US ambassador says Washington backs reopening of Halki school off Istanbul US Ambassador in Greece Daniel Speckhardt yesterday assured Patriarch Vartholomaios that America backs the reopening of the theological school on the island of Halki, off Istanbul, and that matters of religious freedom are being given attention «at the highest level» in Washington. Vartholomaios, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, also met with PASOK leader George Papandreou who assured the patriarch that he has his full support. Vartholomaios is due today to inspect the damage done by last summer’s fire on Mount Parnitha, north of Athens, after an invitation from the Parnitha Observatory, set up by Kathimerini, Skai and WWF Hellas. Stabbing conviction Man who seriously injured neighbor in knife attack gets 25 years in jail A man was sentenced to 24 years and nine months in jail in Thessaloniki yesterday after being found guilty of seriously injuring a 24-year-old woman who lived in the same apartment block. The 36-year-old Jordanian national repeatedly stabbed his 24-year-old victim as she entered the building on December 10, 2006. The woman’s calls for help alerted two neighbors who came to her aid. A doctor who testified in court said it was a miracle that the 24-year-old did not die from her injuries. The Jordanian man, who was not named, apologized for the incident but did not explain why he stabbed his victim. Mokbel extradition Australia sends plane to collect fugitive Australian authorities yesterday sent a plane to Greece to collect fugitive Tony Mokbel who is to be extradited to his homeland to face charges of murder and drug trafficking, judicial officials said yesterday. Mokbel, aka Fat Tony, has been in a Greek jail since his arrest in Glyfada last June. The 41-year-old Australian, due to be extradited by the end of the week, has protested the move, insisting that he would not receive a fair trial in his homeland. Serial rapist A 52-year-old Thessaloniki man who has been convicted of rape in the past has been charged with raping at least three women over the last year and a half. Police arrested the suspect, the owner of a logistics firm, after a 19-year-old woman lodged a complaint. The woman said the suspect, who offered her a job, allegedly slipped a pill in her coffee before raping her. The 52-year-old is also wanted for the alleged rape of another two women last year, it transpired. Garbage trucks Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis yesterday took delivery of 16 natural gas-powered garbage collection trucks, the first of 106 environmentally friendly vehicles that Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki are to receive as part of a European Union-funded program. The remaining vehicles are to be delivered by the end of October. Robbers caught Police yesterday arrested six Albanians believed to have robbed several betting shops as well as a kiosk and other stores in the area of northwestern Athens. The suspects, aged between 20 and 29, reportedly fired shots at store managers in several robberies, causing a minor injury in one case, and are believed to have beaten victims on other occasions. Children injured Six primary school children were slightly injured yesterday when the bus in which they were traveling crashed into the side of the road, police said. The driver is believed to have fainted while driving the vehicle, resulting in the crash. The vehicle was traveling at a low speed when the accident took place, said a police source. The six students, all third-graders, were taken to a nearby hospital for precautionary checks. Contraband cigarettes Police have confiscated 3.72 million packets of cigarettes that were about to be smuggled out of Greece into Belgium or Germany, authorities said yesterday. Police came across the illegal cigarettes after following a suspect to a warehouse in Thermopyles, in central Greece’s Fthiotida district. The suspect, a Bulgarian national, was arrested and was expected to face charges late yesterday. Khat seized Police arrested three men, a Briton and two Danes, in connection with 23 kilos of khat found in a suitcase at Athens International Airport yesterday. It is the secons khat seizure at the airport in just a few days.