NEWS

In Brief

ELECTIONS NEXT SPRING

Simitis insists government is to exhaust its four-year mandate Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday dispersed strong rumours of an impending early parliamentary election, insisting that the next polls will be held at the expiry of the government’s four-year mandate. «We are determined to complete the government cycle with determination and strength until the elections, which will be held in the spring of 2004,» he told ministers during yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. THESSALONIKI CHAOS PM to be greeted by thousands of protesters at launch of trade fair Thousands of protesters are to greet Prime Minister Costas Simitis today when he arrives in Thessaloniki to launch the international trade fair at 8 p.m. Olympic Airways contract workers are to gather at the road junction leading to Thessaloniki airport at 5 p.m., while an estimated 4,000 police staff are to protest in the city center at 6.30 p.m. Left-wing organizations have organized protest marches for today and tomorrow, when farmers are expected to drive their tractors into town. Traffic police are asking citizens to use public transport as cars will be banned from much of the city center. SOUDA BAY MPs challenge expansion plans Two Synaspismos Left Coalition party deputies yesterday demanded an explanation from the government regarding reported plans by the Defense Ministry to requisition more than 4 hectares of land around the US Navy’s installations at Souda Bay on Crete. The planned extension does not reflect the needs of Greece’s air force but America’s desire to create a no man’s land around its installations, Fotis Kouvelis charged. Meanwhile, Nikos Hountis attacked the government for continuing to satisfy US demands, and said the base should be closed. Cyprus artifacts The United States has extended by three years an emergency ban – imposed to crack down on the rampant looting of sites in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus – on the import of Byzantine-era artifacts from the island in response to a request by Cypriot authorities, the US embassy in Athens said yesterday. The move forbids the import of ecclesiastical and ritual material unless accompanied by a permit from the Cypriot government, it said. «Materials produced during the Byzantine period illustrate the high degree of artistic achievement on Cyprus and include some of the finest pieces of Byzantine art ever produced,» it added. Swaying scaffolding Police stopped traffic on central Academias St for four hours from 11 a.m. yesterday after some scaffolding erected outside the Law School’s Cultural Center was blown out of position by strong winds and posed a threat to cars on the street. The fire service was called to remove the scaffolding with cranes. Lightning death A 44-year-old farmer died after being struck by lightning near the village of Sykia in Halkidiki yesterday. Nikolaos Bakiras had taken his flock to graze on the forestland when a storm broke out. Writer dies Author Ilias Petropoulos died late on Wednesday night in a Paris hospital at the age of 75. He had been suffering from cancer. Petropoulos, whose work includes «The Good Thief’s Manual,» «Rebetika Songs,» and «The Bordello,» had been convicted by Greek courts four times for the anarchic character of his writing. Car blasts Explosive devices consisting of dynamite that were planted on a truck and car belonging to a businessman and his wife in Tsikalaria on the outskirts of Hania detonated early yesterday morning, destroying the vehicles and causing widespread damage, police in Crete said. Nobody was hurt. Migrants Port Authority officials on Kos yesterday detained 11 Iranian illegal immigrants who had reached the island in two plastic rowboats. Tractor death A 78-year-old farmer was crushed to death yesterday when his tractor overturned in a field in the Cretan municipality of Platanias. Christos Christodoulakis had been trying to ascend a small hill when he lost control of the machine.