NEWS

Terror fallout debated

The new international situation following last week’s terrorist attacks in the United States moved squarely onto the Greek political stage yesterday. Foreign Minister George Papandreou began to brief opposition party leaders while the government and the main opposition party, New Democracy, crossed swords over whether a all political party leaders should meet to discuss the situation. In Athens and the United States, meanwhile, reliable information said that two of the hijackers who had sown destruction in the United States had ties with Albania. According to sources, a team comprising agents of the CIA and FBI is rushing to Albania to conduct investigations. Last night it was not possible to clarify whether the hijackers were Albanians or whether they were Arab volunteers in the Kosovo war. An Albanian official said last week that there were no bin Laden operatives in his country. The Saudi exile is the prime suspect in the US terror attacks. Prime Minister Costas Simitis met yesterday with the secretary-general of his PASOK party, Costas Skandalidis, and they agreed that the party congress to be held early next month will focus on the new state of affairs following the terrorist attacks. The congress was initially called by Simitis in a bid to marshal support within the party after his government was forced to retract proposals for social security reform that had met with widespread opposition, in PASOK as well. Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday briefed Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga and Left Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos. He is to address Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today. The Government Council on Defense and Foreign Policy will meet tomorrow. Meanwhile, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas rejected a call by New Democracy for a meeting of all the party leaders. Papandreou’s briefings, he said, are the best reply to this demand. We believe that they are making the call in order to show that they have a different position from that of the government. New Democracy spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos replied, It is a pity that the government has not understood how dramatically the scene has changed since September 11. The country’s interests, at a critical time, demand national agreement. Former conservative Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis repeated a statement he has often made in the past without presenting proof- that had his 1991-1993 government not been forced to resign six months before the end of its mandate by defecting MPs, he would have dismantled the elusive November 17 terrorist organization, some of whose members, he claims, he had already put behind bars. My government had arrested a substantial number of members of the terrorist organization, Mitsotakis told Mega Channel. He said that others released them, implying the PASOK government that came to power after him. He would not elaborate. Mitsotakis has made similar claims in the past. An Athens court ruled yesterday that the 24-hour strike called for today by the Federation of Civil Aviation Employees is illegal. The strike was in protest by Olympic Airways employees to the impending sale of the company. The government is negotiating with a consortium led by Greece’s Axon airlines and is expected to reach a decision by mid-October.