Interior Ministry planning to merge process for work and residence permits A draft law is being devised to simplify the way foreigners obtain the right to legally stay and work in Greece, according to Interior Ministry officials quoted by the Athens News Agency yesterday. Officials are reportedly proposing to merge applications for residence and work permits into one process. Ministry figures show the process for issuing residence permits is getting slightly faster. There were 115,000 applications in Attica this year, and some 92,000 will have been dealt with by the end of the year – but of those 42,000 are applications from previous years. Some 72,000 applications were processed in 2003. The rest of this year’s forms are expected to pass through the system during the first quarter of next year. DAWN RAMPAGE Anarchists firebomb cars and bank A group of youths who left an anarchist gathering at the National Technical University of Athens in the early hours of Saturday morning attacked cars and a bank in the surrounding area with Molotov cocktails, stones and other projectiles. Five cars were damaged and a cash machine at an Alpha Bank branch on Stournari Street was destroyed. The youths fled the scene before police arrived. Missing thousands A Kavala prosecutor yesterday charged two security firm employees with stealing 400,000 euros they were taking to a branch of Emporiki Bank on the island of Thasos in an armored truck. The security van driver, Dimitris Detsos, and a guard, Nikolaos Papaconstantinou, say the money went missing while they were aboard a ferry to the island on Thursday. The truck had been loaded with 700,000 euros in Kavala but only 300,000 euros was found inside when it arrived in Thasos. The two men are expected to appear before a magistrate today. Budget The parliamentary debate on the 2005 state budget began on Saturday with arguments between the two main political parties over who was to blame for the state of Greece’s public accounts. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis (photo) responded to attacks from PASOK MPs, saying the Socialists were «wholly to blame» for «derailing public finances.» The house is to vote on the budget, which foresees a 2.8 percent deficit – down from a projected six percent this year – on Wednesday. Deadly stabbing A 38-year-old woman succumbed at an Athens hospital on Saturday morning after suffering multiple stab wounds in an attack on Friday in which her 45-year-old boyfriend was killed. Anna Stilianidou was knifed in the apartment she shared with Constantinos Nigdelidis in Aghios Dimitrios, southeastern Athens. Police say Nigdelidis was a drug addict and that the attack was drugs-related. Immigrant abuse? Attica police launched an investigation yesterday following TV claims on Saturday which that officers had abused Afghan under-age immigrants. Cab crime One man was arrested yesterday and a woman was being sought by police in connection with a recent series of cab driver robberies in the northern Athens suburb of Nea Kifissia. Officers say that in at least three cases, the couple took a taxi to the area and then threatened the driver with a gun, forcing him out of the cab. They would then drive a short distance before abandoning the taxi and making off with the driver’s money and cell phone. Ice rink The open-air ice-skating rink outside Zappeion Hall, which is part of the festive celebrations planned by the Municipality of Athens will open today at 6 p.m. Plaka fire A restaurant on Lysiou Street in the Plaka district of central Athens was totally destroyed by a fire on Saturday afternoon. Nobody was hurt.