Protest called off after minister pledges 50 percent of dues by Christmas Thessaly farmers yesterday called off protest action after Agriculture Minister Giorgos Drys said they would be paid 50 percent of compensation they are due – for losses sustained after last January’s frost – by Christmas. He did not specify whether the compensation was for fixed capital losses or for crop damage, which he had earlier said would be paid by the end of this month and by April, respectively. Hundreds of protesting farmers had earlier moved their tractors from NATO’s Joint Command Southcentral sub-headquarters at Tyrnavos to Tyrnavos town center. TOWN PLANNING Changes through presidential decree, not ministry, prefects, court says Major town-planning decisions, especially those affecting areas near beaches or forests, should be passed via a presidential decree to limit environmental damage, according to the fifth department of the Council of State which yesterday submitted its decision for approval by the council’s plenary session. The department ruled that town-planning decisions are unconstitutional when made by the Public Works Ministry and prefectural authorities but would be subject to the scrutiny of the Council of State – and its inspection of constitutionality – if passed by presidential decree. OLYMPICS SECURITY Readiness to be tested A total of 1,800 staff from a variety of security organizations and public safety services, including police, are to participate in two security exercises tomorrow aimed at simulating a response to the eventuality of terrorist attacks during the 2004 Olympic Games. The three-day exercises will take place at Athens International Airport and Piraeus harbor, and will be based on the theoretical hijacking of an aircraft and bomb threat on a cruise ship. Copyright Kiwi fruit produced in the northern prefecture of Pieria and apples from the northern town of Kastoria were among a list of food products granted protected designation of origin by the European Commission yesterday. Forest fire Firefighters yesterday morning managed to extinguish a forest fire that broke out on Wednesday night on Mt Falakro in the northern prefecture of Drama. The blaze destroyed dozens of hectares of forestland, reports said. A significant section of Mt Falakro – one the country’s highest mountain ranges – is protected under the European Union’s environmental program. It is unclear how the fire started. 24-hour clinics The Social Security Foundation (IKA) yesterday announced it would be setting up six 24-hour clinics in Athens and two in Thessaloniki to be managed by 550 new full-time IKA doctors it appointed earlier this week. Second murder A Thessaloniki court yesterday passed down a life sentence to a 46-year-old man who was cleared of killing his girlfriend two years ago. Spyros Kavvadias, 46, was found guilty of murdering Tania Haritopoulou, who went missing in August 1998 following a row with Kavvadias. The latter has already been in jail since 1999, serving a life sentence for the murder of another former female companion, from Switzerland. Prestige The only Greek connection to the Prestige tanker, which spilled 70,000 tons of oil when it sank off Spain’s northwestern coast on Tuesday, are the two Greek seamen who were aboard, Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis said yesterday. The vessel is owned by Mare Shipping, Liberia, Monrovia, managed by Universe Maritime Ltd Liberia and is on the Bahamas shipping register, the minister said. The Prestige’s captain, Apostolos Magouras, was remanded in custody last week on charges of disobeying authorities and damaging the environment. Smugglers’ trial A Volos court is today expected to decide on the fate of two senior police officers, from the village of Kalambaka near Trikala, charged with smuggling 25 Albanian immigrants into Greece in 1995 for a fee. The Kalambaka station chief and his deputy, whose names were not made public, claim to be innocent. A prosecutor has requested they be charged with attempted abuse of power and harboring a criminal, respectively.