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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-01-14

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

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

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 14/01/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greek-Turkish relations: no progress until after Turk elections
  • OECD report notes Greek economy on target for EMU entry
  • Stocks nosedive in heavy trade, dragged down by fears abroad
  • Central bank lowers key rates as inflation falls
  • Tourism employees call off strike, sit-in
  • Athens Medical completes Dr 1.0 bln share capital rise
  • Record number of Austrian tourists in '98
  • Petrol prices increase
  • PASOK delegation concludes visit to Israel, Palestinian areas
  • Kissinger: Moscow pressed for Turkish invasion of Cyprus
  • Simitis adopts wait-and-see attitude to Avramopoulos' prospects
  • Euro-MP Hatzidakis tables question OTE price hikes
  • Veteran artist, photographer Hios dies in NYC
  • WEATHER
  • FOREIGN EXCHANGE

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greek-Turkish relations: no progress until after Turk elections

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said here yesterday that he did not foresee progress in Greek-Turkish relations until conditions of political stability were created in Turkey.

Mr. Simitis, who is paying a three-day visit to Spain, told Greek reporters that progress could not possibly be achieved until elections were held in Turkey (on April 18), because every government in Ankara would be thinking of the appeal its policy wou ld have on voters and would try to attract them by creating tension and by exaggerating.

The Spanish capital was the site of a July 1997 meeting between Greek and Turkish leaderships that ended with the joint issuance of the so-called "Madrid communique" that was to govern good-neighbourly relations between the two sides.

However, yesterday the Greek PM said: "I do not predict any progress before elections are held in Turkey and a government is formed."

Mr. Simitis held talks on Tuesday with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, which confirmed an identity of views on ongoing negotiations witin the EU on 'Agenda 2000'.

Mr. Simitis said that despite the fact that each country has its own problems, the main issues should be given priority. He said that such issues were the need for seeking a new method of estimating European Union revenues, continuation of the cohesion policy and structural funds.

OECD report notes Greek economy on target for EMU entry

A report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), expected to be released today, contains a positive assessment of the course of the Greek economy towards future participation in Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

However, the report also cites relative delays in the implementation of structural changes, de-escalation of inflation and a reduction in the public debt, which constitute important targets of the government's macroeconomic policy.

"Thanks to continuous efforts in recent years" the goal of the incorporation of the drachma in the euro zone on Jan. 1, 2001 "appears feasible for Greece," the conclusion of the report reads.

It cites, in particular, a significant reduction in the general deficit of the annual budget and forecasts that the decrease will continue in the immediate future, with public debt following a similar trend.

A drastic fall of particular inflation indicators has been achieved despite the drachma devaluation in mid-March, the report notes.

As regards economic growth, it notes a continuing improvement, with rates surpassing the EU average in recent years. This is primarily attributed to higher public investment spending.

Stocks nosedive in heavy trade, dragged down by fears abroad

Equities came under heavy pressure to end sharply lower on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday following a similar trend in international markets.

The general index ended 185.13 points, or 6.21 percent lower at 2,798.21, halting a rally which started on December 15.

The Bank of Greece's decision to cut key rates was largely ignored by investors who focused on a financial crisis in Brazil that could spread to Latin America and severely hurt Wall Street.

Banks nosedived 6.52 percent, Leasing plunged 6.89 percent, Insurance fell 3.37 percent, Investment ended 6.74 percent off, Construction dropped 7.47 percent, Industrials fell 5.47 percent, Miscellaneous ended 6.97 percent down and Holding fell 3.63 per cent.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 219 to 54 with another 8 issues unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 63,100 drachmas, Ergobank at 33,650, Alpha Credit Bank at 29,765, Ionian Bank at 14,642, Titan Cement at 21,252, Intracom at 13,708, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,260, Minoan Lines at 6,890 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 7,724 drachmas.

Central bank lowers key rates as inflation falls

The Bank of Greece yesterday announced a new round of interest rate cuts in line with falling inflation.

It reduced its regular two-week deposit intervention rate in the interbank market by 25 basis points to 12 percent; and lowered the rate for overnight funds by 10 ten basis points to 11.50 percent for sums up to 300 billion drachmas.

The central bank also cut the Lombard rate by two percentage points to 13.50 percent, and the overdraft penalty rate by two points to 20 percent.

Monetary authorities are pursuing a cautious policy of rate cuts with the decline expected to accelerate in the second half of the year after a slide in inflation forecast in the first half.

Consumer price inflation was 3.9 percent in December.

Tourism employees call off strike, sit-in

Workers of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) yesterday called off an indefinite strike and sit-in at headquarters after assurances by the government that a restructuring of the state body would be delayed to allow talks.

Development Minister Vasso Papandreou and GNTO General Secretary Mihalis Kyriakidis told workers that two presidential decrees on changing the state tourism body's status would be stalled for two weeks.

The government wants to restructure GNTO, reducing its size and allocating many functions to other authorities.The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises said in a statement that the government's plan to modernise GNTO was sound although there was some room for improvement.

Athens Medical completes Dr 1.0 bln share capital rise

Athens Medical, a member of Apostolopoulos Group, has completed a share capital increase of one billion drachmas following an internal merger of clinics in the group, it said in a statement yesterday.

The company issued 10,090,500 new shares of which existing shareholders were granted 3,975,000 at a ratio of two new for 10 old. The remaining shares were distributed to shareholders of the other companies included in the merger plan. The merger of Athens Medical with the InterBalkan Medical Centre in Thessaloniki, Apollonion Clinic and Phaliro Medical will increase the Group's capacity to 1,150 beds.

Athens Medical expects its turnover for the year 2000 to exceed 70 billion drachmas.

Record number of Austrian tourists in '98

A record number of Austrian tourists visited Greece last year based on recent data provided by Austria's statistics service.

Air travel from Austria to Greece increased by 11.7 per cent within the first eight months of 1998 compared to the same period in 1997, bringing the total number of passengers between January-August 1998 to 390,546 compared to 349,531 for the same period in 1997. Some 120,000-150,000 Austrian tourists visited Greece via ferry boat connections from Italy.

The total number of Austrian tourists that visited Greece by August 1998 reached 550,000, equalling the total number of Austrian visitors during all of 1997. Forecasts provided by the largest tourist agencies in Austria are particularly optimistic for 1999.

Petrol prices increase

The prices of gasoline, diesel and heating oil will increase as of today and for a week.

According to the development ministry, the prices of super gasoline, unleaded and diesel will increase by 2.2 drachmas per litre and of heating oil by 2.7 drachmas per litre.

In the Attica area and the Thessaloniki prefecture super gasoline will cost 193.7 drachmas per litre, unleaded 177.1 drachmas per litre and heating oil 66.8 drachmas per litre.

PASOK delegation concludes visit to Israel, Palestinian areas

A delegation of the ruling PASOK party, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis and executive bureau member Theodoros Tsoukatos, wound up a visit to Israel and the autonomous Palestinian areas yesterday.

The delegation arrived the invitation of Israel's opposition Labour Party.

Mr. Kranidiotis and Mr. Tsoukatos met Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Ministry Director General Eytan Bentsur for a lengthy exchange of views on the future of the Mideast peace process and the role played by Greece in facilitating dialogue between the Israeli and Palestinian societies within the framework of the "Dialogue of Athens" scheme.

Mr. Kranidiotis stressed the importance attached by Greece and the EU on the implementation of the Oslo Agreements and the Wye River Memorandum, which will allow the whole region top move forward towards becoming an area of stability and propserity for all parties.

According to reports, Mr. Sharon assured the Greek delegation that cooperation between Turkey and Israel is not directed against third countries.

Mr. Kranidiotis said progress in the peace process will benefit not only the parties involved, but also the cause of peace in the wider area of the eastern Mediterranean region, including Cyprus, and will enable the EU to build even closer political and economic ties with the state of Israel.

They also discussed the perspectives of deepening bilateral relations between Greece and Israel through specific frameworks of cooperation in the economic, education, military and trade fields. These issues will be examined thoroughly during the official visit of Mr. Sharon will be paying to Athens on Feb. 25.

The delegation also held meetings with officials and leadership of the Labour Party, including candidate prime minister Ehud Barak and secretary general Cohen. Talks focused on upgrading relations and strengthening cooperation between the two sides on a bilateral level, as well as in international fora.

The delegation handed to Mr. Barak an invitation by the Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis to participate at the PASOK congress to be held on March 18 in Athens.

During their three-day visit, the delegation met Faycal Husseini in east Jerusalem and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah.

Mr. Kranidiotis left for Jordan late at night for talks today.

Kissinger: Moscow pressed for Turkish invasion of Cyprus

The United States apparently intended to promote solutions both on Cyprus and the Aegean in the autumn of 1974, recently declassified transcripts of talks held in October 1974 between then mercurial US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and Chinese vice-FM Qiao Huang Hua.

The two men had held discussions in New York on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly in 1974. In a conversation on Oct. 2, 1974, made public recently, Mr. Kissinger had claimed that the Soviet Union goaded Turkey into invading Cyprus following a coup against then Cyprus President Makarios in July 1974 that was engineered by a shadowy military junta then ruling Greece. He added that had he known about reports of a coup on Cyprus he would have stopped it.

Mr. Kissinger, replying to Mr. Qiao's questions in 1974, had said that when the coup on Cyprus occurred he was in Moscow and that intelligence reports were not taken seriously by his subordinates.

"There are many intelligence reports which float around, but if no one brings them to me I assume they do not exist," the former US diplomat claimed, adding: "if I had known about the report, I would have stopped it (the coup)." The transcripts were recently released after six-year efforts by William Burr, a historian at the National Security Archives department of George Washington University. He cited the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to obtain the information.

Mr. Burr's was one of the co-contributors to a recently released book entitled "The Kissinger Transcripts."

The portions about the Cyprus affair were left out.

Simitis adopts wait-and-see attitude to Avramopoulos' prospects

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday refrained from giving his own forecast on whether Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos would form a new party, saying this would not affect PASOK's planning or political initiatives.

Mr. Simitis said "let him (Avramopoulos) say what he intends to do first and when the picture clears, then we will make our comments."

The prime minister said that "as far as PASOK was concerned" he rejected Mr. Avramopoulos' belief that "political parties have completed their historical cycle".

"Mr. Avramopoulos has the right to take political initiatives, if he so wishes, the same as any other Greek citizen," he said.

Euro-MP Hatzidakis tables question OTE price hikes

In a tabled question submitted to the European Commission, New Democracy Euro-MP Costas Hatzidakis charged that state-run Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) will implement illegal increases in local telephone rates. He also said OTE is engaging in unfair competition by exploiting a dominant market position, namely, in the provision of Internet services.

Mr. Hatzidakis stressed that OTE makes computer users' access to the Internet difficult and more costly by delaying, on one hand, approval of a four-digit nationwide number to Internet providers (except its own subsidiary OTEnet), while on the other rai sing local rates by 38.4 per cent. The price hike burdens consumers and makes the cost of connecting with Internet providers much less competitive than its own subsidiary.

He charged that in both cases, OTE contravenes fundamental provisions of European legislation, according to which changes in rates are allowed only after cost control, which the state-run telecoms utility has never carried out.

Veteran artist, photographer Hios dies in NYC

Noted Greek-American artist and award-winning photographer Theo Hios died on Sunday at the age of 90, the Susan Teller Gallery in New York announced yesterday.

Hios, who was born in 1908 in Greece, moved to the United States in 1929 and was married to ceramist Catherine Lekakis.

A WPA artist, New School teacher, Bronze Star-honoured combat photographer for the US Marine Corps who served in the Pacific theatre during World War II as well as a Gottlieb Foundation Grant recipient, the New York City- based Hios was admired for his social realism, visionary pieces and abstractions.

Hios also had more than 30 one-man shows and participated in numerous group exhibitions.

In addition to extensive archives of work by Hios at the US Marine Corps Museum in Washington and the Anne SK Brown Military Collection at Brown University, works by Hios are also contained in the collections of The Brooklyn Museum, the New York Histori cal Society, the Carnegie Institute, the National Collection of Fine Art, the Newark Museum, the Tel Aviv Museum and the Athens National Gallery.

WEATHER

Cloudy weather and rain will prevail throughout Greece today. Snowfall in the mountainous regions of central and northern Greece. A general improvement is expected by nightfall. Winds, southerly, southwesterly, strong. Athens will be rainy with temperatures between 10-15C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 5-9C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 276.530 Pound sterling 456.042 Japanese yen (100) 246.661 French franc 49.293 German mark 165.322 Italian lira (100) 16.699 Irish Punt 410.560 Belgian franc 8.015 Finnish mark 54.382 Dutch guilder 146.726 Danish kr. 43.430 Austrian sch. 23.498 Spanish peseta 1.943 Swedish kr. 35.420 Norwegian kr. 36.978 Swiss franc 202.313 Port. Escudo 1.613 Aus. dollar 175.683 Can. dollar 181.020 Cyprus pound 553.536

(C.E.)


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