NEWS

In Brief

A GIFT TO LAWBREAKERS

Reforms provide for deferral of fines on properties built on forestland No fines will be issued for building in forests until new maps, determining which sections of land across the country are to be officially designated as forestland, have been drafted and approved, according to an amendment tabled in Parliament yesterday. Forests are one of the few areas where the government claims it will be implacable in demolishing illegal buildings. The Agriculture Ministry’s proposed changes to an existing forestland bill have already been criticized as a vote-winning tactic ahead of elections in the spring. Environmentalists, who believe the bill will leave thousands of hectares of forestland unprotected from builders, are to stage a demonstration at Syntagma Square at 7 p.m. today. DISABLED RECRUITMENT Civil servant posts for those maimed in operations by security services Citizens who end up 50 percent disabled as a result of police, coast guard or fire service operations will be given civil servants’ jobs in one of these services, under draft legislation tabled in Parliament yesterday. The bill, which applies retroactively from January 1, 2000 to allow for the recruitment of two people disabled soon after then, will not apply to criminals or any others whose actions triggered the forces’ interventions. MIDDLE EAST FM praises alternative peace plan Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday praised the launch of an unofficial plan for peace in the Middle East by Israeli opposition leaders and prominent Israelis. Those who finalized the Geneva Accord after nearly three years of negotiations have shown that «there is a solution, there is a future, that nothing has been lost when people take action against fixed viewpoints and interests with respect for dialogue and with generous moves toward mutual compromise,» Papandreou said. Talk of Europe Prime Minister Costas Simitis, his Belgian counterpart Guy Verhofstadt and European Commission President Romano Prodi yesterday participated in a conference on «The Future of Europe» at the Athens Concert Hall. Simitis and Verhofstadt discussed Iraq, the drafting of a European Constitution and the development of a European defense force during a joint press briefing before the conference. Iraq losses Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday sent his condolences to his Spanish and Japanese counterparts over the killing, by resistance forces in Iraq on Saturday, of seven Spanish and two Japanese nationals. Victoria Station Piraeus-bound trains on the Piraeus-Kifissia urban electric railway will not be stopping at Victoria Station from today as renovation works get underway. Kifissia-bound trains will not be affected. ‘Borderless’ Olympics Greece is not planning to suspend its participation in Western Europe’s border-free travel agreement during next year’s Olympic Games, the Associated Press cited police and government sources as saying yesterday. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Schengen Treaty would not be affected despite international concern following last month’s fatal bombings in Istanbul, AP said. The 1985 treaty allows for free movement in most of the European Union, but says any member of the bloc can suspend provisions for security reasons. Cypriot Church Three people were arrested yesterday after the Cypriot Orthodox Church called in police to probe alleged fraud cases worth millions of dollars. The wealthy church has been involved in a long process to reclaim 23 million Cyprus pounds (around 40 million euros) it believes was siphoned from its coffers. Property and share holdings have allegedly been obtained by deceit by people close to the ailing Archbishop Chrysostomos. (AFP) Extortion A foreign woman and her Greek male companion were yesterday charged with attempting to blackmail the woman’s former employer, with whom she allegedly had had a sexual relationship. The couple, who were not named, allegedly demanded 30,000 euros from the employer in return for them not revealing details about the relationship to the employer’s wife.