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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-05-03

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greece announces decision to purchase US,French warplanes
  • [02] May Day rallies marked by anti-war slogans
  • [03] Russian ambassador briefs ND leader
  • [04] Transport minister begins visit to FYROM
  • [05] Gov't expresses support on World Press Day
  • [06] Greek-built refugee camp in Albania inaugurated
  • [07] Magriotis, Athens address mass media conference
  • [08] Campaign to be launched to underline Greece among safest countries for tourists
  • [09] Five killed in gas tanker explosion near Lamia
  • [10] Kurds demonstrate to mark beginning of Ocalan trial
  • [11] Youths firebomb police cars in Athens
  • [12] Burns praises Greek government's decision on warplanes purchase
  • [13] Alpha Credit Bank approves plan for share capital increase scheme
  • [14] Gov't plans to suspend collection of an airport duty
  • [15] Equity prices end week sharply higher on ASE
  • [16] Nine bln dr contract between IKA and Intrasoft approved

  • [01] Greece announces decision to purchase US,French warplanes

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    Greece on Friday announced the purchase of 50 F-16 Block 50 Plus combat aircraft, 15 Mirage 2000-5 warplanes and new weapons systems for its fleet of 10 Mirage 2000s as part of its multi-million dollar armaments programme for the Hellenic Air Force.

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis announced the decision following a meeting of the Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA).

    The total cost of the F-16 aircraft will come to 600 billion drachmas. The 1.3 trillion drachma Hellenic Air Force programme involves the purchase of new combat aircraft and the replacement of losses.

    The main contenders for the lucrative fighter jet contract were the French Mirage-2000-5, the Eurofighter-2000, the US F-15 and F-16 Block 50 Plus and Russia's Sukhoi-27.

    Mr. Simitis said the purchase of the F-16 aircraft would contribute to the development of the country's defence industry as sections of the aircraft will be manufactured in Greece.

    He said the decision to purchase the F-16 aircraft was based in part on the need to maintain uniformity in the Air Force fleet, a policy which would also lead to a reduction in the operating costs of the Armed Forces.

    "When we say we want a 'strong Greece', we mean one which will have a voice and authority, one able to participate in the European architecture and the world security system," Mr. Simitis said.

    "A prerequisite for a strong Greece is a strong economy - and there has been significant progress in this area over the past few years - and a strong defence.

    "A strong Greece means balanced development throughout the country's regions, social cohesion and national unity."

    Referring to the decision in mid-February this year for negotiations to begin for the purchase of 60-90 fourth generation Eurofighters as a medium- term measure in the framework of the armaments programme, Mr. Simitis said this earlier decision would also strengthen the Air Force, as 70-80 percent of the aircraft parts would be manufactured in Greece.

    "In this way we have ensured Greece will have 4th generation combat aircraft of the highest technology as of 2005," he said.

    Referring to other decisions by KYSEA, to purchase US-made Patriot long- range missiles and Russian and French medium and short-range missiles as well as 45 new training aircraft from the US and four airborne radar systems, Mr. Simitis said they would all contribute to upgrading the country's defence capabilities.

    "The sum total of these decisions bolsters the country's defence, its deterrent force and ability to deal with any threat. This has been achieved due to our economic efforts which have created new possibilities," he said.

    "It is our aim to make the Greek Armed Forces so strong that nobody would ever dare to attack the country. We do not follow a policy of pressuring or coercing others. We want and aim for peace, cooperation and friendship to be permanently consolidated in the region," Mr. Simitis said.

    Defence minister : Commenting on the decisions, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said that by the decisions the Air Force will be undoubtedly strengthened in the medium and long term more than ever.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos spoke of tough negotiations and discussions with the National Economy Ministry since, as he said, the armed forces armaments programme had listed the amount of only 390 billion drachmas, an amount which was far from reality for the pu rchase of only 60 new aircraft.

    He said that after efforts were made the amount of 600 billion drachmas was reached for the purchase of 50 F-16 Block 50 Plus aircraft, while the strengthening of the air force fleet was widened.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the Air Force had proposed the procurement of 36 F- 15 aircraft at a total cost of 732 billion drachmas, believing that the specific aircraft was one of strategic importance.

    The Air Force's proposal was not applied, he added, since there was the difference of 132 billion drachmas which was not covered by the National Economy Ministry which has its own priorities.

    On the question of the Air Force's armaments programme, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos spoke of decisions of a strategic and political nature, since the European "Eurofighter" aircraft was selected to be the fourth generation aircraft.

    The purchase of 8-9 twin-seater F-16s was also decided to cover losses, as well as to serve training purposes. The total cost will amount to 70-80 billion drachmas.

    KYSEA approved in principle the purchase of four dinghies which carry a big number of personnel and have speeds of up to 60 knots in conditions of up to 6 beauforte winds. The total cost will amount to 174 million dollars. Candidate countries for the pu rchase are Russia and the Ukraine.

    Replying to a question on whether with KYSEA's decisions the gap between Greece and Turkey was narrowed, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the first substantive step was taken to overturn the disproportionate situation prevailing between the two countries, as a result of the fact that no deterrence policy was applied after 1986. He also expressed the view that competition will continue to exist between the two countries.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] May Day rallies marked by anti-war slogans

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    The traditional May Day labour celebrations-rallies took place on Saturday around the country with special note in Athens and Thessaloniki where rallies were held against the bombing in Yugoslavia.

    The Labour Centre of Athens with the support of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) organised a rally in front of the United States' embassy in Athens.

    GSEE president Christos Polyzogopoulos said that this last May Day of the century was marked by war and requested an immediate end to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.

    A second and separate rally was organised by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) affiliated Workers' Struggle Front (PAME), at Syntagma square.

    The rally ended at the US embassy.

    In Thessaloniki, the city's Labour Centre organised a rally at centrally located Aristotelous square, while a separate one was organised by PAME in front of the central gate of the city's port pier-11, used by the NATO forces to unload materiel destined for NATO forces stationed in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    Political parties : Ruling PASOK president Costas Simitis and the party's Executive Bureau issued a joint press release in light of May Day stressing the strong bonds of the party with workers.

    It added that PASOK joined its voice with that of the workers' unions and all social movements to resist violence, madness, autocracy and nationalism, which is promoted in the Balkans.

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis in his press release for this labour day said that this day of "honour and memory for the workers is celebrated this year under difficult circumstances, since it coincides with the illogical and tragic developments in Yugoslavia".

    The KKE Central Committee, in its press release, called on "workers of all Balkan countries to wake up, so that NATO will leave the region". It also called on workers to stand against the exit of Greek military personnel from the country.

    The Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) in its press release called workers around Greece to rally along the PAME organised efforts and not with what it called "government union leaderships".

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Russian ambassador briefs ND leader

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis was briefed on Friday by Russian Ambassador to Athens Mikhail Botcharnikov on Moscow's efforts to have a political solution found to the Yugoslav crisis, as well as on the mission of Presidential envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin.

    The Russian ambassador stated that the task of trying to bridge the wide gap between the positions of the sides involved in the conflict and the task of finding a political solution will certainly continue.

    Replying to a question on whether the finding of a political solution depends on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, he said "all the interested parties must realise that the time has come that they must stop a dangerous slip towards a conflict on a wider scale now."

    Mr. Karamanlis also met Yugoslav Ambassador Dragomir Vucicevic on Thursday.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] Transport minister begins visit to FYROM

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    Transport and Communications Mi-nister Tassos Mantelis today begins a two- day visit to the neighbouring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    Mr. Mantelis, who is heading a large delegation of Greek public and private enterprises as well as deputies, will meet FYROM President Kiro Gligorov, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and his counterpart Bobi Spirkovski.

    The object of the visit is the promotion of cooperation between the two countries in transport and communications aiming at the region's development and stability.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] Gov't expresses support on World Press Day

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    On the occasion of World Press Day, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas yesterday expressed the government's undivided support and appreciation for the functionaries of the press and stressed the need for them to remain non- aligned and independent in exe rcising their duties.

    Mr. Reppas said that in this way journalists will have a decisive contribution in shaping citizens' objective opinion with the ultimate purpose of further strengthening the democratic nature of public and political life.

    He further said that there is no constitutional freedom without freedom of the press, adding that the press does not merely carry out an informative function but contributes substantively to the application of democracy, constituting one of its ingredients.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] Greek-built refugee camp in Albania inaugurated

    POGRADEC, 03/05/1999 (ANA - P.Haritos)

    Albanian government vice-president Ilir Meta, Health Minister Leonard Solis and the Greek ambassador to Tirana on Saturday inaugurated a refugee camp built by the Greek military contingent in the country.

    The 2,500-person capacity camp received 348 refugees on its first day of operation, as Mr. Meta expressed the absolute satisfaction of his government towards Greece's stance to date.

    The 400-strong Greek military contingent in Albania built the 300-tent camp as part of Greece's efforts to aid Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in dealing with the flood of refugees from Kosovo.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Magriotis, Athens address mass media conference

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    Macedonia-Thrace Minister Yiannis Magriotis yesterday addressed the first Greek Expatriate Mass Media Conference.

    World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Andrew Athens also addressed the participants.

    Mr. Magriotis, during his address said that Greece had given an intime warning to all international organisations that the war in Yugoslavia was not ethically just and did not create the preconditions for a longterm co- existence of peoples.

    In his address, Mr. Athens said that he had noted the absence of a Serbian lobby in the United States, which could have promoted the stance of the Serbians.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] Campaign to be launched to underline Greece among safest countries for tourists

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    Athens said on Friday it would launch an international advertising campaign to underline that the country was among the safest in the world for tourists, in the wake of U.S. warnings to its citizens about travelling to Greece.

    "The campaign will promote Greece's safe image around the world. Greece is not only a factor of stability and peace in the region but is also an extremely safe destination for tourists," Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos said in Parliament.

    Mr. Venizelos, who is also responsible for tourism issues, said that a bomb attack on an Athens hotel earlier this week, which killed a Greek woman and injured another person, had directly targetted the Greek tourist industry.

    The attack was claimed by the Revolutionary Cells urban guerrilla group who said it was to protest the US-led NATO bombings of Yugoslavia.

    The U.S. State Department on Thursday issued a public announcement informing its citizens of the depth of anti-American feeling in Greece prompted by NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia.

    U.S. officials underlined that the announcement was not a travel advisory - which effectively warns citizens not to travel to certain destinations - but an announcement which underlined the need for greater vigilance by U.S. citizens travelling to Greece.

    It added that the U.S. embassy in Greece was not aware of any specific threats against U.S. tourists or residents in Greece.

    Mr. Venizelos said he regretted Washington's reaction and said the aim of the attack "was precisely to provoke such an announcement from the U.S."

    "No government should contribute to actions which create a climate which is completely false," he said.

    "Greece is as safe as any other European Union country and, according to crime statistics, one of the safest in the EU," he said.

    Athens News Agency

    [09] Five killed in gas tanker explosion near Lamia

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    Five people were killed and 17 injured when a propane gas tanker exploded in flames on the Kamena Vourla regional road, near Lamia, on Friday afternoon.

    Police said the accident occurred when a passenger vehicle travelling at high speed rammed into the stationary tanker.The resulting fire engulfed the driver of the passenger vehicle.

    The flames from the collision quickly spread to the tanker causing a powerful explosion that killed three firemen battling the blaze and flung other victims as far as 500 metres away.

    The tanker, six cars, including two police cars, and a fire truck were totally destroyed in the blast. Police said they found debris from the explosion as far as 1,500 metres away and that the area looked as though a bomb had hit it.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] Kurds demonstrate to mark beginning of Ocalan trial

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    Kurds in Greece rallied in Thessaloniki on Friday, to mark the beginning of the "treason" trial in Turkey of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan.

    Among the protesters were 13 Kurds wearing blindfolds, with their mouths taped shut and chained together, a symbolic reference to the pictures of Ocalan broadcast by Turkey in late February, when he was captured.

    Representatives of the protesters called for the international community to show solidarity with the PKK leader, who faces a possible death sentence for his role in the Kurds' separatist struggle in southeast Turkey.

    According to the representatives, however, Ocalan was more likely to 'die of natural causes' while imprisoned, regardless of the court's verdict.

    Ocalan has been in solitary confinement on a tightly-guarded prison island since he was captured by Turkish forces.

    He had been abducted and handed over to Turkish authorities after he left the Greek embassy in Nairobi, where he had been receiving shelter for two weeks.

    The furore over the Greek involvement in what became known as 'the Ocalan affair' - in which it was discovered that he had been brought into the country illegally by Greek citizens without the apparent knowledge of the government authorities - led to the resignation of three ministers.

    A parliamentary committee investigating the Ocalan affair is expected to present its findings on May 7, following a decision by the House to extend the investigation by a few days. The report was originally scheduled to be released last Friday.

    Athens News Agency

    [11] Youths firebomb police cars in Athens

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    A group of about 20 youths firebombed four police patrol cars in Athens shortly after midnight on Saturday and managed to escape arrest.

    The first attack occurred at a quarter to one in the morning when four people hurled two cocktail molotov bombs at a moving patrol car at the crossroads of Kallidromiou and Harilaou Trikoupi. The driver sped away and managed to avoid the bombs and remove the vehicle from the area.

    About 15 other youths then joined the first group and arrived outside the Exarchia police station in Kallidromiou street where they hurled another five molotov bombs at three parked patrol cars which were slightly damaged.

    Athens News Agency

    [12] Burns praises Greek government's decision on warplanes purchase

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    Addressing the conference organised by the Economist in Athens on Friday, US Ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns praised the Greek government's decision to purchase new warplanes, stressing that "we are proud and hail the modernisation of the Greek armed forces."

    The Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) decided at the end of last week to purchase 50 US-built F-16 Block 50 Plus as well as 15 French-built Mirage 2000-5 warplanes.

    Referring to the Kosovo crisis, Mr. Burns said there was always the danger of a flareup in the Balkans due to the action of nationalist forces.

    He said NATO's air strikes gave Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic the opportunity to speed up his cleansing and today we have one million displaced people who left as a result of Serb violence and not NATO's air strikes.

    Mr. Burns said Greece and the US have the same positions. They do not want changes in borders in the Balkans, because a change can bring about more afterwards. He also said that the US realises that Greece is the sole country having a common course with Serbia due to religion and geopolitical position.

    Mr. Burns also stressed that the US does not issue travel advice to Americans not to visit Greece, adding that businessmen and tourists will continue coming.

    Tsohatzopoulos : Addressing the same conference on Friday, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said the international basis of legality for whichever action must be provided by the UN.

    Commenting on the Kosovo crisis, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the logic of a small or greater Serbia has led to the present situation. He said that in no way must a solution be accepted based on the logic of protectorates.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said Greece gives priority in its foreign policy to its relations with the European Union, the US, Russia and the Ukraine, as well as to the strengthening of Euroatlantic cooperation.

    Karamanlis : Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis criticised the government over its position on the war in Yugoslavia and explained that "disagreement is not at the level of general principles but at the level of practical handling."

    He said that Greece has no need of praise nor of acting as an obedient child.

    Mr. Karamanlis expressed reservations and objections over NATO's new role, primarily over the logic prevailing on minorities without national sovereignty and respect for borders being safeguarded, as well as over the vagueness on processes anticipated f or the assumption of initiatives by NATO without the role of the UN being clear.

    He expressed support for a political solution to the Kosovo crisis with respect for human rights, the absolute guaranteeing of borders and the deployment of a peacekeeping force by the OSCE or the UN.

    Athens News Agency

    [13] Alpha Credit Bank approves plan for share capital increase scheme

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    An Alpha Credit Bank's general shareholders' meeting on Friday approved a plan for a share capital increase scheme worth 132 billion drachmas, May 7- 9.

    The plan includes the issuing of 11,000,000 new shares at a nominal price of 1,500 drachmas each in a ratio of one for eight old ones. The offering price was set at 12,000 drachmas per share.

    The bank's president Yiannis Costopoulos, addressing the meeting, said that procedures for the full merger between Alpha Credit and Ionian Bank were progressing at full speed.

    Subsidiaries were expected to be fully merged within 1999, while the legal merger of the two banks was expected early next year, he said. The new group's network will total 437 branches in Greece and 41 abroad. Its ATMs network will exceed 675, pushing the group to second position in the domestic bank market. Alpha Credit Bank will also be one of the largest 80 European financial institutions.

    The bank's target is to raise its domestic share market to 24 percent from its current 20 percent, based on its assets.

    Mr. Costopoulos said the bank will seek listing on the London Stock Exchange through the issuing of Global Depository Receipts (GDRs) and he reiterated that there would be no cutbacks in the group's workforce.

    Athens News Agency

    [14] Gov't plans to suspend collection of an airport duty

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos announced plans by the government to offset possible harm to the country's exports and imports industry and tourism by lifting an airport duty and subsidising road transport.

    Responding on Friday to a question in Parliament on the repercussions of the Yugoslav war on the Greek economy and tourism, Mr. Venizelos said he had requested the transport and communications and national economy and finance ministries to suspend colle ction of the airport duty for the Visegrad countries of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

    "We are organising a system of subsidies for road transport workers from the Visegrad countries, with subsidies for transport or subsidised charter flights which will be used instead of road transport," he said.

    He said those flying in to the airports in Corfu, Thessaloniki, Kavala and Alexandroupoli, regions which have been particularly hard-hit by the Yugoslav war, would be exempt from paying the airport duty.

    Athens News Agency

    [15] Equity prices end week sharply higher on ASE

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    Equity prices ended the last trading session of the week on Friday sharply higher on the Athens Stock Exchange reflecting investors' confidence over a positive outcome in a diplomatic effort to solve the Kosovo crisis.

    The general index ended 2.66 percent higher at 3,617.42 points, off the day's highs. It ended the week 9.19 percent higher and 7.14 percent up in the month.

    The index stands 32.14 percent higher this year.

    Turnover was 138.973 billion drachmas and volume 29,383,450 shares. The week's turnover totalled 563.974 billion drachmas for a daily average of 112.8 billion, down from 117.04 billion the previous week.

    Traders said the market was encouraged by Bank of Greece's report and particularly its positive forecasts on the country's participation in EMU and a drop in the inflation rate to 2.0 percent in the summer.

    Analysts said the resistance showed by the Greek market during the Kosovo crisis was proof of its underlying strength and predicted a quick jump to the 4,000 level immediately after the end of the war.

    Sector indices scored big gains. Banks rose 1.72 percent, Leasing increased 1.02 percent, Insurance fell 0.83 percent, Investment jumped 2.30 percent, Construction soared 7.22 percent, Industrials rose 3.89 percent, Miscellaneous ended 2.93 percent high er and Holding increased 2.46 percent.

    The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 3.10 percent up, while the FTSE/ASE 20 index rose 2.17 percent to 2,244.68.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 257 to 34 with another 8 issues unchanged. Macedonian Textiles, Boutaris, Metka and Mytilineos were the most heavily traded stocks. A total of 52 shares hit the day's 8.0 percent limit up. Among them were Ergodata, Mailis, Aktor, Mihaniki, Hellenic Technodomi, Halcor, Sigalas, Eltrac and Mevaco. Athinea, Desmos, 3A, Doudos, Chipita, Etma, Aspis, Klaoudatos and Xifias sufferred the heaviest percentage losses.

    National Bank of Greece ended at 21,005 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 22, 000, Ergobank at 26,905, Ionian Bank at 18,100, Titan Cement at 23,800, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,485, Intracom at 20,385, Minoan Lines at 7,390, Panafon at 8,210 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,150.

    Athens News Agency

    [16] Nine bln dr contract between IKA and Intrasoft approved

    Athens, 03/05/1999 (ANA)

    Greece's Auditing Council approved a nine-billion drachma contract between the Social Security Foundation (IKA) and computer software systems firm Intrasoft, IKA announced. According to the announcement, Intrasoft will study and construct a customised sof tware system package for IKA in efforts to modernise the foundation's services.

    Athens News Agency

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