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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-01-31

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, 31/01/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Austrian girl missing in Patras since Saturday
  • Thessaloniki airport closed due to frost
  • European socialists forge manifesto
  • No injuries, damage in earthquake
  • Two injured in football violence
  • Teachers unions to resume talks over education rift
  • Alternate FM on Cyprus issue
  • Greeks may pay less tax next year, PM says
  • Greece states conditional backing for closer Turkey-EU ties
  • Fire aboard Cypriot cargo vessel
  • Cretan air carrier begins flights to Bari
  • Athens bourse hits new record
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Austrian girl missing in Patras since Saturday

Police in the Peloponnese port city of Patras have begun a search for an Austrian schoolgirl missing since Saturday.

Silvia Hobarth, 16, was last seen on the pleasure craft Noah, which was docked at the port of Patras.

Hobarth is in Greece on a school trip sponsored by the Austrian government for children with special needs.

Sources said that Hobarth had left a note explaining her disappearance and classmates of the girl believe she is somewhere in Patras.

Thessaloniki airport closed due to frost

Thessaloniki's Macedonia Airport was shut down for the second day in a row on Sunday as overnight frost made descent and take off too risky for aircraft.

On Saturday, heavy snowfall in the northern city kept the airport closed for most of the day, allowing it to open late in the afternoon.

The sudden drop in temperatures across most of northern Greece has also made the region's roads hazardous for drivers. The temperature in much of northern Greece fell to zero.

The melting snows has forced motorists on national roads and even within the city centre to resort to snow chains. Thessaloniki residents were last forced to use snow chains to move around the city in 1988.

European socialists forge manifesto

European socialist leaders on Saturday endorsed a manifesto for elections in the 15-nation bloc that pledges to lower unemployment, expand social policies, boost growth and improve environmental protection.

The manifesto, the first of its kind devised by European socialists, was approved at a leaders' summit in Vienna and is destined for ratification at a congress of the Party of European Socialists in Milan on March 1- 2.

It will act as a base for election campaigns by socialist parties in Euro- elections in June, but allows them to tailor the details to the needs of their countries.

Representing Greece at the summit was Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who said that European socialists and social democrats wanted solutions to guarantee growth and employment.

"Economic progress so far has helped to ensure stability and growth in Europe. But clouds on the horizon - financial crises - are likely to suspend the growth process, having a negative impact on employment," Simitis said.

"That is why socialist parties in government are concerned at how they can give new impetus to growth and employment by reducing taxes, reinforcing demand, creating infrastructure, including the Trans-European Networks, and backing research and technology."

The manifesto was drafted by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Henri Nallet, a leader of the French Socialist Party.

Representing Greece on the document's drafting committee were Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Kranidiotis and an advisor to the prime minister, Nikos Themelis.

The Party of European Socialists is the largest group in the European parliament, holding 214 out of 626 seats. Eleven of its members are in government.

The manifesto contains a commitment to forge an agreement on employment, and a strategy for growth based on coordinating national economic policies in order to spur demand and investment, also developing the Trans-European Networks.

Germany, the EU's six-month rotating president, hopes the agreement on employment will be adopted at an EU summit in June, when its term ends.

The agreement could act as a counterweight to a stability agreement forged two years ago in order to attain fiscal discipline among countries destined to join European economic and monetary union, socialist officials said.

Other targets contained in the 21-point document are the encouragement of tax harmonisation, closer defence cooperation, revision of the common agricultural policy, reform of the EU budget, and greater transparency and efficiency in the EU's Council of Ministers.

No injuries, damage in earthquake

An earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale shook Etoloakarnania and Achaia at 1416 on Sunday. No injuries or damage were reported, police said.

The 15-kilometre deep epicentre of the earthquake, recorded by Patras University's Seismological Laboratory, lay between Andirrio and Nafpaktos.

Two injured in football violence

Two men were injured late on Saturday when rival football fans clashed in central Omonia Square.

The PAOK and Olympiakos fans threw planks of wood, stones and other items at one another. Some wielded knives.

Police said two PAOK fans - a 20-year-old hit by a stone to the head and a 25-year-old who received a knife wound to the foot - were taken to hospital for treatment and were in a satisfactory condition.

A window of a hotel near the clashes was shattered during the fighting.

A number of people were detained by police for questioning over the incidents but no arrests have as yet been announced.

Teachers unions to resume talks over education rift

A divided seconday school teachers' federation (OLME) resumes talks again on Sunday on finding a unified position to take into talks with the education ministry over seeking a way out of the impasse in the country's secondary schools.

Squabbling between political groups in OLME led to Saturday's meeting being called off, with the ruling party PASOK-affiliated faction, PASK, walking out of the meeting.

PASK said if OLME board members continued their "intransigent policy", they would walk out again on Sunday.

Sources said the dispute between PASK and other factions was whether to request not holding examinations for second year senior high school students this year.

Representatives of students occupying schools in the Athens region reiterated over the weekend a call for talks, saying that they now did not demand the abolition of the law but only the abolition of the exams at second year senior high level.

High school students have called for the education ministry's wide-ranging reform law to be revoked and for Education Minister Gerasimos Arsenis to resign, saying the changes would transform secondary education into an endless stream of examinations.

Examinations for second year senior high school are considered to be a crucial factor in any talks, as the new law provides for an average of the final two years of senior high school to be taken into account for university entrance.

Students are opposed to the measure both for the emphasis on examinations and because they believe that they have not been given enough forewarning of the measure.

The near three months of protests have been characterised by occupations of school buildings, mass protest marches and clashes with motorists as students block city and national roads. Parents and students wanting to resume classes have also come to blows with hardline student protestors.

According to Deputy Education Minister Yiannis Anthopoulos, most occupations of schools appear to have petered out over the past two weeks and only 6.0 percent of schools around the country still occupied.

At the peak of the protests, thousands of schools were out of action.

Talks early last week between the ministry and teachers broke down after two days, with teachers holding a 48-hour strike against the law on Thursday and Friday.

The ministry is meanwhile working on a formula that will allow students to make up for the time lost during school protests and to enable to sit the exams this year.

This will probably entail lessons on Saturdays, public holidays, a cutback in school holiday periods and excursions and extending the daily school day by one hour.

Alternate FM on Cyprus issue

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Saturday that potential in the Cyprus issue should be exploited in order to nudge Turkey towards an overall agreement on gradual demilitarisation of the divided island.

Speaking in Nicosia, Papandreou said a demilitarisation agreement and fair settlement of the Cyprus issue could lead to peaceful co-existence by Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

Cyprus' planned entry into the European Union also could be key to achieving positive developments, he added.

Papandreou pledged that Greece would help Cyprus to harmonise its laws with the EU in preparation for entry.

The task would raise political and technical difficulties, but the Greek and Cypriot parliaments could work together to resolve them.

In addition, Papandreou promised to ask ministry legal experts and the lawyers' union to propose members for a working group that is to hammer out the details of harmonisation.

His statements on harmonisaton were made at a meeting with Cyprus' general prosecutor, Alekos Markidis.

Greeks may pay less tax next year, PM says

The government will be able lessen the tax burden on Greeks as of next year if the economy continues to develop positively, Prime Minister Costas Simitis told his European Socialist Party partners at their meeting in Vienna on Saturday.

Speaking to Greek journalists after the meeting, Simitis said the Socialists' policies could be summed up as being in favour of an "market economy but not a market society".

The European socialist governments deeply feel the duty and their mission to achieve a Europe which is continually developing and socially just, he said.

The summit underlined the common values of democracy, human rights, social justice, equality of opportunity, social rights and social responsibility.

Greece states conditional backing for closer Turkey-EU ties

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Sunday that Greece continued to support Turkey's efforts for closer ties with the European Union but warned that they would be in vain if Ankara did not change its stance on Cyprus.

Speaking in Nicosia on the last day of a three-day visit, Papapndreou said Ankara was using the Turkish Cypriot community on the divided island to push its own designs.

"We want Turkey in Europe but it falls on the shoulders of the neighbouring country to prove it can meet the criteria it has been set... criteria that are not only economic but related to democracy, human rights, respect for international law," Papandreou said.

"These are related to its ties with Cyprus and Greece," he said.

He called on moderate Turkish Cypriot groups to reject the intransigent policies of the regime headed by Rauf Denktash, which he said, worked to the detriment of the Turkish Cypriots.

He said that Cyprus's accession to the European Union would bring the Turkish Cypriot community economic and political benefits and also deprive Turkey of the argument that occupying forces on the islands were needed to protect the community.

Fire aboard Cypriot cargo vessel

A fire broke out early on Saturday morning aboard a Cypriot-flagged cargo vessel carrying 14,000 tonnes of sugar from Belgium to Iran. No injuries were reported.

The 10,800-grt Rallia was sailing off western Crete in gale force winds when the fire erupted in the engine room.

The crew of five Greeks and 22 non-Greek nationals were unable to extinguish the fire, and gathered on the ship's bow awaiting assistance.

The merchant marine ministry ordered emergency sea and air services to the area, and alerted nearby shipping.

A lifeboat, tug, Russian cargo ship, fishing boat and air force helicopter rushed to the scene.

The Rallia's captain, Dimitris Pateras, 57, was in constant contact with the ministry's operations room.

Most of the seamen were airlifted or shipped to safety on Saturday afternoon with nine crewmembers staying aboard to put out the fire, which already had abated.

Cretan air carrier begins flights to Bari

The Cretan private airline company "Air Greece" on Friday announced an additional service to Bari, Italy which will begin on February 15. The flights will depart from Athens every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10.00 am local time. "Air Greece believes that the benefits of the new service will be multiple, not only on the levels of tourism and commerce but also from the cultural viewpoint," the airline said in a statement.

Athens bourse hits new record

Equities surged to new records for the third consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday in record turnover which caused problems in the operation of the market's electronic trading system. The general index ended 1.80 percent higher at 3,149.50 points, its seventh record close in 1999. Turnover was 133.133 billion drachmas. Volume was 20,350,000 shares. Sector indices were mixed. The parallel market index for small cap companies fell 1.58 percent, while the FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 2.03 percent up to 2,001.65, an all-time high.

WEATHER

Overcast weather is forecast throughout the country on Monday with snow in central and northern mainland Greece and the northern Aegean. Other areas may see rain, with snow expected on high ground and storms at sea.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 279.218 Pound sterling 460.169 Japanese yen (100) 240.064 French franc 48.569 German mark 162.893 Italian lira (100) 16.454 Irish Punt 404.527 Belgian franc 7.898 Finnish mark 53.583 Dutch guilder 144.570 Danish kr. 42.805 Austrian sch. 23.153 Spanish peseta 1.915 Swedish kr. 35.875 Norwegian kr. 37.073 Swiss franc 197.388 Port. Escudo 1.589 Aus. dollar 175.951 Can. dollar 184.334 Cyprus pound 548.834

(C.S.)


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