NEWS

In Brief

DEFENSE CRITICISM

Former minister expresses doubts over state purchase of Leopard tanks An opposition New Democracy deputy and former defense minister, Yiannis Varvitsiotis, yesterday questioned the reasons behind the government’s procurement of 170 Leopard tanks from Germany and the way in which they were purchased (without basic instruments and ammunition). The Leopard tank is not used by any other European army, Varvitsiotis said, claiming that the government could have upgraded its existing fleet of tanks using a quarter of the money committed to buying the Leopards (around 1.6 billion euros). THEODORAKIS REACTS Composer vehemently condemns yesterday’s US bombing in Iraq Composer Mikis Theodorakis yesterday vehemently expressed his condemnation of yesterday evening’s US bombing of Baghdad. «At this moment I am watching, along with the rest of the world, the biblical destruction of Iraq. In the flames ravaging the martyred city, I can see the image of the USA as a democratic country being annihilated within me,» Theodorakis said after watching the assault. «I can see Bush next to Genghis Khan, Attila and Hitler,» he added. MOURNING BELLS Cretan churches to ring daily Mourning bells will sound in Cretan churches every day at noon for five minutes until the end of the US-led war in Iraq, the Cretan Holy Archbishopric said yesterday. Cretan defense A battalion of Patriot anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems were transferred to the Cretan port of Hania yesterday to inspire a feeling of security among citizens close to military installations during a time of war, army sources said yesterday. Also yesterday, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle anchored at Marathi in Souda Bay. The carrier, and its 2,000-strong crew, is due to remain at Marathi until Wednesday. Differences stoked Opposition New Democracy MP Evripides Stylianidis yesterday asked the government to explain why seven diplomats accompanying Foreign Minister George Papandreou to the EU’s Spring Summit in Brussels were recalled to Athens. Stylianidis inquired whether the decision by Prime Minister Costas Simitis to recall the diplomats, reportedly made after Simitis deemed Papandreou’s entourage too large, had met with any opposition from Papandreou – an apparent reference to alleged differences between the premier and his minister. Ecofin summit The European Council of Finance Ministers yesterday agreed to the harmonization of tax on energy during a summit in Brussels chaired by Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis but did not reach a consensus on tax on savings due to Italian objections. «For the time being, the markets are stable and there is no major risk on the economic level,» Christodoulakis said yesterday. Olympic education The Athens 2004 Organizing Committee yesterday joined dozens of educational institutions at the Education 2003 fair in Piraeus to inform thousands of visitors about the Olympic Education Program which is currently being taught to nearly 1 million pupils in 7,500 schools across Greece. The aims of the program – teaching general knowledge, athletic and social skills, and Olympic values to Greek pupils – are outlined in leaflets available at the Athens 2004 stand until tomorow when the fair ends.  Fatal collision A 17-year-old woman, Julia Lamai, was killed and a 22-year-old man, Fetahi Antiol, was injured when their motorcycle collided head-on with a car just outside Thessaloniki yesterday. Blood pressure The latest research into the causes of high blood pressure, which affects 1 in 5 Greeks, focuses on the differing behavior of genes, a conference in Thessaloniki was told yesterday. «Thanks to molecular biology, we can study the circumstances under which some genes emit the wrong signals – encouraging the appearance of high blood pressure in one individual – while the genes of another individual act protectively,» Haris Gavras, a specialist in high blood pressure from Boston University told delegates.