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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-01-21

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, 21/01/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Group of British MPs table motion for return of Parthenon Marbles
  • Seven countries sign hi-tech telecoms deal for Black Sea
  • Equities post gains, scrape through 3,000-pt barrier
  • UK holds seminar in Athens on overhaul for electricity sector
  • Vernicos Yachts to sell 10 pct of its equity
  • Apparel firm to launch footwear operation
  • Record number of Austrian tourists in '98
  • EU expansion will proceed only with Cyprus' inclusion
  • Simitis replies to ND question on S-300s
  • Pangalos on latest Kosovo developments while in Romania
  • Tsohatzopoulos: Greece wants peaceful settlement for Kosovo
  • Map of Mount Athos' footpaths in the works
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Group of British MPs table motion for return of Parthenon Marbles

A bipartisan group of British MPs yesterday tabled a motion in the House of Commons asking the British government to begin a dialogue with Athens concerning the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece as a goodwill gestu re.

In the motion, the MPs propose the new millennium or at the latest by the year 2004 - when Athens hosts the Olympic Games - as the most opportune times for the return of the priceless 5th century BC friezes.

The motion recognises that there is "fear that the restitution of the Parthenon Sculptures would set a precedent for the dismantling of all the great museum collections, but believes that this would be averted if the sculptures were returned to Greece as a gesture of goodwill".

The motion follows the success of five Greek Eurodeputies 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.

Last Friday, 339 out of 626 Europarliament deputies, or more than half of the assembly, signed a petition in favour of a return of the friezes.

The petition said "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 Euro-MPs to gather enough signatures for a formal resolution. The other two attempts occurred in 1994 and 1996.

Greece has been trying for years to secure the return of the marbles, removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin before Greek independence from Ottoman rule. Elgin sold them to the British Museum in 1816.

Britain has repeatedly refused Greece's requests, saying they were safer at the British Museum than in the smog of Athens, despite recently acknowledging that some damage was caused by cleaning in 1937.

The motion tabled yesterday underlines that the friezes and the Parthenon on the Acropolis constitute a single "artistic entity" and points out that UNESCO has designated the Parthenon as a world cultural heritage site and sup ports the return of the Marbles to Athens.

The motion states that Lord Elgin removed the friezes "under terms and conditions which raise questions about his legal title to their ownership and therefore of any subsequent purchaser".

It also expresses concern about the damage caused to the sculptures while in the British Museum and expresses certainty that the new museum to be built at the foot of the Acropolis will fulfill all the prerequisites for their safekeeping.

Seven countries sign hi-tech telecoms deal for Black Sea

The state telecoms of Greece and six other countries yesterday signed a 51- million dollar agreement for the construction and maintenance of an undersea fibre optic cable to provide a link to the Black Sea region.

The project, which is due for completion in the second quarter of 2000, was endorsed in Athens by the senior representatives of telecommunications corporations in Greece, Armenia, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, Cyprus and Slovenia.

Greek Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis, who attended the signing ceremony, said the cable system would link the countries of western and southern Europe, Africa, the Far East and Australia.

Handling the project for Greece is Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), which is listed on the Athens bourse.

Using a direct connection between Greece and Bulgaria, OTE is in a position to provide telecommunications links globally through its extensive undersea network, Mr. Mantelis said.

Equities post gains, scrape through 3,000-pt barrier

Equities ended higher in brisk trade yesterday, just managing to rise above key resistance at 3,000 points.

The Athens general index finished 1.37 percent higher at 3,001.53 points. Turnover was 92.6 billion drachmas on volume of 21,590,000 shares.

The parallel market for small cap shares underperformed the index to close 0.58 percent down. The FTSE/ASE-20 index of blue chips and actively traded stocks gained 1.79 percent to end at 1,905.00 points.

Sector indices rose across the board.

Banks jumped 1.81 percent, Leasing gained 1.09 percent, Insurance rose 1.56 percent, Investment increased 0.80 percent, Construction surged 2.94 percent, Industrials nosed up 0.32 percent, Miscellaneous went up 0.63 percent and Holding gained 1.18 percent.

The most heavily traded stocks were Eskimo, Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, Bank of Piraeus and Mytilineos.

Of 292 stocks traded advances led declines at 169 to 113 with another 10 issues unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 69,700 drachmas, Ergobank at 36,830, Alpha Credit Bank at 31,350, Ionian Bank at 15,950, Titan Cement at 21,780, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,295, Intracom at 13,750, Minoan Lines at 7,800, Panafon at 8,780 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 8,300 drachmas.

UK holds seminar in Athens on overhaul for electricity sector

A seminar on restructuring the electricity sector in the United Kingdom is to be held in Athens on February 9, organised by the British Embassy in Athens and the UK Department of Trade and Industry.

The seminar aims to present the country's experience from a decade-long overhaul of the sector as Greece prepares for similar changes in order to harmonise with the European Union.

Speaking will be representatives of Cameron McKenna, Mott MacDonald, Deutsche Bank, National Power, National Grid Company, Eastern Group and Lloyds Register.

Attendance is by invitation only. Further information is available from the Commercial Section of the British Embassy on 7272636.

Vernicos Yachts to sell 10 pct of its equity

Vernicos Yachts Maritime SA said in a letter to the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday that it planned to sell 10 percent of its share capital to a strategic investor, but no further details would be announced yet.

The company said its 1998 profits were roughly 20 percent higher than the previous year, and turnover up by around 13 percent.

Apparel firm to launch footwear operation

Connection, an apparel distributor listed on the Athens bourse's parallel market for small cap stocks, is to enter the footwear market after making alliances with two companies abroad, it said in a statement yesterday.

A third alliance is in the pipeline and the company plans to acquire a footwear distributor, the statement said.

Sales in 1998 exceeded forecasts to rise to nearly 5.0 billion drachmas from 3.67 billion a year earlier.

Pre-tax profits were around 350 million drachmas against 274 billion in 1997.

The firm also is to complete the creation of Accon Accessories SA.

Record number of Austrian tourists in '98

Greece topped the list of favourite destinations for Austrian tourists in 1998, representatives of Austrian tourist organisations said here yesterday.

The number of Austrian tourists that visited Greece in 1998 approached a record 600,000, while according to the director of the Vienna branch of the Greek National Tourist Organisation (EOT) an upward trend is anticipated in 1999.

EOT is participating with a large pavilion at this year's International Tourist Fair in Vienna, which opens today and will be held through Sunday.

EU expansion will proceed only with Cyprus' inclusion

Athens reiterated yesterday that expansion of the European Union would proceed only if the Republic of Cyprus is included.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas made the statement when asked by reporters to comment on reports that the current German presidency intended to obstruct Cyprus' course towards accession.

Mr. Reppas stressed that Cyprus' accession prospects were completely unconnected with the island republic's ongoing political problem caused by Turkey's 1974 invasion and subsequent occupation of about one-third of Cypriot territory. The Greek spokesman added that the EU's decision for Cyprus' accession was based precisely on this precept.

Simitis replies to ND question on S-300s

Prime Minister Costas Simitis told Parliament last night that non- deployment of the Russian-made S-300 missiles on Cyprus but deployment on Crete does not weaken the Greece-Cyprus joint defence doctrine

In addition, he said it serves, under present conditions, the interests of Cyprus and of Hellenism.

Mr. Simitis, who was replying to a relevant question by main opposition New Democracy party deputy Dimitris Sioufas, said the issue of the S-300 missiles had overshadowed the political problem in the eyes of international public opinion. He added that the government supports a proposal by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides for a gradual decrease in armaments on the island, adding that the decision produced positive results.

Mr. Simitis said that it brought the issue of Cyprus back to the forefront, and with the issue of disarmament on the island gave a new impetus to the handling of the Cyprus issue.

Pangalos on latest Kosovo developments while in Romania

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos yesterday expressed hope that Yugoslavia's stance in its strife-torn province of Kosovo might change for the better following the appointment of moderate nationalist Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) leader Vuk Draskovic as deputy PM in charge of international relations.

"If there is a change in stance, then a positive development is possible. If not, things will be very unpleasant," Mr. Pangalos warned.

He was speaking to reporters in Bucharest after talks with his Romanian counterpart, Andrei Plesu. He arrived in Romania Tuesday night after a one- day visit to Bulgaria.

Opposition leader Draskovic was appointed in Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's reshuffle of his federal government on Monday.

Mr. Pangalos reiterated his condemnation of the killing of 45 ethnic Albanians in the Kosovo village of Racack, saying "the days when people are massacred for reasons of domestic consumption belong to the past". Belgrade claims the massacre was an elaborate hoax by the west and a pretext for intervention by NATO.

"Whoever fails to respect human freedom and human existence will be answerable to the international community," Mr. Pangalos said.

Mr. Plesu said after his talks with Mr. Pangalos that bilateral relations had markedly improved on all levels and predicted a further strengthening of relations with Greece during 1999.

Commenting on bilateral economic relations, Mr. Plesu cited the recent decision of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) to purchase 35 per cent of the shares of Romania's Romtelcom for 675 million dollars.

Observing that 1,700 Greek firms were currently operating in Romania, Mr. Plesu stressed that the Balkans "is not only a source of conflict but also an important zone of good cooperation".

During his stay, Mr. Pangalos also had talks with President Emil Constantinescu, Parliament President Ion Diaconescu and the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Theoktistos.

Greece's President, Kostis Stephanopoulos, is scheduled to visit Romania shortly.

Tsohatzopoulos: Greece wants peaceful settlement for Kosovo

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos stressed yesterday that Greece is categorically in favour of a peaceful settlement to the Kosovo crisis.

Speaking in Kilkis, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, who inaugurated a multinational training centre for military operations assisting in peacekeeping missions, stated: "it is neither clever nor responsible to attempt to give a solution to the problem of Kosovo with military force."

He condemned what he called "phenomena of military force" which have reappeared in Kosovo, "either thay are in the form of the mass massacre of civilians such as the one recently, or with the actions of the (Albanian) Liberation Army, which is aiming at resolving the problem with arms."

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos inaugurated the multinational centre in the presence of ministers, deputy defence ministers and military officials from countries participating in the Partnership for Peace (PfP), as well as the Greek armed forces' leadership.

The centre will be used to train officers and soldiers from NATO member- states and PfP countries on organising and participating in peace missions in crisis areas.

Map of Mount Athos' footpaths in the works

Time grinds on regardless even on the seemingly timeless monastic community of Mount Athos in northern Greece, where hundreds of little-known mountain paths face increasing disuse and disappearance.

The advent of paved roads on the peninsula and the gradual abandonment of the community's use of previously well-trod mountain paths and routes has prompted veteran hiker Theodoros Tsiropoulos to create a map of these paths.

"Many of these paths are in danger of being completely lost, either because they have not been used for some time or because they are unreachable because of the rubble and debris left behind after roads were laid," Mr. Tsiropoulos said.

"Once these paths were the only means of moving around Mount Athos, for people to commune with nature and enjoy the sights. We have to help them survive."

Mr. Tsiropoulos has been visiting Mount Athos since 1946 and realised the problem wrought by new roads in the '80s. A subsequent major fire on the peninsula also helped to destroy the traces of the paths.

A number of monasteries have already agreed to place the maps near their premises for pilgrims to use and more are expected to follow suit. Two of these monasteries are near the "gates" to the mount, Ouranoupolis and Ierissos.

Mr. Tsiropoulos said he hoped to raise money to mount the maps in special weather-resistant glass from donations but thought corporate sponsorship was inappropriate.

"Each map is expected to cost about 165,000 drachmas...the money could be raised by those who would like to dedicate a map to the memory of one of their loved ones, as a memorial," he said.

For information on contributing to the efforts, interested persons should call at (031)43.01.96.

WEATHER

Fair weather will prevail in the west and north of Greece today. Light rain in the rest of the country. Winds variable, moderate to strong in the Aegean Sea . Overcast in Athens with temperatures between4-12C. Good weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 1-10C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 276.470 Pound sterling 456.419 Japanese yen (100) 243.189 French franc 48.824 German mark 163.750 Italian lira (100) 16.540 Irish Punt 406.655 Belgian franc 7.939 Finnish mark 53.865 Dutch guilder 145.331 Danish kr. 43.053 Austrian sch. 23.275 Spanish peseta 1.925 Swedish kr. 35.756 Norwegian kr. 37.246 Swiss franc 199.784 Port. Escudo 1.597 Aus. dollar 176.516 Can. dollar 181.100 Cyprus pound 550.064

(C.E.)


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