NEWS

In Brief

OKTA DEAL

FYROM court invalidates purchase by Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s Constitutional Court yesterday invalidated a deal by the previous government with Hellenic Petroleum, saying the Greek oil company had illegally secured a virtual monopoly on the country’s oil market. Criticizing the 1999 arrangement allowing Hellenic Petroleum to buy a 54 percent stake in the formerly state-run OKTA oil company for US$32 million, the Constitutional Court said that some provisions of the deal – like paying only 1 percent customs on oil imports instead of the usual 20 percent – have caused serious losses to the state. FYROM government spokesman Saso Colakovski said the government will seek a compromise solution «with minimal damage to either side.» (AP) AEGEAN VIOLATIONS Turkish jets breach Greek air space after Papantoniou appeals for calm Turkish fighter jets violated Greek air space dozens of times yesterday, sources said just a few hours after Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told his Turkish counterpart, Vecdi Gonul, that such violations – which also occurred on Tuesday – would have to stop if Greek-Turkish dialogue was to progress. The two ministers met on the sidelines of the South East Europe Defence Ministerial Coordinating Committee conference in Rome. A total of 35 Turkish jets violated the Athens Flight Information Region 20 times and Greek national air space in the Aegean 15 times yesterday. POLICE STRIKE Officers to drop administrative duties More than 40,000 police officers, firemen and harbor police across the country will today abandon administrative tasks in protest against the government’s refusal to raise their salaries, the head of the Panhellenic Federation of Police Employees, Dimitris Kyriazidis, said yesterday after a meeting with Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Floridis failed to solve the problem. Unionists have called for members to boycott only their administrative duties while continuing to provide protection for the public. Raining fish A small tornado in Lake Doirani, northern Greece, swept a shower of small fish a distance of 15 kilometers where they rained down on the village of Korona late on Tuesday, reports said yesterday. The fish were probably skimmed from the surface of the lake – which lies on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – by a small tornado formed during a thunderstorm, according to weather experts who said it was a rare, but not unknown, phenomenon. Doctors strike State hospitals are to operate with skeleton staff today and tomorrow as doctors participate in a 48-hour strike. Protesters are demanding the recruitment of another 800 doctors by 2003 and the immediate launch of salary negotiations. Air crash appeal A Thessaloniki appeals court yesterday reduced by eight months the jail sentences of two air traffic controllers, convicted of the manslaughter of 74 passengers on a Ukrainian passenger plane which crashed in the mountains of Pieria in December 1997. Ioannis Yiannakopoulos and Adamantios Frangiadakis had their suspended five-year jail sentences reduced to four years and four months. Both had been found guilty of manslaughter through repeated neglect and endangerment of an aircraft flight. Relics depart Orthodox Christian worshippers have until noon today to visit a reportedly miracle-working icon of the Virgin Mary at Athens Cathedral before it is flown back to Jerusalem. The icon of Our Lady of Jerusalem – and a piece of wood associated with the cross of Christ – has been in Athens for 10 days after a 45-day stay in Thessaloniki. Ship aground The Ukrainian captain of an empty cargo ship which ran aground near the Peloponnesian port of Nafplion on Tuesday night has been arrested for drunkenness while in command of the vessel, the Merchant Marine Ministry said yesterday. The Panama-flagged Theofilos ran aground at Aghios Nikolaos near Nafplion, from where it had set sail for the Aegean island of Nisyros, the ministry said. None of the nine seamen aboard were injured.