NEWS

In Brief

HOSPITAL DEBTS

Suppliers say will stop services unless State repays 800 million euros Suppliers of medicine and equipment to state hospitals warned yesterday that they would suspend their services if the government fails, by the end of February, to repay a total of 800 million euros owed to them. Officials representing the State’s six major suppliers’ associations said if the current situation does not change, they will start charging interest on existing debts – in accordance with European Union legislation. They said they would determine a course of action by the end of this week. Some hospitals have not paid their bills for 18 months. CONFIDENTIALITY Legislation approved for neutral body to protect privacy in communication Parliament yesterday approved a draft law, tabled by Deputy Transport Minister Manolis Stratakis, for the establishment of a seven-member independent administrative authority to protect the confidentiality of communication. A presidential decree, to be issued in the near future, will determine in which instances the law protecting the privacy of communication can be disregarded, as well as determining guarantees for the use and destruction of any material produced in such cases. SQUAT FIRE Migrants’ homes burnt More than 150 illegal immigrants saw their homes destroyed early yesterday morning after a fire ripped through a deserted building in the Athens district of Kolonos where they were sheltering. The blaze started when a resident immigrant lit a fire for warmth, which then spread through the 1,000-cubic-meter building that housed dozens of makeshift wooden huts in which the migrants dwelt. A rescue team of 50 firemen handling 16 fire engines extinguished the fire in three hours. The exact extent of the damage was unclear yesterday but no injuries were reported. Aircraft The Defense Ministry yesterday signed a contract for the purchase of 12 new C-27J transport aircraft from Lockheed Martin Alenia Tactical Transport Systems, a US company jointly owned by US Lockheed Martin and Italy’s Alenia, at a total cost of 272 million euros. The aircraft are due to be gradually delivered between January 2005 and July 2006, according to the ministry which also secured the option to buy another three C-27Js. Quake aid The Turkish Foreign Ministry yesterday thanked Greece after receiving 200,000 euros in humanitarian aid to deal with the damage caused by a 6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck the region of Pulumur on Monday. Turkey thanked the Greek government and people «for the sensitivity they have shown.» Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos said on Monday that Greece would send a rescue mission to Turkey if it was deemed necessary. Olympics budget A group of 21 opposition New Democracy deputies yesterday called for Parliament’s Cultural Affairs Committee to convene to inform them of the total budget and expenses of the Athens Olympics, and that of the 2004 organizing committee. They also want to know how much has been spent so far in arranging security for the Games. Cake conviction An Indian student who went hungry for two days until tempted into stealing a cake worth 1 euro from a bakery was jailed for 20 days by a Cypriot court, it was reported yesterday. Gurminder Singh’s cake heist also cost him more than a spell in prison – while trying to get away, the luckless thief fell and gashed his chin, which needed stitches, Simerini daily reported. Eleni Efraim, a Nicosia court judge, said that break-ins and robberies were becoming too frequent a crime in Cypriot society and the accused needed to be given a deterrent. (AFP) Family racket A 37-year-old Cretan man, his father and father-in-law have been arrested for illegally refilling used cartridges and selling them on, police said yesterday. Officers arrested the three – who have not been named – after confiscating a rifle grenade, several shotguns and 9,000 empty cartridges, as well as specialised machinery for the refilling of cartridges.