FM Bakoyannis due in Washington next week to meet Condoleezza Rice Recently appointed Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday in Washington where the two are expected to discuss a broad range of issues, the ministry said yesterday. The full agenda of the meeting has yet to be finalized. Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos denied the meeting has anything to do with Greece’s decision on Wednesday to reject an option to buy 10 additional US F-16 fighter aircraft. POLICE DEFENDED Gov’t backs tactics of riot police during general strike march The government yesterday defended the actions of the police during Wednesday’s protest march in Athens. Riot police were accused by some demonstrators of being heavy-handed after several people were injured when clashes broke out with protesters. Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said the police had only tried to defend themselves when they were attacked. «If in the confusion someone was hurt, I would like to express my regret,» he said. FOREIGNERS’ RIGHTS More privileges after five years A law giving more rights to foreigners who have been legally living in Greece for more than five years moved a step closer yesterday as Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos sent fellow ministers the appropriate paperwork to sign. The presidential decree allows the foreigners in question to have the same rights at work as Greeks and allows them to join professional associations. The law stipulated that long-term foreign residents should have full health insurance and be able to speak Greek. Smugglers convicted A court yesterday handed down a 10-year and eight-year jail sentence to two Turkish nationals for their involvement in separate attempts to smuggle migrants into Greece. Onen Tarkan was given 10 years in jail for trying to smuggle 41 migrants from Turkey into Greece last July, and Gundogan Turgut Reis got eight years for bringing 26 would-be migrants into the country. Congress recognition The US Congress has recognized March 25 as Greek Independence Day, the American Embassy in Athens said yesterday. Congress designated the day as «Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy.» Alpha fine The National Council for Radio and Television (ESR) fined television station Alpha 1.5 million euros yesterday after a financial audit of the company. ESR said that Alpha shareholder Dimitris Kontominas had lent money to the station above the 5 percent limit allowable under Greek law. Turkey admonished Athens criticized yesterday Ankara’s decision to turn down a request by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Michael Moller to visit Turkey. Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said Ankara was guilty of a «nervous lack of response.» He also said that the ministry was setting up an emergency response committee to deal with diplomatic or humanitarian crises. Wife murder A prosecutor in Arta, western Greece, yesterday charged a 40-year-old man with murdering his estranged wife. Giorgos Economou was accused of stabbing the 34-year-old woman several times after the two met on a road between Arta and Peta to discuss the possibility of getting back together, court sources said. The couple had three children, aged between 4 and 15. The prosecutor ordered psychological counseling for the children. 16 children The Prefecture of Thessaloniki said yesterday that it will honor on Sunday 48-year-old Katerina Orfanidou, a mother of 16 children, for her contribution to the community. Orfanidou, who has nine sons, seven daughters and four grandchildren, said that despite the financial strain she remains optimistic but added that little aid has been provided by the government.