PM seeks end to sit-ins

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday called for an end to a wave of student sit-ins that have paralyzed hundreds of secondary schools across the country, saying the government was open to debate. «We want students to stand up for their rights but sit-ins constitute a type of lockout against the right to education,» Karamanlis told Parliament. He added that the government rejected «the logic of those who sacrifice the rights of others for their own ends,» hinting that the protests had been influenced by groups affiliated to the political opposition. Responding to a question by Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos about private colleges, Karamanlis refused to prohibit their operation but said the government would impose stricter legislation to monitor the quality of the education they offer high-school leavers. The new laws would bring the colleges – most of which are franchises of foreign universities – within the Education Ministry’s control, he added. The premier dismissed Alavanos’s stance as «a denial of reality» and stressed that Greece was obliged to bring its legislation in the education sector in line with European standards. Asked to put an end to the sit-ins, a prosecutor told the Education Ministry that he could only intervene to investigate alleged crimes. The students, who have shut down some 350 schools (250 of which are in Attica), are calling for more spending on education and the safeguarding of free state education. While speaking in Parliament yesterday, Karamanlis also commented on other key issues, including the stand-off between Turkish military forces and Kurdish rebels. The PM called on Ankara to exercise «self-restraint» and avoid entering northern Iraq to crack down on independence-seeking Kurds. «Violence does not, cannot solve problems… efforts must be made to find a diplomatic solution,» Karamanlis said in response to a question tabled in Parliament by far-right LAOS party leader Giorgos Karadzaferis. The PM’s comments came as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was a «common enemy» of the US and Turkey. (Page 2)