Flag dispute turns nastier

One week before the October 28 national holiday, a group of pupils yesterday occupied their school in northern Greece to protest at the prospect of a top-performing Albanian classmate of theirs carrying the Greek flag during an Ohi Day parade. The 50-odd teenagers that stopped lessons from taking place at the senior high school in Nea Michaniona, some 30 km (19 miles) southwest of Thessaloniki, called on the Education Ministry to repeal a directive allowing non-Greeks from acting as flagbearers in school parades. Flag-bearing duty is an honor awarded to puplis that do best in class. This year, Nea Michaniona’s top pupil is Albanian-born Odhise Qena, 18. And this time, he may not want to step down, as he had under intense pressure from locals in 2000. Earlier this month Nea Michaniona residents threatened to make their children boycott the parade should the boy be flagbearer. Ministry officials yesterday backed Qena. On October 28, 1940, Greece rejected an Italian ultimatum and entered World War II on the Allied side.