ND defends its stance on stocks

The index at the Athens Stock Exchange dipped again yesterday, but the two main political parties had their minds on issues to do with shares that were bought and sold in 1999, after a government official resigned late on Wednesday over comments he made in connection with alleged improprieties. The general secretary at the Labor Ministry, Dimitris Costopoulos, stepped down after appearing to suggest at a function that Costas Karamanlis had told New Democracy politicians in 1999 – when the Conservatives were in opposition – not to make public the names of PASOK ministers and bank chairmen allegedly involved in stock market improprieties at the time. The government sought to play the incident down yesterday. «His resignation has been accepted and the matter is closed,» said alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros. He added that any information that ND had about alleged improprieties during the stock market bubble had been given to prosecutors. Costopoulos had obviously «missed the point,» the spokesman said. In a statement late on Wednesday night, Costopoulos said his comments had been misinterpreted. He said that Karamanlis had told ND officials at the time to make sure they had hard evidence before making any allegations. However, PASOK looked to make political headway from Costopoulos’s resignation, which took to almost 40 the total number of government appointees who have been sacked or stepped down since the Conservatives came to power in March 2004. Socialist MP Apostolos Kaklamanis accused the government of double standards because when it was in opposition, it pledged to have Parliament investigate the stock market allegations but that now it was in power, ND was reluctant to take this step. «The matter of the stock market is pending within the judicial system,» Antonaros said. It was announced that lawyer Dimosthenis Mammonas would be replacing Costopoulos at the Labor Ministry.