drachma inside the European Rate Mechanism and devalue its parity by 14 percent against the Ecu.
Analysts described this as the market's "golden week", saying that the Greek currency's devaluation had lessened the danger of further currency turmoil and led to a gradual decline in domestic interest rates. Foreign institutional investors were part icularly active in the Greek market, discounting the Greek market's future transition to a developed stock market from an emerging one, brokers said.
Domestic institutionals met foreign demand by offering large blocks of shares from their portfolios.
Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) was the focus of attention ahead of a third public offering by the end of the year. Its share price rose 1,400 drachmas in the week, or 20.7 percent, to end at 8,150 drachmas despite a 200 drachma fall on F riday.
Sector indices all scored gains. Banks shot up 6.28 percent, Insurance was 3.0 percent up, Investment rose 5.28 percent, Leasing increased 6.12 percent, Industrials edged 1.87 percent higher, Construction jumped 5.48 percent, Miscellaneous rose 0.94 per cent and Holding ended 0.91 percent higher.
The FTSE/ASE index rose 3.85 percent to end at a new record of 1,125.9 points.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 184 to 47 with another 21 issues unchanged.
Shares in the banking sector scored the biggest percentage gains at the day's 8.0 percent upper volatility limit, while Mochlos, Parnassos, Mouriadis and Balkan Export suffered the heaviest losses.
National Bank of Greece ended at 32,786, Ergobank at 20,945, Alpha Credit Bank at 23,455, Delta Dairy at 3,500, Titan Cement at 20,900 and Intracom at 17,990.
Greek interbank rates drop on devaluation euphoria: Greek money markets remained euphoric under the influence of last weekend's 14 percent drachma devaluation, bringing new capital inflows and lower interbank rates.
Bankers reported inflows of 600 million US dollars at the drachma's daily fixing to total 2 billion dollars in the week.
The Greek currency was stronger against most foreign currencies. The drachma was 2.14 percent higher against the Ecu on a weekly basis. It strengthened by 2.24 percent against the DMark.
Portugal welcomes drachma's entry into ERM: Portuguese Finance Minister Sousa Franco yesterday welcomed the drachma's entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechanism as another step towards use of the euro as a common currency in the 15-member bloc.
Asked by the Athens News Agency to comment on the drachma's entry and accompanying 14 percent devaluation last weekend, Mr. Franco said: "the main thing is not the drachma's devaluation, which has created no problem at all in Portugal, but the drachma's entry into the (EU's) monetary system.
"We welcome its entry as one more step towards the Euro and the third phase of economic and monetary union," he added.
Commercial Bank of Greece cuts rates: State Commercial Bank of Greece will cut its deposit and loan rates, effective Monday, it said in a statement yesterday.
The move is to bring its rates into line with the market, the statement said.
Among the new rates are savings accounts at 9.0 percent, housing loan savings accounts at 9.50 percent (amounts up to ten million drachmas), and the base loan rate at 16 percent.
Greek civil servants to strike in April: Greece's civil servants' union ADEDY plans to hold a general strike in the public sector within the first week of April to demand a say in the government's plans to merge or abolish public sector enterprises, and to renegotiate 1998's incomes policy in th e aftermanth of the drachma's devaluation.
Four ADEDY's unions are staging a 4-hour work stoppage next Monday.
Aluminium of Greece reports 31.6 mln US dollar profit: Aluminium of Greece SA, a subsidiary of the French Pechiney group, reported a strong rise in its pre-tax profits for 1997 to 31.6 million US dollars.
A company statement said the improvement in profitability was a result of the implementation of a restructuring programme to lower operational costs and raise productivity.
Also, favourable foreign exchange conditions helped in maximising profits.
The company's board will propose to a general shareholders' meeting a dividend of 3.9 US dollar per share and a rise in the company's nominal share price from 27.5 to 28.8 dollars.
Aluminium of Greece has also decided to raise its annual production level to 155,000 tonnes in 1998 from 133,000 last year.
HATTA says tourist contracts should be respected: The Federation of Tourist and Travel Agencies in Greece (HATTA) has addressed a letter to Development Minister Vasso Papandreou, stressing the need to maintain prices of contracts agreed for this year's tourism season between local tourist agencies and fo reign tour operators.
The letter says the recent devaluation of the drachma has created a turmoil among tourist enterprises and tension in relations with foreign partners regarding contracts already agreed.
HATTA stresses that full respect of contracts, without a differentiation in lodging prices, will be proof of the professionalism from the local tourist network and will not upset the existing positive climate.
HATTA further called on Ms Papandreou to undertake an initiative and recommend "if not to impose" on the entire tourist network to maintain the agreements for this year's period.
EOT says better Greek value awaits tourists in '98: The Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) announced that a better value awaits tourists to Greece this year.
"With the recent 14 per cent adjustment of the country's currency, along with major improvements in tourism infrastructure and in the quality of services and products, holidays in Greece have become even more attractive and affordable," EOT stated.
The state-run agency further stressed that another advantage for potential visitiors to Greece includes efforts underway by the country's tourism professionals to offer alternate forms of tourism and to extend the country's tourism period.
Alpha Credit Bank rates: Alpha Credit Bank announced that as of March 23 the minimum loan interest rate in the Alpha 605 account in exchange will be 8.35 per cent for the US dollar, 6.95 per cent for the Ecu, 6.20 per cent for the deutschemark, 3.40 per cent for the Japanese yen,
3.90 per cent for the Swiss franc and 8.30 per cent for the Italian lire.
 Police officer shot dead near border, six detained
Athens, 21/3/1998 (ANA)Six Albanian nationals were arrested yesterday after the shooting death of a Greek policeman early yesterday morning during a shoot-out with unknown gunmen near the Greek-Albanian border outside Kastoria.
The six were apprehended near the scene of the shooting and are being questioned as suspects in the shooting.
Thirty-year-old police officer Dimitris Zaromytis was fatally injured when an unidentified suspect opened fire with an assault rifle on the police vehicle he was driving. The police car, with another two officers inside, was chasing a truck heading for the border, near a village near Grammos, when a man inside the truck opened fire before it sped off.
Police later discovered 16 kilos of hashish inside the truck, which was found abandoned at a short distance from where the victim was killed.
The truck had been stolen from the village of Maniakia near Kastoria on Wednesday night.
According to initial reports, the six detained men were found in an inaccessible ravine and in possession of 190 kilos of hashish and two AK-47 "Kalashnikov" rifles.
Press sources said that under questioning, the six had confessed to being in the truck from which Zaromytis' patrol car had been fired upon. It was not immediately clear whether any of the six suspects were directly responsible for the police officer's death.
In statements to ANA, the president of the association of police officers of Kastoria prefecture, Georgios Siamidis, called for the stiffest possible penalties for arms and drug smugglers entering from Albania and arrested in Greece.