Government ponders action to reduce fuel consumption A prolonged crisis in the oil market could force the government to take drastic measures to curtail fuel consumption. Among the proposals submitted by the Fuel Supply Crisis Management Committee, which met yesterday for the first time, are a reduction on tax on industrial fuel, energy savings in public and private office buildings, a surcharge on gasoline to keep motorists from using their cars, reduced public transport routes, and, in the worst-case scenario, a reduced working week. MORTGAGE SUIT Consumers demand 8 million euros from Alpha Bank over rate hikes A consumer protection group yesterday lodged a joint legal suit against Alpha Bank in protest at a recent interest rate hike on the bank’s mortgages and personal loans. It urged consumers to refrain from making credit card payments or signing for loans for five days from March 17, when the court hearing is due. EKPOIZO (Greek Quality of Life Consumer Union) is also demanding that the bank pay 8 million euros as compensation for distress caused to the consumers who have invested in its products. HOSPITAL DOCTORS Two weeks of protests start tomorrow State hospitals will be operating on emergency staff tomorrow when doctors stage a 24-hour strike, kicking off two weeks of protest action, including strikes and work stoppages. Doctors are demanding higher salaries, the enforcement of a 35-hour week and the recruitment of 800 extra doctors for state hospitals this year. Marbles conference Only the frame of the new Acropolis Museum, where Greece hopes one day to display the British Museum’s Elgin Collection of Parthenon Marbles, will be ready in time for the 2004 Olympics, archaeology professor Dimitris Pantermalis, the government official responsible for the project, told a conference on the Marbles in Athens yesterday. Construction of the 94-million-euro building is already nine months behind schedule. Metro works Works on building the new station Alexandros Panagoulis in the southern Athens suburb of Ilioupolis, on the extension of the Athens Metro Line 2, continue today following the completion yesterday of a tunnel connecting it with Dafni station at the end of Line 2. The Alexandros Panagoulis station is due to open in spring 2004. Flight security The National Security Committee for civil aviation yesterday decided to boost security at national airports and on flights to and from the country ahead of an imminent war on Iraq. The committee, headed by Transport Minister Christos Verelis, decided to procure another 21 systems for detecting explosives in passengers’ baggage, and to boost police presence at Greek airports. Patras riots A Patras prosecutor yesterday brought further criminal charges of looting against two of the 15 youths allegedly involved in riots at the end of the western city’s Carnival festivities early on Monday. The two 19-year-olds, who also face charges of arson and causing damage to private property, face a minimum of two years in jail if convicted. Patras store owners whose premises were damaged during the riots yesterday lodged civil suits. Eleven of the 15 suspects were released on bail yesterday. Greek-Turkish talks A ninth round of exploratory talks on Greek-Turkish issues began in Ankara yesterday between the Greek Foreign Ministry’s political director, Anastasios Skopelitis, and special adviser to the Turkish Foreign Ministry Baki Ilkin. Anti-war rallies Protest rallies opposing a war in Iraq are to take place in Athens and Thessaloniki on Saturday when similar demonstrations are scheduled to be held all over the world, the Greek branch of the European Social Forum said yesterday. Olympic reprieve National carrier Olympic Airways yesterday won a stay at the US Supreme Court that will protect it, for the time being, from having to pay 1.4 million euros to the family of an asthmatic man who died in 1991 after sharing an international flight with smoking passengers.