NEWS

When Tony called Costas

Tony Blur! That was an imaginary telephone call between No. 10 Downing Street and the Maximos Mansion, not the one that really took place last Wednesday afternoon, when British Prime Ministers Tony Blair called to ask his Greek counterpart Costas Simitis a great favor. Blair wanted the release of 12 British subjects who, along with two men from the Netherlands, had come to Greece on holiday and wound up getting arrested for taking photographs of a military airport. They were just plane-spotting, that’s their hobby, Blair reportedly said to Simitis. But since it emerged that they had also photographed other airports in Greece, including the Araxos military base, and because here in Greece we read our Ian Fleming and know that all self-respecting spies belong somewhere that allows them to travel and make observations, the fact that the 12 British people are members of an air club in Britain, as Blair said, didn’t fool anyone. The 12 are still in prison in Greece, being held on charges of espionage. So much for one aspect of the telephone conversation. Then there was the explanation as to why neither Greece’s prime minister nor the leaders of the other smaller EU member states had been invited to a dinner behind closed doors in London. The reply from the Greek end of the line must have been along the lines of: As long as it doesn’t happen again. What was Tony Blair’s excuse? That’s something we’ll never know. It had nothing to do with there not being enough cutlery for the rest or because that excellent lawyer Cherie Blair is not such a great housewife! Unpaid credit rises. Unpaid bills of exchange in October rose 21.8 percent in value to 4.6 billion drachmas in October in relation to the same month of 2000. Bounced checks were also up 22.6 percent to 16.7 billion. In the 10 months to October, the value of unpaid bills and bounced checks together rose 21 percent. Bankruptcies in the same period were down 8 percent.