NEWS

In Brief

Salonica protest – Opposition unionists vote on rally to coincide with S Thessaloniki labor unions affiliated with all main opposition parties said yesterday they would demonstrate on Saturday evening outside the conference hall where Prime Minister Costas Simitis will be delivering his keynote speech on economic policy on the sidelines of the annual Thessaloniki International Fair. In a meeting which unionists associated with the ruling socialists refused to attend, unionists affiliated with the conservative New Democracy party, the Greek Communist Party and Synaspismos Left Coalition voted to march from HANTH Square to the Vellidis conference center to protest against government economic policy. Anti-globalization protesters and leftist groups will join the rally. Security is expected to be tight, with twice the usual number of policemen guarding the venue. PRIVATE ENTERPRISE Huge fuel scam uncovered, with own processing plant The Finance Ministry police squad (SDOE) has uncovered what they believe is one of the biggest-ever illegal fuel rackets, after the arrest of Nikolaos Kyparissopoulos, 48, and his Albanian employees Arif Ahmati, 34, Nertil Hysa, 19, Kastriot Yianka, 30 and Islam Elezi, 38, police said yesterday. In a raid on Kyparissopoulos’s well-camouflaged and guarded warehouse in Aspropyrgos, southwest of Athens, this week, police discovered 61 fuel tanks, two processing plants and 17 tanker trucks, where sulphuric acid was used to discolour specially dyed shipping fuel, which is not taxed. It was then sold as regular diesel. The scam is estimated to have cost the state tens of millions of drachmas in lost revenues, and the poor quality fuel sold from the plant would have damaged a large number of the engines it was used in. Kyparissopoulos has a record of similar offenses. Strike off Deal struck on coach tours Tourist coach owners yesterday decided to call off a nationwide strike planned for today, following a meeting with Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis. The owners’ union was fighting government plans to allow state and municipal-owned buses to break their monopoly. Weather. Heavy storms caused extensive flooding in western Greece yesterday evening, while a train was derailed – with nobody injured – at Manolada near Patras, and the ferry service from Rio to Antirrio was disrupted. AIDS debt. Pharmaceutical companies are threatening to cut off hospitals’ supplies of drugs used to treat AIDS because of outstanding debts of over 10 billion drachmas. Representatives of the pharmaceutical industry said yesterday that the Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Technology (IFET) had refused to pay its bills for the drugs, despite the fact that the Health Ministry had made considerable sums available for the purpose. Team spirit. A 35-year-old man, wearing only his underwear and carrying a knife, threatened to jump from the balcony of the third-floor apartment where he lived with his mother in central Thessaloniki yesterday. After firemen managed to persuade Ioannis Dakasias to move away from the balcony, he told them he had been upset because his football team, PAOK, had been treated unfairly in the championship last year. Passport irregularities. An Athens public prosecutor is investigating allegations made in a report by a diplomat at Greece’s Moscow Embassy of violations of the regulations governing the issue of Greek passports, whereby a number of people illegally acquired Greek citizenship. The investigation follows press reports that the report, compiled on orders from the Foreign Ministry, was never published or acted upon by the judicial authorities. Prehistoric jaw. A 10-kilogram fossilised jawbone found by a local resident next to the Pineios River near Larissa belonged to a large animal of the Middle Paleolithic period (60,000 – 30,000 B.C), possibly an elephant, that lived in what is now Thessaly at about the same time as Neanderthal man, it was announced yesterday. An archaeologist identified the animal as Palaeoloxodon antiquus italicus. Similar finds have been discovered in the area in the past. Billboards. Political advertisements are to be exempted from restrictions on billboard advertising, Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou told Parliament yesterday, during a debate on a relevant bill.