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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-05-19

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 may need new measures for euro entry, OECD says
  • [02] Gov't to draft tight budget for 2000
  • [03] Stocks jump on hopes of Kosovo peace
  • [04] European mutual funds rise 23.8 pct in 1998
  • [05] EFG Eurobank begins rights issue
  • [06] Ergobank reports net pre-tax profits
  • [07] Athens Foreign Exchange
  • [08] Papandreou continues contacts for resolution of Kosovo conflict
  • [09] Government denies press report on military cargo
  • [10] Greek MPs to visit Belgrade
  • [11] Kosovar refugees bound for Australia to transit through Thessaloniki
  • [12] Tsohatzopoulos concludes visit to Bulgaria, appears optimistic over Kosovo
  • [13] US National War College students to visit
  • [14] Greece confident new Israeli government will give new impetus to ME peace process
  • [15] Papazoi calls for protection of Yugoslavia's monuments
  • [16] Scientists say no increase in radioactivity
  • [17] Greek ambassador to US voices concern over prolongation of Kosovo crisis
  • [18] Simitis stresses importance of upcoming Euroelections
  • [19] Karamanlis accusses government of 'reannouncing' major projects in light of Euroelections
  • [20] Constantopoulos calls for parliamentary resolution on Yugoslavia
  • [21] 'Athens 2004' to have own pavilion at ITF
  • [22] Parliamentary committee concludes investigation into Ocalan case, fails to agree
  • [23] EU consumer goods to bear two-year guarantee in 2002
  • [24] Three-year bonds auction
  • [25] Book-reading still a passtime for minority, survey shows
  • [26] Bloodstains found in car used by terrorists
  • [27] Moody's maintains Greece's credit rating
  • [28] Greece needs small push to enter EMU, MSDW comments
  • [29] New ownership of Prinos oil field

  • [01] Greece may need new measures for euro entry, OECD says

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Greece's government may need to adopt new fiscal and monetary measures in order to ensure entry into the euro zone in 2001, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development said yesterday.

    In its six-monthly report, the Paris-based OECD said that the country had moved closer to alignment with the European Union, and meeting the inflation criterion was feasible.

    At the same time, new measures may be required in order to make sure that all the criteria were met, the OECD said.

    Needed were a bolder overhaul of public enterprises and higher competitiveness in industry in order to boost the competitiveness of the whole economy and achieve real, rather than nominal, convergence, the report said.

    The international organisation forecast that the rate of growth would slow to 3.0 percent in 1999 from 3.5 percent in the previous year.

    The drop was attributed to an anticipated decline in the rate of growth of exports to 4.0 percent in 1999 from 7.0 percent a year earlier.

    However, GDP growth would recover in 2000, rising to 3.5 percent again, due to public investments, lower real interest rates and stronger private consumption, the OECD predicted.

    Contributing to a decline in inflation was a slowdown in the rate of increase of per unit labour cost, which in turn stemmed from wage agreements in 1998-1999.

    The report forecast average headline inflation of 2.75 percent for 1999 against 3.2 percent in April.

    End-of-year inflation would be slightly higher than the government's target of a rate below 2.0 percent.

    The rate of decline of inflation would slow in 2000 due to the rise in growth, the report said.

    But the risk for alignment lay in the rate of decline in headline inflation this year.

    From the autumn, the beneficial impact of cuts in indirect taxes would have been absorbed into the consumer price index. The OECD estimated the cuts as representing one percentage point of inflation.

    Possibly offsetting current favourable cost conditions were pressures likely to push up operational costs in sectors of the economy sheltered from competition; excess demand fuelled by continuous investments; rapid credit expansion; and uncertainty over the future of prices of raw materials.

    These were the factors that could create the need for new economic measures, the OECD said.

    Economic policy should remain stable and fiscal policy should become tighter on public spending.

    At the same time, greater primary surpluses could aid a more rapid decline in the large public debt.

    In 1999, domestic industrial production would rise by 4.0 percent against 7.3 percent in 1998. It would rise again to 5.0 percent in 2000.

    Unemployment would hit 10.2 percent in 1999 and 10.1 percent in 2000 against 10.1 percent in 1998.

    The Kosovo crisis was likely to have adverse repercussions mainly on tourism. Trade between Greece and Balkan countries was also likely to suffer, the report added.

    "The final impact on Greece's GDP will be fairly small, unless the problems in Kosovo spread and intensify," it said.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Gov't to draft tight budget for 2000

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Next year's budget will reflect a strict fiscal policy, including curbs on hiring and consumer and operational spending in the public sector in order to further reduce the public deficit and debt, Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said yesterd ay.

    Releasing a circular to ministries with guidelines on drafting next year's budget, Mr. Christodoulakis noted that the government had overhauled its methods.

    Innovations include a ceiling on spending by ministries and their offshoots, except for wages, which are calculated under incomes policy.

    The ceiling for growth in consumer and operational spending for 2000 is 2.0 percent against 1999.

    In addition, the new system urges ministries to make savings, which may then be transferred to the following year.

    Reserves have been abolished, and replaced with a special fund to finance contingencies.

    Recruitment will be approved if an annual provision has already been made to cover the spending involved.

    Mr. Christodoulakis said that the government's fiscal policy for the year 2000 focused on the following measures:

  • Ongoing structural reforms through privatisation, rationalisation and curbs on consumer spending
  • Curbs on recruitment
  • Monitoring of spending by subsidised state agencies
  • The merger or abolition of outmoded agencies and activities
  • Extending use of a duplicate accounting system to subsidised agencies * Paying public sector staff through domestic banks

    Commenting on a report on the Greek economy by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Mr. Christodoulakis said it confirmed major progress made towards convergence with the European Union.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Stocks jump on hopes of Kosovo peace

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Hopes of a diplomatic solution to the war in Yugoslavia and comments by the German chancellor against the deployment of ground forces in Kosovo encouraged sentiment on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday, pushing equity prices to new records.

    The general index ended 4.32 percent higher at 4,106.50 points, its 27th record this year. It now stands 50 percent up from the beginning of 1999.

    Traders also said a recovery in European bourses at the opening, based on hopes of stable interest rates in the US, encouraged buying activity. Turnover was 199.367 billion drachmas and volume 38,078,197 shares.

    Sector indices scored gains.

    Banks jumped 4.94 percent, Leasing soared 6.37 percent, Insurance ended 3.82 percent higher, Investment ended 1.95 percent up, Construction rose 1.91 percent, Industrials jumped 4.26 percent, Miscellaneous increased 4.47 percent and Holding rose 3.16 pe rcent.

    The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 3.17 percent up, while the FTSE/ASE 20 index jumped 4.59 percent to 2,452.76. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 267 to 25 with another seven issues unchanged.

    Viosol, Altec, Strintzis and Macedonian Textiles were the most heavily traded stocks.

    A total of 96 shares ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit up. Among them were Technodomi, Mesohoritis, Metka, Maxim, Kambas, Koumbas, Sarandopoulos, Etem, European Credit and Albio Viokarpet.

    Karelias, Daring, Sato, Interinvest, Corfil, Proodeftiki, Fourlis, Macedonian Plastics, Fanco and Yalco suffered the heaviest percentage losses.

    National Bank of Greece ended at 22,610 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 22, 440, Ergobank at 30,495, Ionian Bank at 17,300, Titan Cement at 27,800, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,790, Intracom at 23,000, Minoan Lines at 8,316, Panafon at 8,200 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,370.

    Bond prices rise in light trade : Ten-year-bond prices gained 25 basis points yesterday and 15-year paper rose by 45 basis points.

    Electronic trade totalled 52 billion drachmas from 26 billion drachmas in the previous session. The yield spread with German bunds was 162 basis points.

    In the foreign currency market, the drachma was flat against the euro. At the central bank's daily fix, the euro was set at 325.40 drachmas, the same as the previous session.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] European mutual funds rise 23.8 pct in 1998

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    European mutual fund assets totalled 2.265 trillion euros in 1998, an increase of 23.8 percent from the previous year, the domestic Union of Institutional Investors said in a report yesterday.

    The report said that the number of mutual funds in Europe increased by 8.9 percent in 1998 to total 18,875.

    France remained the leader in Europe's mutual funds market with a 22.2 percent share, followed by Luxembourg and Italy at 17.6 and 16.4 percent, respectively.

    Italy registered the biggest annual growth (96 pct), followed by Belgium (56 pct) and Finland (51 pct).

    Fixed-income mutual funds accounted for the lion's share of the European market at 34.9 percent despite a small decline in 1998.

    Equity mutual funds increased their share to 31.8 percent compared with only 17.4 percent six years ago.

    Money market funds continued losing market share, falling by 18.5 percent last year.

    Equity mutual funds were the leaders in Britain with 83.5 pct of the domestic market, Sweden 75 pct, Belgium 55.5 pct and Denmark 54.2 pct.

    Fixed-income mutual funds were the leader in Austria with 58 pct of the domestic market, Denmark 54 pct, Italy 50.5 pct and Luxembourg 48.8 pct.

    Finally, money market funds were leaders in Greece, with a 66.4 pct stake of the market, France 31.3 pct and Portugal 30 pct.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] EFG Eurobank begins rights issue

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    EFG Eurobank yesterday launched a rights issue for a share capital increase of 110 billion drachmas.

    Available are 22,092,725 new common shares with a nominal value of 500 drachmas each.

    Eligible for the issue are all registered shareholders up to April 30.

    The new shares will be offered a ratio of one to five at 5,000 drachmas each. The rights issue ends on June 18.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] Ergobank reports net pre-tax profits

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    The Ergobank's general assembly of shareholders decided yesterday to allocate dividends amounting to 900 drachmas to the bank's shareholders. The dividends increased by 11.1 per cent compared to 1998, equalling the increase in the bank's net profits.

    Ergobank's President Xenofon Nikitas said the bank's net pre-tax profits in the first quarter of the current year amounted to 19.1 billion drachmas compared to 10.9 billion drachmas during the corresponding period last year, representing 31 per cent of the net pre-tax profits for all of 1998.

    The bank's net pre-tax profits increased by 11.6 per cent last year and amounted to 61.5 billion drachmas, while the Group's profits totalled 76.3 billion drachmas (increasing by 21.2 per cent).

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Athens Foreign Exchange

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Bank of Greece closing rates of: May 18, 1999

    Parities in Drachmas

    Banknotes             Buying  Selling
    US Dollar             302.084 309.088
    Can.Dollar            206.812 211.607
    Australian Dlr        202.844 207.547
    Pound Sterling        489.453 500.801
    Irish Punt            409.868 419.371
    Pound Cyprus          558.496 571.445
    Pound Malta           722.825 752.943
    Turkish pound (100)     0.068   0.071
    French franc           49.210  50.351
    Swiss franc           201.475 206.146
    Belgian franc           8.002   8.187
    German Mark           165.043 168.870
    Finnish Mark           54.290  55.549
    Dutch Guilder         146.479 149.875
    Danish Kr.             43.434  44.441
    Swedish Kr.            35.869  36.700
    Norwegian Kr.          39.293  40.204
    Austrian Sh.           23.459  24.003
    Italian lira (100)     16.672  17.058
    Yen (100)             245.788 251.487
    Spanish Peseta          1.940   1.985
    Port. Escudo            1.610   1.647
    
    Foreign Exchange      Buying  Selling
    New York              302.084 309.088
    Montreal              206.812 211.607
    Sydney                202.844 207.547
    London                489.453 500.801
    Dublin                409.868 419.371
    Nicosia               558.496 571.445
    Paris                  49.210  50.351
    Zurich                201.475 206.146
    Brussels                8.002   8.187
    Frankfurt             165.043 168.870
    Helsinki               54.290  55.549
    Amsterdam             146.479 149.875
    Copenhagen             43.434  44.441
    Stockholm              35.869  36.700
    Oslo                   39.293  40.204
    Vienna                 23.459  24.003
    Milan                  16.672  17.058
    Tokyo                 245.788 251.487
    Madrid                  1.940   1.985
    Lisbon                  1.610   1.647
    
    Athens News Agency

    [08] Papandreou continues contacts for resolution of Kosovo conflict

    HELSINKI, 19/05/1999 (ANA- I. Afentouli)

    Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday held contacts with Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen and counterpart Tarja Halonen, and today is due to meet President Marti Ahtisaari, who has assumed a special mediatory role in efforts to resolve the Kosovo crisis.

    Mr. Papandreou, who briefed his hosts on the Greek positions regarding the amplification of decisions by the G8 with a view to a speedy solution, told his counterpart that Greece, being a Balkan country, was strongly interested in the Finnish initiative .

    "We propose a ceasefire for a short period of time, let us say 48 hours, so that we might enter the final phase towards a diplomatic solution," he stated.

    Diplomatic sources said Greece held the view that a solution might be more acceptable by Belgrade if preceded by a ceasefire for a strictly predetermined time.

    Mr. Papandreou discussed with his counterpart issues concerning the "Day After" in the Balkans, as Finland, which assumes the EU presidency on July 1, will shoulder the burden of coordinating the implementatiion of any agreement that may arise.

    The Greek official will also meet tomorrow with US Assistant Secretary of State Strobe Talbot, who will brief him on the the results of his consultations with Russian mediator Viktor Chernomyrdin.

    Belgrade welcomes Papandreou's proposal for 48-hour truce :BELGRADE (ANA - M.Mouratidis) - Belgrade yesterday welcomed a proposal by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou for a 48-hour truce and ceasefire for military operations in Yugoslavia.

    Speaking at a news conference in Belgrade, Foreign Ministry spokesman Nebojsa Vujovic said all proposals and ideas for a cessation of NATO's aerial bombardment were positive "and we are open to discuss them and give impetus for diplomatic and political progress".

    "It is the only way to resolve the Kosovo problem. The bombing must stop as soon as possible so that diplomatic talks can begin," Mr. Vujovic said.

    Mr. Vujovic reiterated that the G-8 draft peace agreement provided a means for the Kosovo problem to be confronted once again within the framework of dialogue and under the auspices of the United Nations.

    Mr. Papandreou's proposal was also welcomed by Serbia's largest opposition Democratic Party (DS).

    A DS statement said the proposal could open the way for diplomatic activity, enable implementation of Belgrade's decision for the partial withdrawal of Serb army and police forces from Kosovo and facilitate the return of refugees.

    Athens News Agency

    [09] Government denies press report on military cargo

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    The government yesterday denied a press report that weapons and other military supplies destined for Albania and the UCK were being moved via Athens' Hellinikon international airport.

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that humanitarian aid for Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was being moved via Hellinikon and other parts of the country.

    He said the cargos in question underwent normal customs checks, adding that an official investigation of the issue had shown that no war supplies had arrived destined for FYROM.

    The report, appearing in yesterday's issue of the Athens afternoon daily Vradyni, alleged that weapons and coffins had arrived at Hellinikon and were carried off on trucks with Albanian licence plates without passing through customs.

    Mr. Reppas said that pictures accompanying the newspaper report showing crates destined for Albania were from the cargo of humanitarian aid brought by a plane, which landed at Hellinikon.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] Greek MPs to visit Belgrade

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    A delegation of Greek MPs, headed by PASOK MP Lambros Kannellopoulos, leave today for Belgrade.

    The delegation, all members of the parliament's foreign and social affairs committee, are expected to meet with representatives of the Yugoslav parliament and political parties.

    Athens News Agency

    [11] Kosovar refugees bound for Australia to transit through Thessaloniki

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Kosovar refugees en route to temporary shelter in Australia will transit through Thessaloniki tomorrow. According to reports, some 500 Kosovo Albanian refugees will arrive in the northern Greek port by road from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia camps .

    They will be accommodated at the city's airport for a few hours before a foreign airline company aircraft takes them to Australia.

    Thessaloniki is expected to be a transit stop for some 20,000 Kosovo Albanian refugees on their way to temporary shelter in western countries, mainly the U.S.

    Athens News Agency

    [12] Tsohatzopoulos concludes visit to Bulgaria, appears optimistic over Kosovo

    SOFIA, 19/05/1999 (ANA - S. Tzimas)

    National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos concluded his two-day visit to Bulgaria yesterday, appearing optimistic that the terms and preconditions for a peaceful solution to the Kosovo crisis will be created soon.

    "We are optimistic that the terms for a peaceful solution will emerge in the next few days from the continuing initiatives," he said, addressing the commander of Bulgaria's Military Academy in the city of Veliko Tirnovo and reiterated that the positions of Sofia and Athens converge on the issue of Yugoslavia.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos met with almost all members of Bulgaria's political leadership and reached the conclusion that "there is also a common conception in Bulgaria on the need to promote a diplomatic solution as soon as possible."

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos met with Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov, Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova and Defence Minister Mr. Ananiev on Monday, with whom he also signed an agreement on the quality of armaments and products of war industries. He also hel d talks with the leader of the socialist party Mr. Parvanov.

    Yesterday, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos visited the city of Veliko Tirnovo, Bulgaria's old capital, where he was given a guided tour of the Military Academy and had honours bestowed on him by its leadership. He visited the Orthodox Christian monastery at Dianovo afterwards and returned to Athens in the afternoon.

    Athens News Agency

    [13] US National War College students to visit

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    US National War College students will visit Greece from May 20-23 as part of a training programme.

    The students, during the visit here which has been an annual event during the past four years, will also visit various archaeological sites.

    Athens News Agency

    [14] Greece confident new Israeli government will give new impetus to ME peace process

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Greece yesterday expressed its certainty that the new Israeli government which will be formed after Monday's general elections will give a new impetus to the Middle East peace process.

    Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis said "I wish to congratulate the leader of the Labour Party Mr. Ehud Barak on his success in the elections on May 17. I am certain that the government of Mr. Barak will give a new impetus to the peace proce ss for an overall, permanent and just solution in the Middle East in the framework of the Oslo and Wye River agreements. Greece will make every effort to help in this direction."

    "I also believe that the already very good relations between Greece and Israel will improve even further and will constitute the basis for peace and security in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean," he added.

    Athens News Agency

    [15] Papazoi calls for protection of Yugoslavia's monuments

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Greek Culture Minister Elisabeth Papazoi yesterday participated in the European Union's culture ministers' unofficial meeting in Weimar, Germany.

    The central issue of discussions was the preservation of Yugoslavia's cultural monuments from NATO's bombardments and it was decided that the issue will be included in the German EU Presidency's conclusions.

    Ms. Papazoi stressed the need for the protection of the monuments during her address.

    On the cultural budget of the Union, which was also discussed, Ms. Papazoi said that the ECU 167 million was the lowest amount the ministers should accept, while her counterparts from Britain and the Netherlands requested reductions of that budget.

    Athens News Agency

    [16] Scientists say no increase in radioactivity

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Scientists yesterday reiterated that radioactivity level readings in Greece have not indicated any increases after the war in Yugoslavia started, while chemical pollutant readings also remain in normal numbers.

    The coordinating committee of scientists and public agencies during a meeting held yesterday at the Technical Chambers said that a petition is forwarded by non-governmental organisations to the European Union and the United Nations regarding the impact of the war, the bombing and the violation of international agreements.

    Athens News Agency

    [17] Greek ambassador to US voices concern over prolongation of Kosovo crisis

    NEW YORK, 19/05/1999 (ANA- M. Georgiadou)

    The consolidation of democratic institutions and a rational approach to the specific political and economic problems in SE Europe requires that the region functions as a unitary whole with help from international organisat ions and that there are close contacts between the leaders of the countries concerned, Greek ambassador to Washington Alexandros Filon said in an address to the National Committee for American Foreign Policy.

    Mr. Filon expressed concern over the prolongation of the crisis in Kosovo, emphasising that a solution to the problem was very crucial for the future of the region. He referred to the huge problems neighbouring countries are facing, being forced to host hundreds of thousands of refugees.

    He further referred especially to the smooth cooperation between the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey in the adoption of certain urgent humanitarian measures for Kosovo refugees, stressing that this cooperation was building foundations for the future.

    He noted that efforts for a solution to the Kosovo problem had to be combined with others for resolving the Cyprus issue which had a special bearing on relations between the two countries.

    Athens News Agency

    [18] Simitis stresses importance of upcoming Euroelections

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the June 13 Euroelections were important, adding that the speed and effectiveness of the course of the government's work will depend on their outcome.

    Mr. Simitis, who was speaking after meeting his ruling PASOK party's Eurodeputy candidates at the Maximos Mansion yesterday, said the country's development programme will also depend on them and for which citizens must vote positively.

    He said that one dilemma raised is which Greece is wanted. Replying to this dilemma himself, he said the government wanted a strong Greece in a prosperous Europe.

    Referring to the positions of European socialists and conservatives in relation to Greece, Mr. Simitis said there was a big difference between them and that the European socialists are closer to Greece in contrast to the conservatives who are observing a pro-Turkish stance.

    Mr. Simitis further said that differences between the socialists and conservatives also existed on the issue of employment. He said the socialists have a policy for more jobs, while the conservatives are interested in monetary stability and market domination.

    Athens News Agency

    [19] Karamanlis accusses government of 'reannouncing' major projects in light of Euroelections

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis said yesterday that Greece diverges from the European Union at the real economy level and that the country will join Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) but will find all the problems before it. Mr. Karamanlis, who was speaking last night at an event organised by the Graduates Society of the Athens Economic University (ASOE), said that in the economy the fictitious reality is clashing with the economy's real world.

    Mr. Karamanlis said the country's accession to EMU will be conducted with a resilient interpretation of conditions, with political favouritism on the issue of inflation and creative accounting on the issue of the fiscal sector.

    He said that unemployment has increased by one percentage point, according to EU figures, no major project is proceeding at a satisfactory rate and accused the government of "reannouncing" major projects in light of the Euroelections.

    Athens News Agency

    [20] Constantopoulos calls for parliamentary resolution on Yugoslavia

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Coalition for the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos yesterday proposed to the other political parties to issue a unanimous parliamentary resolution requesting an end to the bombing of Yugoslavia. During a press conference yester day, Mr. Constantopoulos called on the government to state unequivocally its opposition to NATO ground operations in Yugoslavia. He also called the government to state that it will not provide any facilities at the Thessaloniki port.
    Athens News Agency

    [21] 'Athens 2004' to have own pavilion at ITF

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    The Olympics organising committee "Athens 2004" will have its own pavilion at the International Trade Fair in Thessaloniki in a bid to attract broader participation throughout the country in the preparations for the Olympic Games in 2004.

    Meanwhile, three designs selected out of 690 initially submitted for the Olympics 2004 emblem have been forwarded to the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne.

    Athens News Agency

    [22] Parliamentary committee concludes investigation into Ocalan case, fails to agree

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    A parliamentary committee yesterday concluded its investigation into the circumstances and events preceding the handing over of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan to Turkish government representatives in Kenya last February, after he had spent a short period in Greece and in the Greek embassy in Nairobi.

    The lawmakers, representing different parties, failed to agree on a single report, issuing six different ones.

    Ruling party deputies admitted to mistaken handling of the affair, whose end forced three top ministers to resign, but blamed Ocalan's initial entry to Greece on retired navy officer Antonis Naxakis and a number of secret service operators and civil ser vants, who forced the rebel leader on a reluctant government. "We tried to help Ocalan and we failed. But this in considerable distance from claiming that we handed him over. Why and for what in return?", asked Interior Minister Vaso Papandreou.

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis described the affair as pitiful, which had ridiculed the country, and spoke of huge responsibilities on the part of the prime minister and the government. He said the committee majority's rep ort was manufactured, designed to conceal these responsibilities.

    Coalition of the Left leader Nikos Constantopoulos charged the government had handled the affair on instructions from "outside," which moved in parallel with plans that have now materialised in the tragedy of war in the Balkans.

    Athens News Agency

    [23] EU consumer goods to bear two-year guarantee in 2002

    BRUSSELS, 19/05/1999 (ANA- Y. Zitouniati)

    All consumer goods bought in the European Union will bear a two-year guarantee with full consumer rights for repair or replacement, as of January 1, 2002, Commissioner Ema Bonino announced yesterday.

    "It is the most important directive for consumers which the the Council has ever adopted, and concerns all consumers in the EU in all their daily purchases. It aims to contribute to bringing Europe closer to its citizens, " she said.

    The significance of the directive is greater for consumers in some countries, such as Greece, Germany, Austria, Portugal and Spain, where the guarantee for goods does not exceed six months. According to the proposed directive, if a good presents a deficiency within six months from the date of purchase, the burden of proof that it was deficient from the start does not lie with the buyer. On the contrary, the seller has to prove that it was not.

    Athens News Agency

    [24] Three-year bonds auction

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    A new impressive decrease occurred in the interest rate during yesterday's auction for three-year bonds amounting to 150 billion drachmas carried out by the Finance Ministry. The average interest rate was set at 6.53 per cent compared to 7.10 per cent during the previous auction held for similar securities on March 16, 1999. Banks submitted bids totalling 462.5 billion drachmas, which covered the desired amount by about 3.1 times. The Hellenic State ultimately absorbed 172.5 billion drachmas without giving an additional commission.
    Athens News Agency

    [25] Book-reading still a passtime for minority, survey shows

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Greeks are unlikely to resort to a good book in their free time, according to the findings of the first national survey of reading habits in the country. Only 8.5 percent of those questioned said they had read more than ten books in the past year; 38 perc ent said they had read only one.

    Conducted by the National Book Centre on 3,807 Greeks aged over 15 between November 1998 and January 1999, the survey shows that book-reading is still a pastime for the minority.

    A third - 30.4 percent - said they do not read books, although 31.8 percent said they dipped into books related to their profession.

    Book-reading habits appeared to be sharply drawn on sex and age factors. Women were found to read more than men. Books were popular among urban- dwellers, the young and the elderly, but not the middle-aged. Only 12.9 percent of those with primary-level education read books compared to 43.1 percent of those with secondary education.

    Although 70.9 percent of university graduates said they were book-readers, only one in ten of those said they had read a book in the past year.

    Athens News Agency

    [26] Bloodstains found in car used by terrorists

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    A car used by terrorists who launched a rocket attack against the German ambassador's residence in an Athens suburb was found late Monday night with bloodstains on the back seat, indicating that at least one of the perpetrators was injured.

    Police said the car, a stolen Toyota, was found abandoned in Kato Halandri on the main thoroughfare Messoghion, a few kilometres away from newly- appointed ambassador Karl-Heinz Albert Kuhna's Halandri residence.

    "We found bloodstains on the back seat of the car, which is believed to have been used by the terrorists. This find confirms that one of the perpetrators was injured," a police source told ANA.

    The bloodstains from the car would be sent for DNA testing for a possible match with bloodstains found near the makeshift rocket launcher found a few yards away from the ambassadorial residence

    The source further said that apparently the plastic pipe used to fire the rocket had broken as the rocket was fired, injuring the user.

    Police also found a woolen cap near the scene of the attack, which they believe was used by the attackers to disguise themselves.

    Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far, police believe it is the work of the elusive "November 17" terrorist organisation, which first emerged in 1975.

    Blast at Nationale Nederlanden offices : Police investigating an explosion early yesterday at the suburban Athens offices of insurance firm Nationale Nederlanden suspect the cause of the blast to be overworked air conditioning units and not an explosive device.

    Residents in the seaside neighbourhood of Glyfada reported an explosion at about 1.20 a.m. but police now believe that the noise was actually the sound of a window breaking.

    They believe that the window exploded outwards due to the low temperatures in the office and the high temperatures outside.

    Anti-terrorist officers said they had found no evidence of any explosive device.

    Athens News Agency

    [27] Moody's maintains Greece's credit rating

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Moody's have maintained for the time being Greece's credit rating, according to an announcement in London yesterday.

    The international credit rating agency had upgraded the country's standing in December 1996 from Baa3 to Baa1, where it stays.

    Moody's upgraded Greece's rating as regards its external debt in February, from neutral to positive.

    The agency said inflation remained an obstacle to the country's convergence to other European economies. It nevertheless estimates that it will be able to join Economic and Monetary Union in 2001. This points to a further gradual adjustment of its evalu ation as regards external debt to the A2 level, where internal debt already stands.

    Athens News Agency

    [28] Greece needs small push to enter EMU, MSDW comments

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Low interest rates and generous inflows from EU funds will create a very favourable growth environment for structural reforms in Greece, according to a comment by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter (MSDW) on the OECD report on the Greek economy, Reuters has said.

    MSDW's chief economist Ricardo Barbieri was quoted as saying the report shared the company's view that Greece needed only a small push to enter EMU.

    "A more ambitious programme of structural reforms, privatizations, and modernisation of the public sector will follow the next (Greek) elections, a difficult challenge that is really worth the effort," he said.

    Athens News Agency

    [29] New ownership of Prinos oil field

    Athens, 19/05/1999 (ANA)

    Petroleum production at the offshore Prinos, Kavala site is being transferred to Hellenic Petroleum S.A. (ELPE), Eurotechniki S.A. and the employees.

    The new ownership-operation of the oil field agreement was created following the dissolution of NAPC as the Canadian based operator of the site Denison decided to cease operations on the site. The new agreement gives ownership-operational rights to the 265 employees and Eurotechniki owner Nikos Loutsikas, while ELPE will also participate with a 35 per cent interest.

    Athens News Agency

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