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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 98-03-24
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ATHENS NEWS AGENCY BULLETIN (No 1448), March 24, 1998
 Pangalos calls on US to pressure Turkey to refer differences to The Hague
WASHINGTON 24/03/1998 (ANA- T. Ellis)Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos yesterday impressed upon US officials the need for pressure to be exercised on Ankara so it will consent to referral of any differences in the Aegean to an international adjudicating body, s uch as the International Court at The Hague.
"I explained to them that Greek-Turkish relations have come to be stagnant because Turkey does not accept the framework within whi-ch serious progress may be made. This is a legal, institutional framework, with application of international law and with referral to international adjudicating bodies," he said after a meeting lasting 90 minutes at the Greek embassy.
The meeting was attended by US Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, US Assistant Secretary of State Marc Grossman, the US State Department's coordinator for Cyprus, Thomas Miller, and Myriam Shapiro of the National Security Council.
"If this is not accepted by Turkey, there will be no progress because the other prospects which Turkey wishes to create, with its supposed initiatives and letters, are prospects based on the balance of power, which will not solve problems but, on the contrary, will accentuate them," he added.
"I made it clear to them that it would be a mistake for one to think that Greek-Turkish problems are the main or the only problem to Turkey's European prospects. That Greece has a serious interest in Turkey's approach to Europe as near and as fast as possible, but that there are preconditions that must be fulfilled, posed jointly by the members of the EU, and which Turkey must accept as all other candidate-countries have done," he said. Regarding the Cyprus issue, the Greek minister said it was an issue between Cypriots and Ankara, as Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash did not have the power to decide, and pressure should be brought on Ankara for the Turkish Cypriots to come to the negotiating table.
Mr. Pangalos said the US officials had asked for details on the position presented to US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright regarding what would be required to suspend a plan to install Russian-made S-300 missiles on Cyprus.
He said he had made clear that he was not merely asking for a moratorium of flights over Cyprus, which could be overturned at any time, but an agreement committing Turkey, guaranteed by the UN, the US or NATO, and safeguarding the defence of Cyprus.
"One could imagine a UN resolution which NATO undertook to implement. In other words, both sides would know that if they violated the agreement they would find NATO forces in their stride," he said.
Summing up, Mr. Pangalos said he had found understanding on the part of US officials on the basic points of Greek-Turkish differences and the Cyprus problem.
The crisis in Kosovo was also discussed, and there was coincidence of views and an agreement for close cooperation on dealing with it.
Assistant Undersecretary Grossman said: "what I found very interesting was the minister saying that the important thing now was to find a common US-European position on Kosovo, and I couldn't agree more on this".
Speaking at a Greek-American gathering on Sunday night, Mr. Pangalos said the US should exercise the policy it believed and officially declared, and not the one promoted by some behind the scenes.
"The American leadership must be in agreement and consistent with its principles rather than setting the interests of petroleum and arms-selling companies first. Principles before interests," he stressed.
Mr. Pangalos was due to speak at Georgetown University's School of Diplomacy on Greek foreign policy and recent developments in Europe.
US State Department spokesman James Foley said that in Friday's meeting between Ms Albright and Mr. Pangalos, she had told her counterpart that "the US is resolved to help in the search for solutions in Greek-Turkish differences and the Cyprus problem".
He added the Secretary of State planned to visit Greece in the summer and hoped to contribute in the context of such efforts.
Mr. Foley, who was also present, said the meeting was "very constructive", and that the two counterparts had found "common ground on the need for terminating repression in Kosovo, a need for dialogue, sincere, unconditional dialogue between the two sides".
He stressed that both Greece and the US wished to avert the spreading of tension in the province.
 ... Government spokesmanIn Athens, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday that "Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos reiterated the well-known Greek positions, which are in full harmony with what the government has stated on occasion." He added that there was "no iss ue of disagreement" between Mr. Pangalos and National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.
The spokesman was replying to questions on a statement by Mr. Pangalos in Washington late Friday after talks with Ms Albright.
Mr. Pangalos told reporters after the meeting that he and Ms Albright had discussed the Cyprus issue and "analysed our view that steps should be taken to decrease, stop, or rather, reverse the military build-up (on Cyprus)".
Mr. Pangalos explained, however, that this should begin "with aircraft, which are the most advanced weapons", adding "if there are no aircraft, there would be no (need for) anti-aircraft systems, and then there could be a reduction in tanks, which could slowly lead to a better climate".
The Cyprus government decided in early 1997 to purchase several Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles to boost its defence. Deployment of the anti-aircraft missiles, tentatively scheduled for mid-1998, would effectively reduce Turkish air superiority over the island.
Mr. Reppas said the missiles issue was being handled by the Cyprus government "respon-sibly", and "it (the Cyprus government) has stressed that it would examine postponement of their (the missiles') deployment provided a prospect for demilitarisation on a visible horizon was ascertained".
Greece, he added, agreed with and backed that position since "if there is no danger, then there is no need to reinforce defence".
Mr. Reppas said there was a need for progress for both demilitarisation (to be feasible) and for finding a solution to the political problem in Cyprus, "although to date such (a solution) has not been forthcoming due to the stance of (Turkish Cypriot le ader Rauf) Mr. Denktash and Turkey". He also denied reports that Prime Minister Costas Simitis had put the issue of the S-300 to Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, saying that there had been no change in Greece's policy on the matter.
He also denied rumours that US President Bill Clinton's recent letter to Mr. Clerides more or less contained an ultimatum, adding that it was a letter of congratulations on Mr. Clerides' recent re-election "which contained thoughts and ideas on the Cyprus issue".
 Tsohatzopoulos, Bulatovic agree on Balkan defence ministers' meeting
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Regional cooperation between Balkan nations will act as a complement to the work of organisations such as NATO and the Western European Union, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said yesterday.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos was speaking after meeting with his Yugoslav counterpart, Pavle Bulatovic, who is currently visiting Athens.
The two ministers agreed that a meeting of defence ministers of all Balkan countries should be held sometime this year to continue the work begun at the meeting of foreign ministers in Thessaloniki and last November's Crete summit of Balkan leaders, in aid of regional cooperation and stability.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said he had already raised the idea of a meeting with his counterparts in Skopje and Tirana.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos and Mr. Bulatovic discussed regional hotspots, such as Bosnia and Kosovo, during their meeting.
Both men agreed, the Greek minister said, that security and stability in the Balkans required a greater degree of cooperation between the peoples of the region and are prerequisites for economic development with the prospect of the European Union's expansion.
The Greek minister reiterated the government's standing position on Kosovo: condemnation of terrorist activity as a means to achieve the human rights of minorities; support for unconditional dialogue for a democratic and peaceful resolution of the problem; and that this dialogue ensure human rights with the possibility of greater autonomy within the framework of the Yugoslav Republic, but not independence for Kosovo.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos expressed his hope that there would be "positive prospects" to follow from Belgrade's initiatives and from Sunday's elections in Kosovo.
Mr. Bulatovic said Kosovo was an integral part of Yugoslavia and problems in the province "a domestic issue".
The government of Yugoslavia is ready to resolve all problems related to human rights on the basis of the UN Charter, the Helsinki and Paris declarations and in line with texts by the Council of Europe, he said.
He called on the international community to condemn "acts of terrorism" in Kosovo recently, stressing that each country dealt with terrorism with legal means, as was the case with Kosovo.
Mr. Bulatovic charged that the leaders of the Albanian minority in Kosovo had ignored a call for talks with Belgrade, despite the fact that the call had been responded to by other minority groups in the region.
He said that "a small segment" of the Albanian minority wanted an independent state in Kosovo and said Sunday's elections in the province were a "parody", noting that the Yugoslav government had done nothing to stop them.
The Yugoslav authorities remain open to the possibility of talks on a resolution of problems, but always on the basis of the Yugoslav constitution, he said.
Mr. Bulatovic agreed that security in the region had to be in the hands of Balkan countries themselves, without ruling out the contribution of other countries to this end.
"A selective approach to issues of security in the Balkans, however, will not bring the desired results," he said.
 ... Meeting with KaklamanisMr. Bulatovic also met Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis last night.
At 10 a.m. this morning, Mr. Bulatovic will visit the headquarters of the Third Army Corps. Shortly afterwards, he will lay a wreath at the Zeidelig allied cemetery and then visit Mount Athos with a military helicopter, where he will visit the Hilandariou Monastery. According to the programme announced, Mr. Bulatovic's visit to Mount Athos will last three hours.
Mr. Bulatovic will leave Macedonia Airport early in the afternoon to return to Belgrade.
 Kranidiotis-Cordovez discuss Cyprus issue in Athenes
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis yesterday told visiting UN special adviser on Cyprus Diego Cordovez that in the event that the Turkish side's negative stance continued, regarding a settlement of the Cyprus problem, the issue should be brought up before the UN Security Council.
Following their one-hour long meeting, Mr. Kranidiotis reiterated Athens support of the UN Secretary General's initiative and that of Mr. Cordovez's mission aimed at the resumption of the intercommunal dialogue for a just and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem. Mr. Kranidiotis said "we are at a crucial turning point due to the Turkish side's intransigence and the terms which it sets in order for it to proceed to the negotiating table."
He said these terms could not be accepted and that it was the obligation of the Turkish side to attend the dialogue without terms and preconditions, as imposed by the United Nations through its resolutions, and by the international community.
"If the Turkish side's negative stand continues, the issue should be brought before the UN Security Council which in turn must undertake its responsibilities, so that the effort for dialogue may be strengthened," he said.
He said such dialogue could operate in parallel to the accession negotiations which start on March 31. On his part, Mr. Cordovez briefed Mr. Kranidiotis on the intensive consultations which he had in Cyprus with President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Expressing the hope that negotiations would proceed for a settlement of the problem, Mr. Cordovez noted that "where there is a difficult situation dangers are created, but opportunities are also presented."
Mr. Cordovez said that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was deeply concerned over the situation in Cyprus.
The UN envoy said that all the special representatives and envoys on the Cyprus issue will meet in Geneva in the course of the week.
Mr. Cordovez said that he would brief the Secretary General on the matters raised by Messrs. Clerides and Denktash and that when instructed to, he would return to Cyprus again to continue consultations. He said efforts were being made for a meeting to be held in Geneva this week between Mr. Annan and Mr. Denktash, as requested for some time now by the latter.
Commenting on Mr. Denktash's demand that Turkish-occupied Cyprus be recognised as a sovereign state, Mr. Cordovez said he had repeated to the Turkish Cypriot leader many times that the issue was not pertinent to Mr. Annan.
"The United Nations has never been committed to any kind of recognition of some government or state. This issue concerns inter-state relations and not the relations with the UN secretary general," he said.
Nevertheless, he said that since Mr. Denktash had raised the issue again officially, he would relay the matter to Mr. Annan and he would decide when to refer the issue to the Council.
On his part, Mr. Kranidiotis said that the UN mission was within the framework of its resolutions which provided that "the solution to the Cyprus problem is a federal, bicommunal, bizonal one".
 ... Annan to meet Turkish Cypriot leader on FridayUNITED NATIONS (Reuters/ANA)
Secretary-General Kofi Annan will hold talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in Geneva on Friday, a UN spokesman said here yesterday.
Mr. Annan's special adviser for Cyprus, Diego Cordovez, who visited the island from March 18 to 22, arrived in Athens yesterday for talks and is scheduled to travel on to Ankara.
Mr. Cordovez held separate meetings in Nicosia with Mr. Denktash and President Glafcos Clerides, in an unsuccessful attempt to pave the way for a resumption of long-stalled talks aimed at ending the division of the island.
 Cyprus' EU accession will benefit Turkish Cypriots - Kranidiotis
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Cyprus' accession to the European Union will act favourably for all parties concerned "and possibly more so for the Turkish Cypriots", Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis said yesterday.
Speaking at a seminar organised by the Institute of International Relations at the Panteios University, Mr. Kranidiotis said Cyprus' entry into the EU would offer those guarantees and safety valves necessary for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem.
A resolution to the problem of the division and occupation of the island would have a run-off effect on the wider region of the southeastern Mediterranean and contribute to the improvement of relations between Greece and Turkey and in Turkey's relations with the EU, he added.
He criticised the tactics adopted by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in insisting on recognition for his regime, stressing:
"Denktash's terms conflict with the resolutions of the United Nations and are completely unacceptable...Denktash wants to use the accession process as a pretext for the recognition of his entity, or to serve Turkey's European aspirations. This is political blackmail and can not be accepted."
The international community is obliged, Mr. Kranidiotis added, to effectively deal with this "provocative" stance.
"The argument forwarded by some that freezing accession procedures for Cyprus would facilitate inter-communal talks is moot: Of course, both procedures mutually affect the other, but the Cyprus problem cannot be held hostage to Turkey's EU prospects but
Turkey should contribute to a resolution of the problem". He lauded the "brave voices" on the Turkish Cypriot side which have come out against Mr. Denktash's tactics and in favour of Cyprus' joining the European Union and expressed Greece's desire that there be a force in Turkey that rejected the extremes of theocracy or military rule.
"In that case, Greece and Cyprus will constitute Turkey's gateway to Europe," he said.
Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birant, however, expressed the view that recent decisions by the European Union, particularly those taken at last December's Luxembourg summit, had discouraged Turkey, with the result that European influence there had waned .
Mr. Birant admitted that 1997 had been a significant year for Greek diplomacy, as Greece had convinced the EU to abandon its policy of equal distances from Greece and Turkey, particularly with regard to the Cyprus issue. This, he said, had "exposed those who did not want Turkey in the European Union and who had been hiding behind Greece".
However, he said that this situation concealed dangers for both Greece and the EU, as Turkey had subsequently distanced itself from Europe. He said the feeling existed that Turkey would never be accepted by Europe, even if the human rights situation was improved.
Mr. Birant said that Turkey was going through a transitional phase and there was serious concern over the role played by the military.
"On the one hand, there is a demand on the part of society for democracy, but on the other there is the danger posed by the rise of Islam or the break-up of Turkey by the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK)," he said.
However, he added that while there was no question of a situation arising such as that in Algeria, "Greece should not be gleeful over the situation in Turkey".
 Skandalidis comments on S-300 missiles while in Cyprus
NICOSIA 24/03/1998 (ANA - G. Leonidas)Visiting PASOK Secretary Costas Skandalidis stated yesterday that "we remain steadfast on the position that the final installation of the S-300 missiles can be discussed if there is an agreement on demilitarisation or if a po sitive development occurs over the Cyprus issue."
After a meeting with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, he was ask-ed to comment on whether duplicity exists on the missiles issue, Mr. Skandalidis said "we are steadfast on our position which links the installation of the missiles with the defensive arm ament of Cyprus, parallel to the immediate priority of demilitarisation. In the framework of the latter alone and a positive development over the Cyprus issue, the final installation of the S-300s could be discussed."
Replying to a question on pressures being exerted on Athens and Nicosia, Mr. Skandalidis said "that pressures exist which are being exerted because during this period the isolation of Turkey is continuing in Europe. There is a negative position by Ankar a against the Clerides proposal for the participation of the Turkish Cypriots in accession negotiations between Cyprus and the EU."
Mr. Skandalidis said all these negative developments and Turkey's domestic problems are leading the foreign factor to pressure in the direction of resolving the Cyprus issue. He said that at present, Hellenism is in a much better position than a short while ago.
Referring to his meeting with President Clerides, Mr. Skandalidis said there is an identity of views and policy between Greece and Cyprus on the basis of the triptych of accession of Cyprus to the EU, dissociated from the course of resolving the Cyprus issue, the unified defence doctrine and Greece and Cyprus standing by each other.
Mr. Skandalidis also said that, following a substantive and constructive briefing he had with President Clerides, he is convinced on the steadfast national policy orientation on the Cyprus issue.
 Israeli FM delegation in Athens for talks
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)A four-member Israeli delegation yesterday began talks at the Greek foreign ministry on bilateral relations and regional issues of common interest.
The delegation is led by Israeli foreign ministry alternate secretary general for west European affairs Colette Avital.
This is the second round of such talks in the framework of a political dialogue between the two ministries.
The Greek delegation is headed by the foreign ministry's political director Ilias Gounaris.
The Israelis, who arrived in Athens last night, are also due to meet later in the day with Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis.
 Venizelos receives US ambassador
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos met with US ambassador in Athens Nicholas Burns yesterday for talks on bilateral cultural cooperation.
Discussions covered the operation of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, preparations for the "Cultural Olympiad" - which Athens is promoting - as well as Greek-US cooperation to combat the illegal trade in antiquities.
 Stephanopoulos invited to Riga by Latvian president
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Latvian Foreign Undersecretary Maris Riekstins conveyed an invitation to Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou by the Latvian president for his Greek counterpart to visit Riga.
The invitation was delivered during their meeting at the foreign ministry yesterday.
Both Mr. Papandreou and Mr. Riekstins expressed the hope that with President Kostis Stephanopoulos' visit to Latvia six agreements currently being negotiated between the two countries will be signed. The agreements concern bilateral cooperation in sectors of military training, technology and sciences, a shipping cooperation agreement, economic, technological and cultural, avoidance of double taxation and an airline communications agreement.
The two men also discussed issues concerning European Union enlargement, while Mr. Papandreou also raised the issue of inter-regional cooperation and more specifically cooperation between Baltic and Balkan countries as candidate countries for accession.
Latvia appreciates Greece's position by which negotiations must start with all candidate countries together for accession to the EU, and is also satisfied over the results of the European Conference in Luxembourg and Madrid.
 Tsohatzopoulos cites need for Greece's participation in EMU
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)In an interview with an Athens daily yesterday, Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos stated that he does not disagree with the general strategical choices of the government.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos told "Ta Nea" that he accepts the need for Greece's participation in Economic and Monetary Union and the adjustment of the Greek economy.
However, he said that the price for this induction must be openly explained to the nation. He added that during the first years of EMU only big capital will benefit from the changes and noted that the cost of such economic adjustments will payed by sala ried workers.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that 1998 is the year of decisions for the military's armaments programme, since the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) will be meeting for the next five to six weeks on this issue.
As for the installation of the S-300 Russian-made missiles in Cyprus, he said that the priority is not in disarming the island of a weapon which has not yet been installed, rather it is the defence of the island from the possibility of air attacks.
 EU environment ministers discuss climate changes
BRUSSELS 24/03/1998 (ANA - P. Pantelis)The council of EU environment ministers convened here yesterday and discussed the issue of the planet's changes in climate.
Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Undersecretary Theodoros Koliopanos presented Greece's positions and supported the immediate signing of the Kyoto Protocol by all member-states.
Mr. Koliopanos expressed support for the Commission's measures for a decrease in atmospheric pollution. However, he underlined that climatic differences between the European Union's northern and southern member-states must be taken into consideration an d called for the adjustment of measures in accordane with the individualities of member-states.
The Council adopted common positions on a series of important issues such as the directive for the hygienic disposal of waste, measures against atmospheric pollution, the restriction of emissions by organic substances and the mechanism for monitoring ca rbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
The Council also examined the proposal by the European Federation of Motorcar Manufacturers for an agreement to be achieved on decreasing CO2 emissions by cars.
In the framework of the discussion on "enlargement", Mr. Koliopanos raised the issue of nuclear security and problems created by the operation of the Kozloduy nuclear plant in Bulgaria.
 Simitis speaks to visiting journalists of Greek descent
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Greece's primary goal remains inclusion into Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed yesterday while adressing a visiting group of expatriate Greek journalists.
Yesterday's meeting in Athens between the premier and the group was also attended by Press and Media Minister Dimitris Reppas and ministry general secretary Yiannis Nikolaou.
Mr. Simitis said the message he wanted them to get across was the Greek government's efforts to achieve a stable economic foundation, as well as a cohesive society and an important role in developments.
Greece's distance from achieving convergence with the economies of other European Union member-countries was closing dramatically, he said, and Greece was within a hair's breadth of the first group of countries in Economic and Monetary Union.
The reception that the drachma's inclusion in the Exchange Rate Mechanism received was an indication of the "qualitative difference" in perception of the Greek economy compared to the past.
"Interest rates are falling, Greek bonds have greater value, there is an increase on the stock exchange, and there is still confidence in international and Greek markets about the course of the economy," he said.
The premier noted that the Greek people had made sacrifices for these improvements to be able to occur, adding that "it is not an easy period, but a period when everyone is satisfied...".
According to the prime minister, Greece's second goal was a higher profile in the Balkans, an area in which it has already noted progress. A third priority was the economy's adjustment to international conditions and to the globalisation of the economy .
"We must become more competitive as an economy and as a society and should produce better products in terms of quality and services, have more effective public entreprises and private companies with authority and presence in international markets," he said.
Turning to foreign policy issues, he said that the Luxembourg EU summit decision on relations with Turkey was a significant step forward as was the beginning of accession procedures with Cyprus on March 31.
 ... G. PapandreouAlternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou also spoke to the group. Referring to Greece's relations with the European Union, Mr. Papandreou said that now many of its interests, if not all, are identical, adding that Greece is playing an important role in developments in Europe.
On the question of Turkey, Mr. Papandreou had a positive view of the country's rapprochement with the EU, but added that for one to become a member means that it must adopt its basic principles, principles which are related to respect for borders, the functioning of democratic institutions, respect for international law, respect for human rights and exercising a good neighbourliness policy.
Mr. Papandreou said Turkey has particular responsibilities on the issue of Cyprus because it keeps an occupation army there and resolving the Cyprus issue was and will remain one of the essential terms for Turkey's rapprochement with the EU.
He said that in this context, Greece favours Turkey's active political rapprochement with Europe but "not a game of impressions or a commercial act, but as a policy of principles aimed at joining this country with the EU."
Mr. Papandreou said that Greece would not object to the promotion of a non-aggression pact between Greece and Turkey, or a friendship agreement which, in essence, would be an effort to constructively develop economic and cultural relations.
He said that, of course, this can only be done when Turkey ceases to convey its domestic problems to its foreign policy.
 Titmayer lauds Greek progress towards meeting Maastricht criteria
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)In an interview with state-run network, Bundesbank President Hans Titmayer expressed the view that Greece has undoubtedly made substantive progress in achieving criteria set by the Maastricht Treaty.
Mr. Titmayer expressed optimism that this progress will continue and said that Greece has oriented its policy in the right direction now, adding that the country's accession to Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) will be judged in two years from now. He further said that the central banks of European Union member-states will support the drachma if its parity nears exceeding the anticipated limits of plus or minus 15 per cent. Mr. Titmayer reiterated that a necessary precondition for the accession of a cou ntry to EMU is the exchange stability of a currency in the exchange rate mechanism, as well as the achievement of the known convergence criteria. He considers the public debt criterion as being the most difficult.
 Tarschys on official Athens visit
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Council of Europe (CoE) Secretary General Daniel Tarschys will pay an official visit to Athens between Wednesday and Friday, during Greece's presidency this year of the CoE.
Mr. Tarschys is scheduled to meet with President Kostis Stephanopoulos on Thursday, Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Friday as well as the parliament president, members of the Greek representation at the CoE and the foreign ministry leadership during his visit.
 Stephanopoulos comments on Greek Independence Day
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)National issues and the country's future were the main themes in President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos' message to mark Greek Independence Day on March 25.
"Today, our freedom is safeguarded. However, our national, sovereign rigths are questioned and we have the burden of overcoming economic problems and to take the road to development", he said.
Mr. Stephanopoulos expressed his certainty that all the productive and social forces will set the nation's well-being as the top goal.
Meanwhile, in a separate development, President Stephanopoulos yesterday honoured several Greek and foreign personalities, including former premiers, professors, artists, entrepreneurs etc.
 ... SynaspismosIn a message to mark Independence Day, the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) remarked that "this year's national holiday finds the country in a crisis".
Synaspismos added that "the country's foreign policy remained locked in conflicting handlings...the crisis in the national economy continues, social inequalities are increasing..."
 ... Yasser ArafatA letter on the occasion of Greek Independence Day was sent to Mr. Stephanopoulos and PM Costas Simitis by the leader of the Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat.
Mr. Arafat expressed his "particu-lar esteem" for Greece's standing positions with regard to "the Palestinian people's fair struggle to put an end to its land's occupation by Israel..."
 EU tourism group to convene
BRUSSELS 24/03/1998 (ANA - G. Daratos)The high level group for tourism and employment, including entrepreneurs and experts from all member-states, will convene for its first session here on Tuesday.
The group will convene at the invitation of EU Tourism Commissioner Christos Papoutsis.
The group's mandate, created at the initiative of Mr. Papoutsis, is to examine conditions by which tourism can contribute even more to economic development and employment in Europe and submit a report to the European Commission in October 1998.
According to Mr. Papoutsis, the creation of this group confirms the European Commission's determination to better utilise the contribution of tourism-related activities to development and employment.
Tourism-related activities in the European Union, accounting for 6 per cent of total employment, 5.5 per cent of GDP and 30 per cent of the overseas services trade, are among the sectors with the best prospects for development and the creation of jobs.
 Meeting focuses on restructuring urban transports
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Restructuring urban transports appears next in line after Olympic Airlines.
Procedures to restructure the Athens Urban Transport Organisation (OASA), one of four loss-making public utilities, began at a meeting held last night.
The meeting was chaired by National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and was attended by Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Public Works Undersecretary Christos Verelis.
No decisions were taken but OASA was examined and the present state of transport was probed in expectation of the operational factor with the restructuring measures expected to be submitted soon.
The government aims at creating a new body for trolley buses, buses, the electric railway and the green buses. The body will not have debts incurred by OASA and its staff will be composed of employees currently at these services.
 Agricultural Policy Council meeting
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)The fourth meeting of the Agricultural Policy Council (CAP) is scheduled to be held in Athens this Friday and Saturday to examine a number of farm-related issues as well as the EU's "Agenda 2000".
The council will examine proposals submitted by the working groups on all the above issues, and will formulate its final positions before decisions are taken.
 ND Eurodeputy on EU structural funds
BRUSSELS 24/03/1998 (ANA - P. Pantelis)New Democracy Eurodeputy Costis Hatzidakis yesterday said that the European Peoples' Party (EPP) Europarliament group supports the simplification, concentration and effectiveness of the EU's structural funds for the 2000-200 6 period.
Mr. Hatzidakis, EPP's committee chairman on the subject, added that his party's Parliamentary group wants for "the European taxpayers' money to be used in the best way possible..."
He added: "we support the greatest possible decentralisation, without of course, loss of transparency and control by the European Commission."
 EOT head meets with tourism sector operators
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) general secretary Nikos Skoulas yesterday met with representatives of the tourism sector for talks on prospects for the tourist season, after the recent devaluation of the drachma.
During the meeting it was noted that Greek tour packages must remain competitive in foreign markets, meaning that hotel and room rates must not increase after the devaluation.
Hoteliers said some increases will be necessary since the operation cost increased due to the devaluation. They also cited the increase in import costs and accumulated debts in foreign currencies.
Hoteliers expect an increase of 10 to 12 per cent in 1999.
 Greek shares hit new high, hold 1,900 pts
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Greek equities started the week on a positive tone yesterday extending their rally for the sixth consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange.
Traders said a recovery in the domestic bond market and stable conditions in Greek money markets encouraged buying activity in stocks.
The general index ended 1.61 percent higher, hitting a new record of 1,950.75 points.
Analysts predicted that the market would test 2,000 points soon.
Trading was heavy with turnover at 75.7 billion drachmas.
Most sector indices scored gains. Banks jumped 3.56 percent reflecting limit-up closes for Commercial Bank of Greece, Ionian Bank, Mortgage Bank, Bank of Central Greece and ETEBA.
Insurance rose 2.11 percent, Investment was 3.82 percent up, Leasing shot up 5.27 percent, Construction was 6.65 percent up and Holding rose 2.29 percent. Industrials and Miscellaneous fell 0.30 and 0.16 percent respectively.
The parallel market index for small cap companies rose 2.44 percent while the FTSE/ASE index ended 2.08 percent higher to post a new record close of 1,149.34 points.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 167 to 74 with another 17 issues unchanged. Rilken, Halcor, Petzetakis, Alte, Babyland, Technodomi, Epilektos and Desmos scored the biggest percentage gains at the day's 8.0 percent limit up.
Benroubi, Konstantinidis, Ideal and Kekrops suffered the heaviest losses.
National Bank of Greece ended at 34,940 drachmas, Ergobank at 20,550, Alpha Credit Bank at 23,740, Delta Dairy at 3,600, Titan Cement at 21,000, Intracom at 17,880 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 8,100.
 Greek money markets see capital inflows, rates hold steady
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Greek money markets yesterday saw new capital inflows and steady interbank rates, reflecting foreign and domestic confidence in the country's economy.
Bankers reported inflows totalling 120 million Ecus and 30 million DMarks at the drachma's fixing.
The Greek currency rose 0.78 percent against the US dollar. It was 0.52 percent up against the DMark and 0.50 percent higher against the Ecu.
 SE Europe economy forum to be held in Thessaloniki next week
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)A two-day forum on business and development in the Balkans will be held in Thessaloniki next week for the fifth straight year.
This year's event - "Thessaloniki Forum: Greece and the Balkans: An Emerging Market in Southeastern Europe" - is expected to attract ministers, bankers, stockbrokers and industrialists from around the region.
The forum is organised by the Northern Greek Industries Association (SBBE), state Macedonia-Thrace Bank, and the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce.
Former SBBE president Nikos Efthymiadis told a news conference yesterday that the annual forum was a part of efforts to link the region, including past meetings of Balkan foreign ministers in Thessaloniki and Balkan leaders in Crete.
It also aimed to debate the problems that hindered economic cooperation in southeastern Europe.
According to Efthymiadis, the difficulties stem from frequent changes in legislation on land ownership and privatisation that often are ill implemented; frequent changes in tax laws; and a lack of clarity in investment incentives.
Among topics to be debated at the forum are banking cooperation, the creation of a Thessaloniki-based southeast European central equities market, and cooperation in transport, construction, telecommunications, industry, energy, commerce, shipping and to urism.
Also for discussion is foreign policy and cooperation, the role of the US and Russia in development for the region, and the importance for Greece and southeastern Europe of the 2004 Olympic Games to be hosted by Athens.
Efthymiadis acknowledged that Greek business activity in the Balkans in this decade has been hampered by organisational and communication problems.
The forum will be launched on Monday by Macedonia-Thrace Minister Philippos Petsalnikos and followed by a round-up of Balkan cooperation in 1997.
Leader of the conservative New Democracy party Kostas Karamanlis will address a dinner the same evening, and National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou is to deliver a closing address on Tuesday evening.
Due to attend the forum are Development Minister Vasso Papandreou, Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis, Transport and Communications Minister Tasos Mandelis, Development Undersecretary Anna Diamantopoulou and Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodo ulakis.
Countries due to be officially represented at the forum include Bulgaria, Moldava, Ukraine and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Also scheduled to speak is US Ambassador in Athens Nicholas Burns.
 Greece, Moldova sign trade cooperation pact
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Greek and Moldovan officials yesterday signed a cooperation agreement aimed at improving economic, trade and technological ties between the two countries.
The agreement was signed by Greek National Economy Undersecretary Alekos Baltas and his Moldovan counterpart, Dumitru Bragis.
It calls for swifter procedures to promote cooperation in industry, trade, services and modern technology.
The pact also envisages the mutual promotion and protection of investments, measures to avoid double taxation, and the introduction of TACIS programmes in Moldova.
The two sides also discussed a credit facility totalling 10 million US dollars to Moldova that has yet to be accomplished due to problems in Moldova's banking system.
Moldova and Greece are members of the Black Sea Cooperation Agreement and the Black Sea Bank.
According to government figures, 33 Greek businesses are active in Moldova in trade, industry, tourism, transport, insurance, banking services and information technology.
 Greece expected to finalise Dr 100 bln cutbacks in fortnight
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Greece's government is expected to decide over the next two weeks how to cut budgetary spending in 1998 by 100 billion drachmas.
The spending cuts, which are to be made from grants, were discussed at a meeting yesterday attended by National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, and his deputies Christos Pahtas, George Drys and Nikos Christodoulakis.
The officials will meet again over the next two weeks to determine which grants are to be scrapped.
The cuts were pledged by the government when it devalued the drachma over a week ago in order to ease entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechanism.
 Greek, US tax authorities extend cooperation pact
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Greek and US tax authorities extended by one year a technical cooperation agreement first signed in 1996. Finance Undersecretary George Drys said yesterday that extension of the pact with IRS, the US tax authority, would help in the government's drive to combat tax evasion, cut costs and improve services for taxpayers.
 Songwriter Panou convicted of murder
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)A Kavala court yesterday convicted a popular Greek songwriter on a murder count, sentencing him to life in prison.
Akis Panou was also convicted of illegal arms possession.
Five members of the seven-member court also did not find any extenuating circumstances for Panou, who admitted to killing his daugther's married boyfriend last summer, claiming it was a crime of "honour" and committed in the heat of the moment.
He has the right to apeal the verdict.
 Search for gunman continues
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Police are continuing to search for a convicted murderer involved in a shoot-out with police officers on Saturday night that left his brother dead and two officers injured.
Authorities searched the family home of Panayiotis Vlastos in the Metamorphosi district yesterday, in the hope that they would find a trail to the 27-year-old.
His brother, Costas Vlastos, 33, was killed in the shoot-out in the Kallithea district on Saturday. Both men were serving 15-year jail terms for their involvement in a 1994 double murder, but were released from prison on a five-day leave in December last year. On being arrested by police three days into their leave, the two brothers were inexplicably allowed to continue their leave, despite being found in possession of a pistol, a small amount of hashish and wearing bulletproof vests.
They failed to return to jail when their leave ended.
Sources at the justice ministry said that a preliminary investigation into why the two brothers were allowed to continue their leave was already under way.
One of the two police officers injured in the shoot-out remained in a serious condition in a local hospital, suffering from a bullet wound in the neck.
 ... Yiannopoulos' responseIn a related development, Justice Minister Evangelos Yiannopoulos issued instructions for disciplinary actions regarding the controversial five-day leave given to the imprisoned Vlastos brothers.
Mr. Yiannopoulos said all details of the case will be examined, although he expressed a view that it is probably a case of negligence and not guile.
He added that there is no question of abolishing the five-day leave for inmates, although stricter criteria will probably be set.
 PM calls for stepped up anti-crime measures
Athens 24/03/1998 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday recommended to Greek Police's (EL.AS) leadership that strict implementation of anti-crime measures begin.
The premier's recommendation came during a meeting with the public order ministry's leadership and senior police officials.
Measures include increased control ID check-points, especially in areas were there is a rise in criminal activity. Another measure discussed was the creation of a border police.
According to government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, increased patrols over the past week had already borne results.
Mr. Reppas said that the issue is also likely to be raised at a meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) on Friday - called to discuss security and the armed forces procurements programme.
Meanwhile, responding to a question regarding the attribution of crimes to foreign nationals and fears of racist phenomena, Mr. Reppas said:
"The presence of numerous foreigners has created an imbalance, but we must all act in a responsible manner. It is a matter of personal responsibility."
Labour Undersecretary Christos Protopapas stated after the meeting that all the undocumented workers without a "green card" as well as those who did not obtain one by the end of May will be deported.
He stressed that Greece will not become a place of "other" activities by groups of illegal immigrants.