NEWS

Greek conscripts to lose main occupation

Greek conscripts will soon have civilian workers to undertake the time-honored military occupations of cooking, dishwashing, toilet-cleaning, barrack-floor sweeping and picking up cigarette ends. Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told a press conference yesterday that plans will have been drawn up within the next three months to improve living conditions in the conscript-based armed forces. We will start with the bigger units, Papantoniou said, claiming that the hiring of civilians to handle kitchen, latrine and general cleanliness duties will effectively save money by freeing military personnel for other duties, and will help further cut military service – currently 18 to 23 months long. He said conscripts will have six months cut from their service in 2003, and 25,000 professional soldiers will be hired. A man who faked a broken Greek accent (but who was described as having a rich vocabulary) spoke with the father 20 times, agreeing to lower an initial demand of 1 billion drachmas (about $2.6 million) to the $1.15 million in dollars. From Friday to Monday the kidnappers instructed the father to drive out with the ransom money each day, keeping in touch with mobile phones whose cards they would discard after each call in order not to be traced. On Monday they finally instructed Costas Zonas to drop off the money under a bridge.