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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-01-20

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, 20/01/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Pangalos strongly condemns latest massacre in Kosovo
  • Burns cites major progress on Greek-US relations
  • Venizelos lauds Greek Euro-MPs for initiative on Parthenon Marbles
  • Gov't predicts normalisation in education sector
  • Parliament discussion focuses on S-300s issue today
  • Average weighted yield slides in 3-yr bond auction
  • ANEK passenger shipper to make trading debut tomorrow
  • Sanyo Hellas to boost share capital by Dr 10 bln
  • Stocks drop in active trade, flirt with 3,000-pt barrier
  • HEPO participation in Bucharest exhibition
  • Initiative against child labour
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Pangalos strongly condemns latest massacre in Kosovo

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said yesterday that the persons responsible for the massacre of 45 ethnic Albanians in a Kosovo village should be "condemned, isolated and treated as criminals."

He stressed that the responsibility of the Yugoslav government in the incident was clear.

The Greek minister was speaking at a news conference after talks in Sofia with his counterpart Nadezhda Mihailova as part of a two-day visit to the neighbouring country and Romania.

US diplomatic observers on Saturday found the bodies of the ethnic Albanians, victims of an alleged massacre by Yugoslav police, in and around Racak, about 25 km south of Pristina, the capital of the strife-torn Yugoslav province.

Belgrade claims the massacre was an elaborate hoax by the west and a pretext for intervention by NATO.

Mr. Pangalos also attributed responsibility to the Albanian side for what he called their provocations and "irresponsible acts", while hastening to add that these could in no way justify mass slaughter.

Mr. Pangalos, who communicated with the Serbian leadership late Monday night, described as mistaken the Yugoslav government's decision not to accept OSCE observers in the country, and expressed the hope that the 48- hour deadline would work in a positive manner and that in the end the observers would stay. "The opposite would be unacceptable for the prestige of OSCE, harmful to the Serbian government and particularly painful for the population groupings in the area," he said.

Regarding the possibility of a military intervention in Kosovo, Greece and Bulgaria appeared with identical positions.

Asked about the possibility of NATO intervention, Mr. Pangalos contrasted it with the case of Iraq where, he stressed, the targets of the US and British bombing raids had been strategic, while in Kosovo there were no such targets.

"Everyone is talking about who will carry out the bombing. Nobody has explained who and what will be bombed," he said.

Ms Mihailova said her country was in favor of a peaceful resolution of the crisis and asked for its participation in the force of international observers.

While focusing on recent developments in Kosovo, yesterday's talks between Ms Pangalos and Ms Mihailova concluded with the signing of a bilateral customs cooperation accord. The two foreign ministers agreed that Greece and Bulgaria have already set the appropriate framework for regular bilateral contacts, but also at the level of trilateral cooperation that will also involve Romania for discussion on prominent political issues, infrastructure, the fight against crime, as well as economic and trade issues.

They also discussed a Greek initiative for the creation of a 25 km wide border zone for the free movement of people between the two countries.

Responding to a question by a Greek reporter on the issue of suspending the operation of the four reactors of the Kozlodui nuclear power plant, which is considered by western experts as dangerous, Mr. Pangalos said Greece was opposed to the use of nuclear power in any form, but added that Bulgarian PM Ivan Kostov had handed, in a friendly gesture, a detailed report to his Greek counterpart Costas Simitis on the plant a few months ago.

Mr. Pangalos, who left last night for Bucharest, also pledged Greek support for the construction of a second bridge over the Danube - the border between Bulgaria and Romania.

Burns cites major progress on Greek-US relations

US ambassador in Athens Nicholas Burns detailed yesterday what he referred to as the "significant progress" in Greek-US relations over the past few years, while placing bilateral trade and investment ties squarely on the top of his agenda.

"After one year, I'm now optimistic, a great deal has changed...with the Greek government especially responsible for this change," the US ambassador said.

Although the prospect of improved trade and investment relations dominated Mr. Burns' speech, he also touched on various foreign policy issues, reiterating that Washington favours autonomy for the troubled Yugoslav province of Kosovo but no change of borders or independence.

He also called for a "more humanistic" approach to the problem by Belgrade, while responding to a press question he added that he spoke with the Greek government on Monday regarding the issue, following the latest violence in Kosovo.

Questioned over the impeachment hearings in the US Senate against US President Bill Clinton, he gave a personal view: "You're seeing US democracy in action, with its positives and negatives..."

Mr. Burns, the former US State Department spokesman in the current Clinton administration, was the guest speaker at a luncheon organised by the Piraeus Marine Club, held at the organisation's waterfront premises in the heart of Greece's shipping district.

Speaking to some of Greece's foremost shipping executives and shipowners, Mr. Burns covered practically the entire gamut of Greek-US relations, citing a mostly convergence of views between Athens and Washington recently on foreign policy issues ranging from Kosovo to the Iraqi crisis and even on dealing with Libya.

Mr. Burns also lauded Athens' efforts at mediating between Israel and the Palestinians, pointing to three conferences sponsored by Greece so far focusing on the Mideast peace process.

Referring to Cyprus, Mr. Burns said the US is actively involved in attempting to assist in resolving the problem, while pointing out that "the US would not have sold the Patriot (anti-aircraft) system to Cyprus" and that some "15 years separate" the invasion of Cyprus and the invasion of Kuwait.

"Turkey is an ally of the US. It's also an ally of Greece. Iraq is not an ally of Greece, the US or Turkey," he said in response to a question drawing a parallel between the two invasions and subsequent US actions.

"We don't favour Turkey over Greece, or Greece over Turkey. I can assure you we don't favour one over the other."

However, he directly blamed Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for the failure of last year's US-sponsored talks on the divided island republic, reiterating Washington's opposition to a Turkish Cypriot and Ankara-backed proposal for a confederatio n solution on Cyprus.

"Denktash did not allow for this (progress) to happen. He made unreasonable demands...We favour a bizonal, bicommunal federation on Cyprus."

The US envoy called the previous condition of Greek-US economic relations as being on "life supports", saying Greece was last on the list for US investments among EU members, and second to last among the United States' EU trading partners. He cited a dramatic increase in both trade and investments.

Finally, the 43-year-old Massachusetts-raised US ambassador outlined five reasons why he believes Greek-US relations have improved recently, listing restored trust, cooperation on foreign policy issues, a long-time military relationship, as he noted, in creased trade relations and finally, "a desire" by both the Greek and American people for close ties.

"We have a blood relationship between us...I think the people of Greece and the US are ahead of their governments, they want us to get with the programme," Mr. Burns said.

Venizelos lauds Greek Euro-MPs for initiative on Parthenon Marbles

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday sent a letter to five Greek Eurodeputies congratulating them on their initiative and success in getting colleagues in Strasbourg to sign a petition calling for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum in London to Greece.

In the letter, Mr. Venizelos said the initiative enabled him to raise the issue for discussion at the Council of Culture Ministers.

"Of course, in view of Britain's stance, even after its return to UNESCO as a full member, international pressure has practical significance when it takes the form of direct pressure on the United Kingdom," he said.

On Friday, 339 of 626 European Parliament deputies, or more than half of the assembly, signed a petition in favour of a return of the priceless 5th century BC Parthenon friezes from Britain.

The petition states: "it would be a timely act which would contribute to our common European cultural heritage."

It was the third, and first successful, attempt by Greek Eurodeputies to gather enough signatures for a formal resolution. The other two attempts occurred in 1994 and 1996.

The petition will be sent to the prime ministers of Britain and Greece, the president of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Leni Fischer and the president of the European Commission Jacques Santer on Feb. 8.

Gov't predicts normalisation in education sector

The government yesterday predicted a return of secondary school pupils and teachers to class very soon, stressing that there could be no other solution and noting what it said was a decline in the number of schools being occupied.

Replying to reporters' questions, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas also clarified that yesterday's meeting between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Education Minister Gerasimos Arsenis was a scheduled one, during which the minister briefed the premier on "all education-related issues".

Protests and sit-ins have meant many schools around the country have not opened for weeks. Snap roadblocks in cities and on major highways have caused traffic chaos and on occasion resulted in scuffles between drivers and student protesters.

Asked whether Mr. Simitis had urged Mr. Arsenis to make certain concessions, Mr. Reppas replied that "this issue was not raised, nor will it be raised", adding that the policy being implemented by Mr. Arsenis was government policy.

Parliament discussion focuses on S-300s issue today

The cancellation of the Russian-made S-300 missile system's deployment on Cyprus will be discussed again in Parliament today during the questioning period for Prime Minister Costas Simitis, following two tabled questions by opposition MPs.

Ruling PASOK deputy Lefteris Verivakis has also tabled a question with regard to the validity of a report published in the New York-based Greek- language "Proini" daily, which claims that the Cyprus government was holding negotiations over the deployment of the missiles in Egypt.

Average weighted yield slides in 3-yr bond auction

The average weighted yield on three-year bonds dropped to 7.56 percent from 9.36 percent in November in a finance ministry auction held yesterday.

Bids by primary dealers totalled 563.3 billion drachmas, 3.1 times above the 180 billion drachmas sought by the government. The ministry accepted bids totalling 214 billion drachmas.

The average weighted yield was lower than the security's coupon of 7.6 percent.

The average weighted price was set at 100.09 and the lowest accepted price was 100.05.

The finance ministry also replaced a three-year bond dated November 20, 1998, offering a fixed interest rate of 9.3 percent, with yesterday's bonds, to yield 7.71 percent.

The repurchase bids totalled 140.4 billion of the 144 billion drachma total.

ANEK passenger shipper to make trading debut tomorrow

ANEK, a major passenger shipper, is to begin trading on the Athens bourse tomorrow.

The Crete-based shipper plies routes between the southern island and the port of Piraeus; and between western Greek ports and Italy.

The company announced yesterday that a ferry it bought had set sail from Mitsubishi's shipyard in Japan after refurbishing. It is due to arrive in Greece on February 2.

Sanyo Hellas to boost share capital by Dr 10 bln

Shareholders of Sanyo Hellas Holding yesterday endorsed a 10-billion drachma share capital rise through a cash deposit, capitalisation of reserves and mergers or acquisitions of subsidiaries.

Company chairman Stavros Papageorgiou said that the new capital would be used to finance the following activities:

  • Fund natural gas projects in Ukraine (3.0 billion drachmas)
  • Develop wholesale and retail sales in electrical goods through the firm's Club Electric subsidiary (1.5 billion)
  • Extend the network run by Sanyocom, provider of state Cosmote mobile phone operator (500 million)
  • Completion of a project in Kifissias Avenue (1.5 billion)
  • Acquisitions and mergers due to be announced before the share capital rise (3.5 billion)

Mr. Papageorgiou said that in 1998 the parent company's turnover was more than 8.0 billion drachmas and net profits nearly 1.0 billion drachmas, which are expected to rise to 2.5 billion drachmas this year.

Stocks drop in active trade, flirt with 3,000-pt barrier

Equities ended lower yesterday as profit taking reversed a rally on the Athens Stock Exchange in the previous session.

The general index ended 0.89 percent off at 2,960.85 points although it temporarily broke through resistance at 3,000 points early in the day.

Turnover was 99.7 billion drachmas and volume 21,335,000 shares.

Sector indices suffered losses across the board.

Banks fell 0.34 percent, Leasing plunged 4.39 percent, Insurance dropped 3.42 percent, Investment fell 1.31 percent, Construction rose 0.56 percent, Industrials eased 0.95 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.37 percent down and Holding fell 1.59 percent.

National Bank of Greece ended at 67,450 drachmas, Ergobank at 36,325, Alpha Credit Bank at 31,250, Ionian Bank at 15,975, Titan Cement at 21,300, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,330, Intracom at 14,030, Minoan Lines at 7,360, Panafon at 8,700 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,095 drachmas.

HEPO participation in Bucharest exhibition

The Hellenic Foreign Trade Board (HEPO) will organise Greece's participation in the international consumer goods exhibition TIBCO '99, to be held in Bucharest from May 25-30.

Products to be displayed at the exhibition, considered the most important in the consumer sector in Romania, include foodstuffs, beverages, clothing, shoes, leather products, furniture, household appliances, chemical products for homes, perfumes, cosmetics, toys, electric appliances, items of popular art, tutorial materials, jewellery, medicines, opticals, auto accessories and services.

For more information, interested parties should call HEPO's office in Athens at 99.82.245 by Jan. 25.

Initiative against child labour

The Maragopoulou Institute for Human Rights is leading a local initiative aimed at establishing an international agreement to combat child labour.

The president of the Maragopoulou Institute, the general secretaries of the labour and welfare ministries as well as the president of the General Confederation of the Workers of Greece (GSEE) yesterday announced an action plan aiming to assist in intern ational efforts to combat child labour.

Mrs. Maragopoulou blamed multinationals from developed countries for the failure of similar efforts last year and recommended action to alert public opinion to the exploitation of children.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather with low temperatures will prevail throughout Greece today. Possibility of showers in the east and south, the Cycladic islands and northern Crete. Winds, variable, moderate to strong. Partly cloudy in Athens with temperatures ranging between 5-12C. Mostly fair in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 1-9C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 275.964 Pound sterling 458.046 Japanese yen (100) 242.375 French franc 48.942 German mark 164.146 Italian lira (100) 16.580 Irish Punt 407.638 Belgian franc 7.958 Finnish mark 53.995 Dutch guilder 145.682 Danish kr. 43.154 Austrian sch. 23.331 Spanish peseta 1.929 Swedish kr. 35.539 Norwegian kr. 37.140 Swiss franc 200.905 Port. Escudo 1.601 Aus. dollar 174.602 Can. dollar 179.393 Cyprus pound 551.552

(C.E.)


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