FM seeks political solution on Iraq with European and Arab counterparts Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday discussed prospects for a political solution to avert a war in Iraq with European and Arab counterparts and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Papandreou, representing Greece as EU president, spoke with his French, Portuguese and Austrian counterparts by telephone as part of efforts to form a common EU position on Iraq. Papandreou also spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis – ahead of today’s peace summit in Istanbul bringing together foreign ministers from Arab states – and to the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan. GIFT SHOP RACKETS Firms and buses ‘guiding’ tourists in purchases to face steep fines Travel firms and coach drivers accepting payment from souvenir shops to ensure tourists on their tours pass by the stores will face steep fines from now on, Deputy Development Minister Dimitris Georgakopoulos said yesterday. Firms violating the new decision will face a penalty of up to 5,000 euros and reoffenders could pay as much as 10,000 euros. Tourists should be allowed to compare prices in different stores before deciding on what to buy, Georgakopoulos said. ORTHODOXY Church denied burial to Evangelist The intervention of Archbishop Christodoulos himself was necessary to convince church authorities in the northern town of Veria to give an Orthodox burial yesterday morning to a 64-year-old Evangelist woman who had died of cancer. Dr Costas Zarkadas sought the help of the archbishop when the local church refused to bury his wife, German national Monika Erkelns-Zarkada, due to her Evangelist faith. She had lived in Veria since 1968 when the couple had been married in an Orthodox ceremony. WW II rounds More than 1,000 old artillery rounds have been unearthed from a construction site in the Evosmos district of Thessaloniki, the army announced yesterday. A total of 1,285 75-millimeter shells have been found in the area since last Thursday, the army said, adding that the search would continue for other shells. The ordnance probably dates to World War II. US deal Parliament yesterday ratified a Greek-US agreement governing the status of US forces in Greece (and Greek soldiers in the USA) despite fierce criticism from PASOK and opposition deputies. Former Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said the facilitations for Greek soldiers in the USA – in theory equal to those for US forces in Greece – were «truly laughable,» consisting of only electricity, air, water, garbage removal, and embalmment services. But Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos defended the Comprehensive Technical Agreement – signed by Foreign Minister George Papandreou in June 2001 – as an example of Greek-US cooperation. Rapist convicted A Larissa court yesterday sentenced a 39-year-old kebab store owner to 17 years and four months in jail for regularly raping three underage siblings – two of whom are mentally retarded – for four years in a row. Panayiotis Zapantoulis raped the children – aged 7, 9 and 14 – several times between 1996 and 2000 after driving them to remote beaches, the court heard. The mother of the siblings pressed charges against Zapantoulis when her children told her they were being abused. Mexican aid Greece is to send 200,000 euros in humanitarian aid to help Mexico tackle the damage from Tuesday’s earthquake, under a decision approved yesterday by Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos. Greece has also arranged for a team of rescue workers – from the Foreign Ministry-financed organization Hellenic Rescue Team – to be sent to the site of the earthquake as soon as the Mexican government approves the decision. Rio Passenger ferries operating on the Rio-Antirio route will be disrupted by work stoppages between today and Sunday. Services will be suspended between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily.