NEWS

In Brief

TAXI STRIKE

No cabs across Greece today and tomorrow Taxi drivers across the country today begin a 48-hour strike protesting against a Finance Ministry decision demanding cash registers in their vehicles, the issuing of receipts and the maintenance of accounts books. Strikers complain the decision to install cash registers in taxis was made by the government without consulting taxi union representatives. They also reiterated their long-standing demand for access to Athens bus lanes. US-EU TIES Simitis in Washington to discuss ‘new era in strategic partnership’ Prime Minister Costas Simitis leaves today for Washington where he is to discuss Iraq, the Middle East and the conclusions of the EU summit in Halkidiki with European Union and US officials. «There are high hopes for this meeting as we enter a new era in the strategic EU-US partnership,» government spokesman Christos Protopappas said yesterday. Two agreements – on curbing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and mutual judicial assistance – are to be signed during the meeting, Protopappas said. Simitis hosted a dinner for former US President George Bush in Athens yesterday. MINISTRY CLEANUP Toxic transformers removed New, non-toxic transformers were yesterday operating in the basement of the Finance Ministry’s building off central Syntagma Square following the removal of old equipment proven to have leaked quantities of the highly toxic chemical clophen into the premises. Experts finished replacing the transformers and cleaning the entire basement area yesterday. Last week ministry staff gave blood for tests which will determine whether their health has been adversely affected by their exposure to the chemical. Flight disruptions Air passengers with scheduled flights on July 1, 3, 4, 8, 9 and 10 should call Olympic Airways to confirm their bookings following yesterday’s announcement of a series of 24-hour strikes by the umbrella union representing civil aviation workers. Unionists are protesting against what they say are huge discrepancies in salaries in their sector, with annual pay allegedly ranging from 54,000 euros for some to 90,000 to 120,000 euros for others. Protesters say staff responsible for the smooth running of the country’s airports are the lowest paid. OA passengers can call 210.966.6666 for flight information. Heroin haul Police were yesterday holding two businessmen from Rhodes after a search of their suitcases at Kos airport on Sunday unearthed nearly 5 kilos of heroin worth more than 500,000 euros. Michail Diakidis and Panayiotis Christou, both 43, told police they had picked up the drugs from two Turks at the port of Marmaris, opposite Rhodes, and returned via Bodrum to Kos from where they had been due to fly to Germany. Diakidis had deposited eight forged 200-euro bills in a Rhodes bank earlier this month, police said. Iranians arrested Police in Nicosia yesterday managed to arrest three Iranians who had spent two hours outside the French Embassy threatening to set themselves on fire in protest at the detention of exiled Iranian opposition group leader Maryam Rajavi in Paris. Thumbing it A Kavala martial arts enthusiast has sent a videotaped account of himself balancing on his thumbs on a moving car to the Guinness Book of World Records editors in the hope that his feat will qualify as an official world record. On Sunday, Costas Nikopoulos held his «thumbstand» on the roof of a car traveling at 20 kilometers per hour over a 70-meter stretch (20 meters further than he had originally intended). Stabbing A Romanian man was arrested yesterday in the western Athens suburb of Haidari for fatally stabbing his sister’s lover in the flat the three shared, following an all-night argument. Police said Lief Tezescu, 27, disapproved of his sister’s relationship with the 33-year-old victim, Cypriot national Iraklis Neophytou. Bus crash Six people were injured yesterday in Melissia, northern Athens, when a blue bus veered into the wrong lane, colliding into a car and then a small truck which were then struck by a taxi and another car.