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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-01-17

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, 17/01/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Parliament rejects censure motion
  • Premier calls for schools to reopen
  • Students, teachers resist
  • Finnish prime minister due in Athens
  • Edi Rama warns of prejudice
  • Tzoganis visits Georgia
  • OTE reduces phone card price
  • Greenpeace hails PVC toy ban
  • U.S. Embassy closed on Monday
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Parliament rejects censure motion

Parliament early on Sunday dismissed a vote of no confidence in Education Minister Gerasimos Arsenis after a three-day debate by a margin of 36 votes.

A total of 163 MPs voted down the censure motion (161 MPs from ruling party PASOK and two independent deputies, Vassilis Kontoyiannopoulos and Stephanos Manos), compared to 127 MPs who voted to support the motion (95 ND MPS, 10 Communist Party of Greece, eight each from Coalition of the Left and Progress and Democratic Social Movement and six independent MPs).

Speaking after the vote, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said nothing could divert the course of the government towards fulfilling its mandate and that in 2000 "we will win the next elections".

"We are open to any improvements considered necessary in the course of implementing the education reform," he said in his closing speech to the assembly, before the vote.

New Democracy submitted the motion of no confidence late last week, citing the "explosive dimensions" the near two-month student sit-ins and road blocks were taking.

Students have been objecting to sweeping reforms to the structure and grading of secondary education and to entry to tertiary education.

Premier calls for schools to reopen

Closing the parliamentary debate on a no-confidence motion against his education minister, which the house voted down, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the education ministry's proposed sector reforms were "an integrated and mature proposal" but said that the government was "not dogmatic" and had already accepted some adjustments.

However, Simitis said, for there to be any sort of productive dialogue, the schools must open. Opposition leader Costas Karamanlis charged the government with "cowardice" but called on high school students to show "greater responsibility than the government" and return to classes on Monday.

Students, teachers resist

Secondary school teachers' federation OLME on Saturday rejected a call from Education Minister Gerasimos Arsenis earlier for dialogue with OLME President Nikos Tsoulias saying Arsenis's invitation was "a tactical move calculated to complicate the issue."

Student protest committees also reiterated their determination to end occupations and boycotts only if the law was repealed and called for another rally to be held in Athens on Tuesday afternoon at Kanigos square and on Thursday morning at the Propylae. Students said more than 800 schools around the country were under occupation, although the figure was disputed by local government authorities, which place the number of schools currently closed at some 500.

Finnish prime minister due in Athens

Finland's Prime Minister, Paavo Lipponen, arrives in Athens on Sunday evening for a two-day visit expected to focus on European Union issues, developments in the Balkan and eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus and the course of Turkey's relations with the EU.

Lipponen meets on Monday morning with Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis and will be received by President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos at midday.

He will meet Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis at 12.30 and both men will speak to the press after the meeting.

In the evening, he is scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos.

In an interview with the ANA released on Friday, Lipponen said he believed Helsinki and Athens had common interests to defend at the European Union, stemming from their similar geopolitical positions.

Both countries are crucial to the creation of a European gas network, he added, with Greece taking a leading role in utilising energy resources of the Caucasus region and Finland a similar role with Russian energy resources.

Finland assumes the rotating EU presidency in the second half of 1999.

Edi Rama warns of prejudice

Albanian Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Edi Rama said on Saturday that there was prejudice in western Europe against the peoples of the Balkans which perpetuated the negative tradition of the Iron Curtain.

"Attempts in the past for absolute justice resulted in the disappearance of liberty and eventually of justice itself," Rama said, addressing an Athens meeting of 50 young politicians up to 35 years of age from countries in SE Europe.

The two-day meeting which began on Friday aimed to help promote a regional development plan for the countries of SE Europe.

Tzoganis visits Georgia

Greece's Chief of the National Defence General Staff Athanasios Tzoganis begins a visit to Georgia on Sunday for talks on issues of mutual interest on the invitation of his Georgian counterpart.

Tzoganis will be received by the Georgian defence and foreign ministers as well as by religious leaders and will visit military installations in the country.

He returns to Athens on January 19.

OTE reduces phone card price

Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) has announced a drop in the price of telephone cards, to apply from March 1, 1999.

The price of the 100-unit phone card will drop to 1,000 drachmas from 1,700 drachmas, while the 500 and 1,000-unit cards will be reduced to 4,200 and 8, 200 drachmas, respectively, from 7,000 and 11,500 drachmas.

Greenpeace hails PVC toy ban

The environmental advocacy group Greenpeace on Friday welcomed a government decision to ban the sale of toys made from PVC.

The decision went into force as of Friday and was taken because the toxic pthalic compounds used in PVC products are believed to pose a serious health hazard.

U.S. Embassy closed on Monday

The U.S. Embassy in Athens, the Information Resource Centre (U.S. Library) and all U.S. government offices operating in Greece will remain shut on Monday, a national holiday in the U.S. marking the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

WEATHER

Fair weather throughout Greece on Sunday with scattered clouds on the east. Winds in the west of the country will be weak, on the east northerly medium to strong and early morning in the Aegean very strong. Fair weather in Athens where temperatures will range from 6 to 16C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 0 and 12C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 276.490 Pound sterling 458.562 Japanese yen (100) 245.550 French franc 49.165 German mark 164.891 Italian lira (100) 16.656 Irish Punt 409.490 Belgian franc 7.995 Finnish mark 54.240 Dutch guilder 146.344 Danish kr. 43.319 Austrian sch. 23.437 Spanish peseta 1.938 Swedish kr. 35.200 Norwegian kr. 36.994 Swiss franc 203.087 Port. Escudo 1.609 Aus. dollar 174.404 Can. dollar 179.949 Cyprus pound 553.060

(L.G.)


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