NEWS

In Brief

BERISHA VISIT

Albanian PM lauds relations with Greece and plans Athens visit soon Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said on Saturday that he plans to make an official visit to Greece soon, the Athens News Agency reported. Berisha said he would be «very happy» to visit Greece but that an agenda for his visit would have to be prepared first. «Our relations with Greece are excellent, and I assure you that I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis himself,» Berisha told reporters. Greece’s ties with Albania took a knock in November when President Karolos Papoulias had to cut short a visit to Albania after a protest by Albanian Cams. MIGRANTS FREED Human traffickers held 96 people for ransom north of Athens Police yesterday freed 96 illegal immigrants held hostage in a warehouse by people smugglers who were demanding ransoms worth thousands of euros from their captives’ families, a police official said. The nationals from several Asian countries had been transported from the border between Greece and Turkey and locked up without food and water for two days in the town of Kapandriti, 60 kilometers north of Athens. Police also arrested five alleged people smugglers who had demanded between 4,000 and 6,000 euros for the release of each immigrant, the official said. (AFP) DEADLY BLAZE Disabled man unable to escape fire A 43-year-old disabled man was killed in a fire that broke out in his apartment in Kato Patissia, central Athens, just before 8 a.m. yesterday, the fire brigade said. The man died from smoke inhalation, authorities said, as he was unable to get himself out of the bathroom, where the fire started. Firefighters smashed down the door to his apartment and extinguished the blaze quickly but discovered he had died while apparently trying to climb into his wheelchair. Synod angers The Greek Union for Human and Citizens’ Rights yesterday blasted the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece for handing out a leaflet claiming the organization wants religious traditions banned from national holidays and religious studies not to be taught in schools. The Union has supported efforts to separate the Church and state but said the Holy Synod was «lying, misleading and creating fictional opponents.» The Union called on the government and Parliament to put an end to such attacks from the Church. Helios probe Akrivos Tsolakis, the head of the team investigating August’s Helios airliner crash, said his probe into the accident which killed all 121 people on board will be finished by February, the Cypriot newspaper Simerini reported yesterday. A reconstruction of the flight, which left Larnaca and crashed north of Athens, is due to take place today. Supermarket robbery Two armed men held up a Veropoulos supermarket in Neo Iraklion, Athens, on Saturday, police said. Witnesses said that customers and staff ran for cover when the men fired two shots in the air before they emptied three of the store’s cash registers. The thieves escaped on foot, police added. Officers did not reveal how much money was stolen. Varvakeios fire A fire in the central Athens Varvakeios market destroyed a restaurant early on Saturday, authorities said. Firefighters managed to put out the blaze before it reached the market’s recently built facilities. No one was hurt in the fire as the four kitchen staff and three waiters managed to escape the blaze. Fire brigade officials say the fire may have been caused by a problem with the chimney. Dirty sweets Piraeus Prefecture authorities requested the intervention of the public prosecutor on Saturday after inspecting an illegal sweets and ice cream workshop in Amfiali that was found to be in serious breach of health standards. Authorities said they could only inspect the workshop by peering through the windows, since the doors were locked, but they saw rodents and cobwebs in the area used to prepare food.