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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-06-01

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] Simitis says Greece has lowest crime rate in EU
  • [02] Kaklamanis notes Europe's common policy weaknesses
  • [03] EU FMs decide on basic principles for security andy defence policy
  • [04] Albanian police storm bus, killing hijacker and Greek hostage
  • [05] Twenty-five Greek journalists arrive in Turkey to observe Ocalan trial
  • [06] ND leader argues Greece is not well guarded
  • [07] Vartholomeos says Patriarchate will not move from Istanbul
  • [08] Ecevit calls on Greece to begin dialogue on Aegean islets
  • [09] Police detain eight on suspicion of smuggling cocaine
  • [10] Albanian arrested in Athens shooting

  • [01] Simitis says Greece has lowest crime rate in EU

    Athens, 1/6/1999 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Sunday defended his government's policy in guaranteeing security for Greek citizens, saying that Greece was a safe country and had the lowest crime rate in the European Union.

    Addressing an election rally in Corinth a day after the tragic killing of a Greek taken hostage by an Albanian man in Thessaloniki, said that all illegal immigrants without the proper papers would be repatriated.

    He said that some 45,000 foreigners working and residing illegally in Greece have been repatriated in the first three months of this year and only those economic migrants with green cards will be allowed to continue to stay in Greece.

    Outlining the government's policy on police matters, Mr. Simitis said another 1,500 police officers were being appointed to the service to provide further security in Greece and that the newly-established border police force would further contain illega l migration.

    As of 2000, he said, procedures will begin to enlist another 3,000 police officers into the force. He noted that a 30 billion drachma programme to modernise the Greek Police Force was already under way.

    Mr. Simitis referred at length to the hostage incident, in which Albanian police shot the hijacker and one Greek hostage after the bus the hijacker had commandeered had passed into Albanian territory.

    The apparently mentally disturbed Albanian man brandished a hand grenade and a Kalashnikov rifle and kept police at bay by getting the bus to drive around the northern Greek region for 21 hours.

    Greece acceded to his demand for 50 million drachmas and entry to Albania in the hope that he would release the eight hostages on the bus.

    Mr. Simitis said the Greek authorities had acted with the overriding philosophy that "there should be no victims, no injuries, each life must be protected".

    He rejected charges from the opposition New Democracy party that the country had been humiliated, saying that "the country's humiliation lies in the exploitation of such incidents for party point-scoring."

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Kaklamanis notes Europe's common policy weaknesses

    Athens, 1/6/1999 (ANA)

    Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis said yesterday that the war in Yugoslavia has made evident Europe's significant weaknesses in a common foreign and defence policy.

    Mr. Kaklamanis said that prevailing in the new world order is the mentality of "might is right."

    He said that Greeks looked forward to the overthrow of this world "disorder" and to a return to the law in international relations. EU FMs decide on basic principles for security and defence policy

    Athens News Agency

    [03] EU FMs decide on basic principles for security andy defence policy

    BRUSSELS, 1/6/1999 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)

    EU foreign ministers yesterday decided on the basic principles allowing for a common European security and defence policy.

    The ministers said that only a few minor points were unresolved in a wide- ranging plan to let the EU dispatch member states' forces on peacekeeping missions, and these were likely to be cleared up by the EU summit in Cologne, Germany on June 3-4.

    German European Affairs Minister Guenther Verheugen told a press conference that "calculated steps, the most necessary" were taking place which are translated into the institutionalisation of missions capable of acting in crisis prevention and crisis ma nagement with or without NATO.

    Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said that the search of a common defence identity for Europe was an important step.

    Concerning the Kosovo crisis, Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis spoke of "slim chances" for an effective diplomacy, saying that Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari will, together with Russian Balkans envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, travel to Belg rade this week.

    Turkey: The council also considered "untimely "the upgrade of EU-Turkish relations in the framework of the Union's enlargement.

    The issue was postponed and will likely be raised by the Finnish presidency, during the second half of 1999.

    Meanwhile, Ankara in an effort to improve the climate between Turkey and the EU has contacted both Brussels and Athens. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit sent a letter to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, while Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem sent a letter to his Greek counterpart.

    Mr. Papandreou spoke of an "offensive of friendship" by Turkey, which stresses the need for improved relations between the two countries, cooperation on several sectors including the fight against terrorism and the need for structural reforms on human rights issues in Turkey so that it might fullfil the Copenhagen criteria, which apply to all EU candidate member-states.

    The Greek minister said, however, that the letter made no mention of taking bilateral differences to the Court of Justice at The Hague, a basic Greek precondition for dialogue with Turkey. Mr. Papandreou on his part contacted Mr. Cem to congratulate him on his appointment as foreign minister and called on him to visit Greece.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] Albanian police storm bus, killing hijacker and Greek hostage

    Athens, 1/6/1999 (ANA)

    An Albanian bus hijacker and a Greek hostage were killed Saturday morning by Albanian police in the neighbouring country.

    The hostage crisis began on Friday morning outside Thessaloniki, northern Greece, with an Albanian national holding nine hostages, all Greek citizens, in a bus carrying out the Scholari-Thessaloniki route.

    The hijacker, who threatened to kill the hostages with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a handgrenade, forced the bus toward the Greek Albanian border during the night. He had been followed by Greek police forces.

    Despite receiving the 50-million-drachma ransom he had sought, the hijacker failed to release the hostages and ordered the bus into Albania.

    After crossing the border, the bus was escorted by Albanian special police forces. Near the city of Elbasan, some 60 km south of the capital Tirana, the Albanian police stormed the bus, killing the hijacker. During the confusion a Greek hostage was kill ed by the Albanian police while another hostage was wounded.

    The hijacker is Antonio Flamour, 25, an Albanian national, who resided in Greece under the assumed name of Flamour Plisi.

    The dead hostage is Giorgos Koulouris, 25, from Scholari, Thessaloniki. A second hostage, Anna Tsolaka, was wounded during the assault.

    Greek police sources later said that there had been an agreement between Athens and Tirana that no action be taken against the culprit, before all hostages were released.

    A Greek public order ministry spokesman, who was part of police forces that followed the bus during its wonderings in northern Greece up to the Greek- Albanian border, said the agreement was reached when it was verified that the handgrenades the hijacker had in his possession were live.

    The spokesman added that the agreement had not been adhered to. An Albanian police spokesman reportedly told a Greek counterpart later that the hijacker expressed his intent to take with him two or three hostages using them as shields to make his getawa y from the bus. This development, according to the Albanian police officer, forced the special forces to intervene shortly after 6 am.

    Greek special police forces that followed the bus at a distance into the neighbouring country did not participate in the operation as they were not informed of the planned action.

    The injured woman as well as another female hostage who suffered a nervous breakdown were reportedly being treated in an Elbasan hospital.

    The Greek government strongly protested to the Albanian government over the tragic outcome of the hostage crisis, Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis told reporters later on Saturday.

    He called the action by Albanian police "thoughtless" and as "disregarding human lives", adding that the neighbouring country's police blocked the Greek police forces at some distance from the bus, before intervening. Mr. Chrysohoidis said that both he and Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis had requested from Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo that first priority should be given to the protection of human lives.

    The minister added that the Greek embassy in Tirana through a diplomatic note on Friday evening underlined the necessity for safeguarding human lives.

    Mr. Chrysohoidis expressed his disappointment over the Albanian side's lack of respect to commitments.

    The minister said that the Greek authorities had during the crisis moved according to a plan which placed first priority to human lives, adding that Greek police had asked the opinion of psychologists who confirmed that the hijacker was mentally unstabl e and extremely dangerous.

    He said that the bus crossed the border after the hijacker threatened to kill the hostages, if he was not allowed to enter Albania. The Albanian side, the minister added, gave assurances that the same tactic would be followed.

    Mr. Chrysohoidis said that despite assurances, the Albanian police started obstructing the hijacked bus and at about 40 km from Elbasan it blocked the road using two lorries. At that point the hijacker began shooting at the trucks.

    As confusion ensued a Greek hostage attempted to exit the bus but was killed by Albanian police, who assumed he was the culprit.

    The hijacker was shot down immediatelly after.

    Mr. Chrysohoidis disclosed that the Greek ambassador to Tirana had twice spoken with the hijacker failing however to convince him to release the hostages.

    Anna Tsolaka, 43 and Maria Golfinopoulou-Krystalli, 25, two of the hostages on the bus hijacked by the Albanian gunman, were admitted to Ioannina hospital shortly before noon on Saturday.

    Tsolaka was treated for severe shock while Krystalli received injuries to the face and throat when Albanian police stormed the bus.

    Doctors at the hospital said the condition of both women was satisfactory and there was no cause for concern.

    The two women were flown to Ioannina by a Hellenic Air Force Chinook helicopter of the Greek military contingent stationed in Albania.

    Reppas: Press and Media Minister Dimitris Reppas expressed condolences on behalf of Prime Minister Costas Simitis and the government to the family of Giorgos Koulouris.

    "The tragic outcome in Albania of this affair has caused pain to all of us, " Mr. Reppas said, adding:

    "Greece has received thousands of foreigners who live and work here. A fundamental prerequisite for their stay in our country is respect for legality. Any illegal, anti-social or criminal act is not tolerated by anyone."

    Mr. Reppas stressed that the Greek police were acting and would continue to act with even greater vigour to combat any criminal activity by Greeks and foreigners in order to safeguard the lives of citizens.

    Later on Saturday, Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis expressed the strong displeasure of the Greek government over Albania's handling of the hostage drama to Tirana's Ambassador in Athens, Kastriot Robo.

    Speaking to reporters after meeting with Mr. Robo, Mr. Kranidiotis also expressed the hope that the incident would not have a negative effect on Greek-Albanian relations.

    He said the two sides had agreed to set up a joint investigative committee to look into the circumstances surrounding the Albanian police operation.

    Coroners: Two Greek coroners said on Sunday that the hostage shot dead in the raid on the hijacked bus in Albania was killed by police gunfire.

    The coroners were speaking in Tirana, where they carried out a three-hour post-mortem on Giorgos Koulouris, after flying to the Albanian capital from Thessaloniki.

    One of the coroners - Mattheos Tsougas - was quoted as saying that Koulouris had suffered major chest wounds from repeated gunfire.

    The victim also carried two head wounds, which were not the cause of death.

    Koulouris' body was flown to Thessaloniki in the early hours of Sunday morning, and then to the victim's home village of Kato Scholari. His funeral took place in the village Sunday afternnon.

    Another passenger in the hijacked bus, Parthena Symelidou, 21, told reporters in Kato Scholari that Koulouris had repeatedly tried to help defuse the crisis during the 20-hour saga.

    Three other survivors also returned to Thessaloniki on Saturday, in the prime minister's Falcon jet.

    They were identified as Nikolaos Symelidis, 49, Kanela Karatsouli, 22, and Yiannis Tzioras, 30. The rescued hostages gave five hours of testimony to Albanian police before returning home.

    Accompanying them in Tirana and then back to Thessaloniki was the secretary general of the health and welfare ministry, Ioanna Panopoulou, who told reporters that the four were too exhausted to make statements on their return to the northern port city.

    Coroner Tsougas told the Athens News Agency in an interview that Albanian police shot a volley of gunfire into Koulouris before shooting down the hijacker.

    In addition, Koulouris appeared also to have been shot by Flambou (Plisi), the coroner said. Koulouris showed non-fatal gunshot wounds in the jaw and mouth, but the brain was untouched. The shots that killed him were in the chest. Other non-fatal wou nds were in the buttock, thigh and foot.

    Mr. Tsougas said that Albanian authorities had initially maintained that Koulouris was shot at close range by Flamour (Plisi). The claim was unfounded because the back of Koulouris' head and body carried no traces of gunpowder. The angle of the wounds s howed that he was shot from a spot diagonally to the front, Mr. Tsougas said.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] Twenty-five Greek journalists arrive in Turkey to observe Ocalan trial

    MUDANYA, Turkey, 1/6/1999 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)

    Twenty-five Greek journalists arrived here among others to observe Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdulah Ocalan's trial on charges of treason, which began here yesterday.

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) deputy Stratis Korakas was unable to observe the opening of the trial as a Council of Europe observer.

    In statements to the press, while in Bursa, Turkey, Mr. Korakas said "I was informed with surprise that my name was crossed out of the Council of Europe's unofficial representatives list. I express my sorrow and anger, both over the action of the Turkis h authorities and over the stance of the CoE, which accepted the crossing out of its members from the list of observers," he added.

    Ocalan, who was abducted as he was departing from the Greek embassy in Kenya in early February and was taken to Turkey, faces the death penalty, on charges that he attempted to break up the Turkish state during a separatist war, which began in 1984.

    The German team of journalists in town is the largest with 64 members, while the British press has send 38 correspondents to cover the military court's proceedings.

    According to Turkish press reports Ocalan accused Russia, Italy and Greece that in his case they did not act according to international law requirements.

    Athens rally: In Athens, Coalition for the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) is organising a rally outside the Turkish embassy today, "to condemn the parody-trial of Abdulah Ocalan," a party press release said yesterday.

    In a related development Synaspismos Eurodeputy candidate Panos Trigazis is set to depart for Istanbul today to observe the trial.

    Synaspismos Eurodeputy Alekos Alavanos yesterday stated that the trial "is an offence against Europe and its civilisation."

    Athens News Agency

    [06] ND leader argues Greece is not well guarded

    Athens, 1/6/1999 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Sunday expressed his sorrow over this weekend's events, which lead to the death of the hostage by Albanian police on Saturday.

    Speaking at a party rally in Xanthi, northeastern Greece, Mr. Karamanlis also said that this event proved that the country is not well guarded and that citizens are unprotected.

    Criticising the government, Mr. Karamanlis said that "the excuses whispered by the government are worse than its inability to confront the crisis."

    He said that there is a need for a trained police force, adding that the protection of Greek citizens should be the first priority.

    Mr. Karamanlis also spoke on farmers' income, insisting that it has decreased by 10 per cent over the past three years, adding that "farmers are at a deadend and I would like to remind ... (the current government) that when the rural areas have problems , all of Greece is sick."

    Mr. Karamanlis said that "my generation does not categorise people in any way, while as far as religion is concerned it believes in real equality under the law."

    He also critisised the government over public projects completion times, education issues and health care problems.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Vartholomeos says Patriarchate will not move from Istanbul

    Athens, 1/6/1999 (ANA)

    Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, during a visit yesterday to the Panagia Soumela monastery in western Macedonia, said that a possible move of the Patriarchate from Istanbul is not even considered.

    The Patriarch clarified that the Patriachate will not move from Istabul, which he called the "Queen of Cities", responding to statements of Patriarch of Antioch Igantios, who said that it would be better for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to move from Ist anbul.

    Later in the day, he arrived in the norhtern Greek city of Thessaloniki, as he continued his first official tour of Greece.

    Speaking to the people gathered to welcome him, the Ecumenical Patriarch condemned what he called efforts to create problems in the relations between the Patriarchate and the Greek Autocephalous Church over the episcopates of the so called "new lands."

    The "new lands" consist of the episcopates of Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace as they were incorporated into the Greek state during the 20th centrury and in some cases almost a century after the establishment of the Greek church.

    Those episcopates were placed under Greek church administration following a 1928 Ecumenical and Synodical Decree, but spiritually they are led by the Patriachate. However there are voices in the Greek church supporting a full and total incorporation of those areas into the Greek church.

    Mr. Vartholomeos was welcomed in Thessaloniki by Macedonia-Thrace Minister Yiannis Magriotis, Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the city's Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos and other local leaders, and a large number of local citizens.

    Mr. Vartholomeos yesterday also visited the ancient Macedonian tombs at Vergina, one of which is purported to be that of King Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] Ecevit calls on Greece to begin dialogue on Aegean islets

    ANKARA, 1/6/1999 (ANA - A. Abatzis)

    Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit yesterday called on Greece to begin dialogue on the Aegean islets.

    "A serious dialogue is a must between Turkey and Greece on the islets issue which is based on a series of contradictory agreements and rules," Mr. Ecevit told reporters.

    "But Greece prefers faits accomplis to dialogue," he added.

    In a related development, the Turkish foreign ministry in a statement yesterday called "unacceptable for Turkey unilateral actions by Greece in the Aegean".

    Earlier yesterday, a Greek flag was raised on the inhabited Greek island of Agathonissi.

    Greece has repeatedly called on Turkey to refer differences which the neighbouring country considers to exist between the two countries to the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

    Athens News Agency

    [09] Police detain eight on suspicion of smuggling cocaine

    Athens, 1/6/1999 (ANA)

    Greek police said yesterday they had detained eight Greek citizens suspected of involvement in a major cocaine smuggling ring operating out of Colombia.

    Working in cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Greek police said they had found and confiscated 440 million drachmas at the Athens home of one of the men.

    According to reports, the international ring had moved some eight tonnes of cocaine, worth more than 15 billion drachmas, to the U.S. and Europe in the course of 1999.

    The ring is estimated to be responsible for smuggling up to 50 tonnes of cocaine to the U.S. and Europe. About 10 tonnes of the shipments have been seized.

    The operation involved cooperation between the Greek police, coast guard and finance ministry's financial crimes squad, SDOE.

    According to the police, the 10-month operation culminated in raids on companies and residencies in Athens, Piraeus, Kifissia, Ekali and Kallithea on Friday.

    They said most of those detained were businessmen involved in shipping as well as a number of merchant marine officers.

    Police said they were continuing to sort through the documents seized during the raids and would be conducting checks on bank accounts. According to reports, up to five million dollars has changed hands over the past two months.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] Albanian arrested in Athens shooting

    Athens, 1/6/1999 (ANA)

    A 24-year-old Albanian man was arrested yesterday after he shot at a man and a woman sitting in a car in downtown Athens.

    Police said Djani Brahousai injured Killiam Moses in the jaw with a 9mm gun as Moses sat in the car at the corner of Makriyanni and Doriaion streets with Anna Oftsinikova, 20, a Russian national.

    Moses was taken to the Red Cross Hospital where he was reported to be in a stable condition.

    Brahousai told police he, Moses and another man at the scene were involved in a ring smuggling eastern European women into the country and forcing them to work in nightclubs and brothels.

    He said he had attacked Moses over a dispute involving the young Russian woman.

    Athens News Agency

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