National opens branches amid strike to help pensioners and unemployed Elderly citizens leave the Pangrati branch of National Bank after collecting their pensions yesterday. The bank announced that it would be opening 72 branches across the country to help citizens collect monthly pension and unemployment checks despite ongoing strike action by staff. Emporiki and Agricultural banks also opened some of their branches. FUEL PRICES Gas station owners want less VAT The Federation of Gas Station Owners of Greece yesterday called on the Economy and Finance Ministry to lower value-added tax on fuel after oil prices reached a record high of nearly $60 per barrel. According to Development Ministry figures released yesterday, the price of unleaded petrol rose by 1.25 percent to 0.891 euros per liter on June 17, compared to the previous week. Soldier suicide A 25-year-old professional soldier serving at an army base on Rhodes fatally shot himself with his service rifle while on guard duty early yesterday afternoon, the joint chiefs of staff said in a statement. The soldier, identified only as A.P., had joined the army about a year-and-a-half ago, the statement said. Migrants intercepted Coast guards detained 23 illegal immigrants on the Aegean island of Chios, the Merchant Marine Ministry said yesterday. The group of would-be migrants were arrested after a coast guard patrol boat intercepted a wooden dinghy east of Chios, it said. The nationality of the migrants was not made public. Iraq summit Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis is today due to attend an international summit in Brussels on rebuilding Iraq. The summit is being organized jointly by the European Union and US authorities. Busy burglar An 18-year-old Gypsy believed to have been involved in 139 burglaries, robberies and thefts in the Haidari area, west of Athens, over the past nine months was caught while trying to burgle the home of a relative, Athens police said yesterday. The youth is believed to have conducted the raids – on stores, homes and cars – with the help of three other youths who are being sought by police. Many of the burglaries were carried out at night while residents were asleep, according to police. Cyprus briefing United Nations special envoy for Cyprus Kieren Prendergast is today due to brief the United Nations Security Council on the outcome of his talks with officials in Nicosia, Athens and Ankara. Prendergast’s briefing is expected to determine whether UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will back a fresh round of Cyprus peace talks. Meanwhile, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos is due to visit London on June 26 and 27 for discussions about the Cyprus issue with British government officials. Military visit The chairman of the European Union’s Military Committee (CEUMC), General Ronaldo Mosca Moschini, is to begin a three-day visit to Athens tomorrow at the invitation of the head of the joint chiefs of staff, General Panayiotis Hinofotis, his office said yesterday. Moschini is to discuss with Hinofotis the prospects for developing the EU’s military capabilities. He is also to address a seminar on crisis management for defense sector officials. Kurd support Members of human rights organizations and anti-racism groups yesterday staged a rally outside the Macedonia and Thrace Ministry in Thessaloniki, calling for political asylum to be granted to a Kurdish refugee who was hospitalized on Saturday following 33 days on hunger strike. Zulkuf Murat Bora, said to be in critical condition, has been granted a residence permit. But two applications he made for asylum, in 1995 and 2001, were rejected.