NEWS

In Brief

AFGHANISTAN

Greece to send frigate to join US-led operation Greece is to send a frigate to assist in the US-led military operation «Enduring Freedom» in Afghanistan next month, the joint chiefs of staff said yesterday. The frigate, named Psara, will be deployed in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, chiefly for patrol and escort duties. Psara is due to leave Greece on March 13 and to enter the Suez Canal the next day. Greece has already sent around 50 Greek troops - including marines, special forces and engineers - to Afghanistan to join the British-led security force in Kabul, with another 100 expected to arrive in the next few days. IKA VERDICT Doctors action deemed 'illegal,' civil servants call 5-day strike A five-day strike launched by Social Security Foundation (IKA) doctors on Tuesday is illegal, an Athens court ruled yesterday. The verdict vindicated IKA managers who took legal action against the doctors' strike that resulted in thousands of appointments being canceled as the country's clinics remained closed. IKA doctors' chief demand is that colleagues on open-ended contracts should be granted permanency. The civil servants union (ADEDY) worked round yesterday's court decision by calling its own 4-day strike - for IKA doctors - until Monday. DESERTION Civil War veteran exonerated A civil war veteran arrested at the beginning of February on a desertion charge dating back to 1949 was acquitted, in absentia, yesterday by an Ioannina court martial as the crime is covered by a 1974 amnesty. Dimitrios Vayias, 76, left the national army to fight for the communist guerrillas in 1949. His arrest on a fresh warrant was condemned last week by Prime Minister Costas Simitis as «an act of political baseness.» Media strike Journalists have been called upon to join a 24-hour nationwide strike on March 6, after press unions decided to resume protest action following a meeting in Athens yesterday. The demands of the National Federation of Journalists' Unions - leading the strike - include pay increases and the reinstatement of sacked colleagues. Jerusalem patriarch Israel's refusal to approve the election of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Jerusalem will be discussed with Israeli government officials during a trip to Israel early next month by Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis, government spokesman Christos Protopappas said yesterday. The Israeli government has not approved the August 2000 election of Patriarch Irenaios I - accepted by Jordan and the Palestinian Authority - despite being pressed by Greece to do so. Hemp victory The head of a retail chain selling hemp products has won 30 million drachmas (88,000 euros) in state compensation after an Athens court ruled that a succession of raids and temporary closures of the chain's 15 stores «disturbed the personal, family and social life» of the defendant, the Eleftherotypia daily reported yesterday. Head of Kannabishop, Yiannis Ganiatsas, had been repeatedly charged and acquitted for promoting the use of narcotics. Tax blackmail A tax inspector who allegedly blackmailed an Athens doctor to pay her 3,800 euros (1.3 million drachmas) to stop her reporting irregularities in his accounts was caught out by her victim who paid her in marked notes, an Athens prosecutor said yesterday. Police arrested Georgia Delga, 52, outside her office on Tuesday while she was receiving the marked notes from the doctor - who has not been named. Delga, who is to give her defense today, is charged with blackmail, money laundering and bribery. Olympic works The Council of State has rejected an appeal by local residents against the construction of a weight-lifting stadium in the Nikaia district of Piraeus, court sources said yesterday. Heroin haul Police on the Kakavia border crossing in northern Greece yesterday confiscated just under 18 kilos of heroin - reportedly the largest haul to have been stopped entering Greece from Albania - which they found in the car of an Albanian from Athens. The man, aged 22, has not been named.

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