Athens irked by Ankara’s terse rejection of Pontic massacre Athens yesterday reacted sternly to a statement by the Turkish ministry of foreign affairs refuting the historical truth of the genocide of the Pontic Greeks during World War One. «History cannot be denied, it cannot be falsified,» Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said. However he added, «We are striving for the full normalization of Greek-Turkish ties for the sake of stability on a bilateral and regional level.» Earlier yesterday, the Turkish government had issued a statement saying that «claims regarding an alleged Pontic genocide have no historical or scientific basis.» Ankara was responding to official events held on May 19 in Athens and Thessaloniki to commemorate the Pontic genocide. Diplomats attributed the terseness of Ankara’s statement to Turkey’s domestic strife. MISSING CHILDREN US-style alert system to be launched at Syntagma today A system to help find missing children, modeled on the United States Amber Alert System, is due to be launched at Syntagma metro station at 11 a.m. today. Implementation of the program began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed up with local police to develop a system that would facilitate efforts to find abducted children. It was created after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was kidnapped in Arlington, Texas, and then murdered. Skai Television and Radio as well as other broadcasters have agreed to take part in the project that will involve information about missing children being broadcast at regular intervals. The information will also be sent to people via e-mail, text message and fax. BALCONY FALL Girl, 7, still in critical condition A 7-year-old girl yesterday remained in critical condition for a second day after falling from a third-floor balcony in the northern city of Kozani. The girl is being treated at the Ippocrateio Hospital in Thessaloniki following her transfer there on Tuesday after tests in Kozani. The girl is still in a stable but serious condition, doctors said, adding that the next 24 hours would be critical. Statue restitution The Culture Ministry will examine a demand by Albania for the return of two ancient marble statues stolen in 1997 that later turned up in Greece, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday. The two statues represent siblings Artemis and Apollo and date from the second and third centuries BC respectively. They were stolen from archaeological sites in southern Albania and were found in the possession of a Greek and an Albanian when the pair were arrested in Greece in 1997. Cliffside accident A 28-year-old female secondary school teacher was found dead in a car at the bottom of a 200-meter cliff in the Astros Kinourias area near Tripolis in the Peloponnese, authorities said yesterday. The woman had been reported missing on Wednesday by her family. Authorities have launched an investigation into the causes of the accident. Bus fire A bus caught fire yesterday in Neo Faliron, southern Athens, due to a fault with the vehicle’s catalytic converters which lacked the necessary insulation. No one was hurt in the incident. The bus, which belongs to the Athens public bus company, is one of 121 natural gas-powered vehicles that have the same problem. It was the sixth time that an ETHEL bus has caught fire in the last three days. Farmer shutdown Farmers yesterday closed parts of the Thessaloniki-Kilkis national highway in northern Greece to press demands for the immediate payment of government compensation for recent crop damage. The farmers shut down the highway for half an hour before handing a letter of protest to the local ATEbank as well as to local prefectural and municipal representatives.