Culture minister pledges $7 mln to vaccinate 1.4 million children Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos has pledged $7 million of the Cultural Olympiad’s funds for the vaccination of 1.4 million children in Africa, Asia and South America. «We must make survival part of our culture if our culture is to survive,» Venizelos said in New York. The Cultural Olympiad is the key sponsor of UNICEF’s Christmas cards. A UNICEF telethon for children with AIDS is to be broadcast on Greek state television on Monday. CADET MISSING Army steps up search for instructor who disappeared during exercise A military rescue team was yesterday conducting a land and air search for a cadet reserve officer who disappeared late on Thursday night while trying to cross a river during a night training exercise in the area of Rentina, central Macedonia, the army said yesterday. Achilleas Mimilidis, 27, was swept off by a strong current, the army said. Mimilidis, based in Veria, had been seconded as an instructor for an advanced training session for new recruits, the army said. DRUG USE UP More rehab centers needed The number of users of «hard drugs,» such as heroin and cocaine, has risen significantly over the past five years, the Organization Against Drugs (OKANA) revealed yesterday in Thessaloniki, noting that citizens continue to oppose the operation of rehabilitation centers although even more of them are needed. OKANA figures show a 105 percent increase in adolescents using hard drugs, a 33 percent increase in female users, and a 181 percent increase in the use of cocaine and amphetamines over the past five years. Greek-Libyan ties Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday met his Libyan counterpart Abdel Rakhman Shalkam in Athens. The two men discussed Cyprus, Iraq, Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in security matters, Greece’s EU presidency next year, illegal immigration and the fight against terrorism. Speaking after the meeting, Shalkam invited Greece to join talks on broadening Euro-Mediterranean cooperation. Separately, Papandreou noted yesterday that one of Greece’s priorities during its EU presidency would be the development of US-EU dialogue. Grass rooted out Albanian police said yesterday that a Greek woman, from whom they confiscated 14 kilos of marijuana at Tirana Airport on Thursday, is probably part of a ring smuggling drugs from Albania to Western Europe. British passport-holder Panayiota Georgiou, 37, had passed through Tirana several times in the past months, police said. Georgiou immediately admitted that the bag – in which a sniffer dog detected the drugs – belonged to her, and revealed the names of three Albanian conspirators, police added. ‘Orphans’ return Two Russian girls, kidnapped and sent to Greece five years ago, returned to their home village in southern Russia on Thursday, Russian media reported yesterday. The Greek Foreign Ministry discovered Svetlana and Natalya Urvachena, 14 and 15, respectively, in a Greek orphanage – whose location was not disclosed – in 2000 but legal procedures for their return to Russia lasted over two years, the RIA Novosti news agency quoted a Russian prosecutor’s aide as saying. It was not clear whether the girls, whose abductors may have initially intended to sell them in Greece, would be returned to their impoverished mother. Consumer complaints The cost of living was top of the list of consumer complaints this year, according to the Consumer Institute (INKA) which said yesterday it recorded nearly 120,000 complaints over the first 11 months of the year. Next in line was food quality, followed by tourism, slimming centers and banks, INKA said. Women honored Greek women of the diaspora were yesterday honored for their outstanding contributions in the fields of commerce, culture and politics during a seminar organized by the Interior and Foreign ministries in Thessaloniki in association with the Council for Hellenes Abroad. Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis extended distinctions to Eleni Krystallidou, the principal of the SAHETI school in Johannesburg, South Africa; Theodosia Antoniadou Tziveli, a designer at one of the biggest fashion houses in Italy; Maria Vamvakinou, an Australian deputy.