State to spend 176 mln euros on upgrading service ahead of Olympics The government is to spend 176 million euros on upgrading the country’s fire brigade with 735 new fire engines and other vehicles, Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis said yesterday. Two 88-meter cranes – able to scale multistory apartment blocks and Olympic venues in Athens – have already been procured, fire service chief Panayiotis Fourlas said. The efforts of the fire brigade in combating blazes this year were exceptionally effective and restricted fire damage to a total of 7,000 hectares (400 of which was forestland) – relatively little damage compared to losses in other European countries, Fourlas added. TANKER CREW Papandreou asks Pakistan to release five Greeks ahead of trial Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday asked Pakistan to release the crew of a Greek-managed tanker held in Karachi after the ship ran aground in July, causing 28,500 tons of crude oil to leak into the sea off the country’s main port. Papandreou has asked for the immediate release of the Tasman Spirit’s captain and four other crew members so that they can return to Greece until their trial by a Pakistani court on charges of negligence in handling the ship’s entry into the port. MIDDLE EAST Athens deplores latest bloodshed The Foreign Ministry condemns Saturday’s «unacceptable» suicide bombing in the Israeli port of Haifa and Israel’s attack on an alleged training camp for Palestinian militants in Syria on Sunday which violates international law, spokesman Panos Beglitis said yesterday. «The only solution is the implementation of the road map for peace drafted by a quartet of negotiators (the USA, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations),» Beglitis said. Church appeal Archbishop Christodoulos yesterday questioned Michel Barnier, the European Commissioner responsible for regional policy, on the fate of 57 programs for which the Church of Greece is seeking EU funding. Barnier told Christodoulos, who is on a six-day visit to Brussels, that he was unsure whether the programs (for restoration of buildings, humanitarian missions, etc.) would receive EU backing, but noted that this was largely a matter for the Greek government to pursue. Cop convicted A Corfu policeman was yesterday sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail after being found guilty of bribe-taking and blackmail. Police last Wednesday caught P. Provatas in the act of receiving 200 euros in marked bills from a 36-year-old nightclub owner in return for help with a criminal case she was implicated in. Attica blackout A power cut early yesterday morning meant there was no electricity for about an hour in several parts of eastern and southeastern Attica including Pallini, Markoupolo, Spata and Lavrion as well as the Athens suburbs of Psychico, Pangrati and Nea Smyrni. The Public Power Corporation said the most probable cause of the power cut was unusually high humidity. Illegal houses State demolition teams yesterday tried to start knocking down illegally constructed buildings along the Attica coastline yesterday. However, the planned demolition of a property in Anavyssos was called off after a Finance Ministry department which had declared the building illegal five years ago yesterday proclaimed it legal. Tank probe An Athens prosecutor yesterday ordered a preliminary investigation into the legality of the State’s procurement of 170 Leopard tanks from a German firm following a report in Sunday’s Kathimerini that a Greek company received 60.16 million euros for mediating in the transaction. US visit Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou left for Washington yesterday ahead of a two-day summit of NATO defense ministers starting in Colorado tomorrow. Phone problems Subscribers to the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) can now call direct on 121, toll-free, to report any problems with their fixed-line connection, OTE said yesterday. Before, callers had to insert the first three digits of their phone number.