NEWS

In Brief

PNEUMONIA ALERT

Airports check, brief passengers after three new cases reported in Europe Health Minister Costas Stefanis yesterday chaired a second meeting to discuss ways of coping with possible outbreaks of a mysterious, flu-like respiratory disease that has appeared in parts of Southeast Asia after three more cases of atypical pneumonia were reported in France and Britain. Staff at Athens International Airport yesterday began distributing leaflets to passengers returning from Southeast Asia, informing them of the symptoms of the disease, which include fever, headaches and shortness of breath. Airport staff were yesterday told to conduct checks on all passengers coming from countries in Southeast Asia. Hospitals and health centers remained on alert. KISSINGER SUIT Greek journalist files charges against former US Secretary of State A US-based Greek journalist yesterday filed a legal suit with a Supreme Court prosecutor against former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Ilias Dimitrakopoulos accuses Kissinger of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity – including alleged involvement in the military junta’s crimes and the Turkish invasion and occupation of Cyprus. Kissinger was also allegedly behind the attempted murder of former Cypriot President Makarios, as well as behind his own attempted kidnapping and murder, Dimitrakopoulos claims. PENSION INCREASES Rises will not exceed 4 percent Social Security Foundation (IKA) and bank pensioners, as well as retired self-employed professionals, will receive pension increase of up to 4 percent to be paid retroactively from April for 2003, according to a decision by Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis made public yesterday. Those with monthly pensions of up to 500 euros will benefit from a 4 percent increase while those with pensions between 500 and 1,000 euros will receive an increase of 3-4 percent. Meanwhile, monthly pension payments for farmers and the special solidarity bonus (EKAS) for low-income pensioners are to increase by 14.67 euros per month, according to the same decision. Price hikes Fresh fruit and vegetable prices have increased by up to 117.81 percent since the beginning of the year due to harsh weather conditions and prices are expected to rise yet more, according to Development Ministry data made public yesterday. Bell peppers, spring onions, eggplant and spinach have been subject to the steepest price hikes – at rates of 117.18 percent, 104.27 percent, 100 percent and 95.31 percent respectively. Fewer students The number of places at universities and colleges has dropped by 5.07 percent and 5.57 percent respectively, Education Minister Petros Efthymiou said yesterday. There are 33,310 university places available this year as compared to 35,090 last year, while technical colleges have 36,775 places this year as compared to 38,945 last year, the minister revealed. However, the number of places for information technology courses has increased by 8.83 percent at universities (to 2,340 from 2,150 last year) and by 4.78 percent in technical colleges (to 1,860, from 1,775 last year). Turkey on Cyprus The former commander of the Turkish General Chiefs of Staff, Hussein Kivrikoglu, has said Turkey would seriously consider annexing the Turkish-held north of Cyprus if circumstances demand it, the Athens News Agency reported yesterday. «If it becomes necessary, the annexation of Cyprus by Turkey will come onto the agenda,» Kivrikoglu said on the sidelines of a seminar on security organized by Turkey’s War Academy in Istanbul and attended by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. «Turkey’s security does not emanate from the European Union but from agreements signed earlier.» Strays appeal Animal rights activists offered a reward yesterday for any information leading to the arrest of those responsible for a recent spate of poisonings that have decimated the stray animal population in Athens’s National Gardens. The poisoning of 20 stray cats during the week of February 14 was the second such case this year. On New Year’s Eve, dozens of stray cats and dogs died of poisoning in Athens’s main park. Activists from the Friends of the Cat group offered a 3,000-euro reward for any information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the poisonings. (AP)