NEWS

As US ponders action, Athens waits

Although stressing that it will support the United States in the war against terrorism, Athens is concerned over the form that this retaliation will take and the consequences it will have on the international scene and on the Greek economy. In a meeting with his closest aides yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Simitis noted that the government had to show cool-headedness, self-restraint and increased responsibility until the United States clarified its options. Participants at the meeting judged as positive the fact that Washington had avoided striking out blindly so far. But they noted that such strikes should not be ruled out, as there seemed to be two lines of thinking being shaped in Washington as to how to deal with the issue. Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that some 30 Greeks and Greek Americans were still missing in the rubble of the World Trade Center. Those missing are more than 30 people and there are maybe over 50 wounded, he said yesterday. At their meeting, Simitis and his aides discussed the fallout for the Greek economy that new international developments will have. Simitis stressed the importance of Greece’s participation in the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union for defending the drachma but also of the Athens Stock Exchange, noting that all the capital markets are interrelated. Simitis did not hide his concern over the possibility of a protracted international recession, which could affect the Greek economy’s rate of growth – which could come to about 4 percent this year instead of the 4.6 percent forecast previously. Simitis discussed the consequences of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States with Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, in light of the Government Council on Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA) that will be held on Thursday. Sources said that Tsochadzopoulos provided Simitis with a detailed analysis as to how the latest developments are leading to a new kind of war. He also expressed the opinion that even if the United States conducts a ground war they will not ask Greece to contribute more than it did during the Gulf War, suggesting that a Greek force will not be participating, the same sources said. After the meeting, Tsochadzopoulos said that the ground was being prepared to provide a collective military response to this military and warlike operation against innocent civilians in the United States. When you suffer such an attack you must respond in kind, but also keeping in mind the issue of democracy and democratic rights, in search of the right formula. Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis made a similar comment. In our age, asymmetric threats, the elimination of terrorism and the securing of security for citizens must go hand-in-hand with the securing of what has been gained in terms of personal rights and democratic institutions and not by reducing them. Roller coaster for Athens Stock Exchange The Athens Stock Exchange yesterday experienced one of the most turbulent sessions in its 125-year history, managing to limit initial huge losses in a protracted session that was suspended for over two hours. The ASE general index ended 1.80 percent lower, at 2,207.94 points. It still managed to set a year low, or, to be exact, a 33-month low, on the second anniversary of its brightest moment: On September 17, 1999, the ASE index had recorded an all-time closing high of 6,355.04 points. It has fallen 65.26 percent since then. The session began, as usual, at 10 a.m. The index opened more than 5 percent below the previous day’s close, affected by the bad news in Asian markets and widespread rumors that the New York Stock Exchange, shut down last Tuesday in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., would suffer a full-scale meltdown. Investors on the ASE kept selling, on expectations that the market would dip lower still. By 11.57 a.m. the ASE had fallen to 2,063.81 points, with 97 of 361 stocks being traded between 17 and 18 percent lower. At this point, and with fears of a meltdown widespread, ASE President Panayiotis Alexakis, after quickly conferring with Capital Market Commission President Stavros Thomadakis, decided to suspend the session for 2 hours and 15 minutes. The rationale behind the suspension of trading on the ASE was that its course was incompatible with what was happening in international decisions. Initially, the ASE was to end the day’s trading at 5 p.m., but officials later forecast, correctly, that Wall Street, due to open at 4.32 p.m., Athens time, would most likely rebound after an initial bad opening. Therefore, the ASE decided, around 3 p.m., to push the closing time to 6 p.m., in order that the Athens Stock Exchange could trade concurrently with New York for almost an hour and a half. It was also decided during yesterday’s session that trading hours for the rest of the week would change to better correspond with trade on the New York markets. Trade will begin at 0900 GMT (noon in Athens) compared to 0700 GMT (10 a.m. locally) as it would normally, and end at 1500 GMT (6 p.m. local time) compared to 1130 GMT (2:30 p.m. local). Water works. Water supplies will be cut off between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. today in the eastern Athens districts of Dafni, Aghios Dimitrios, Alimos, Hellenikon, Glyfada and Voula, during work to move the main supply pipeline to make way for the Ilioupoli metro station.