NEWS

Minister strikes back as MPs vote on inquiry

His political future hanging in the balance, Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos hit back at his critics yesterday when he spoke in Parliament, which was due to vote on a government motion to have the House investigate the Vatopedi Monastery property swap. MPs were due to vote at midnight on the proposal to set up a parliamentary committee to examine whether any politicians were guilty of wrongdoing during the deal that saw the Mt Athos monastery get its hand on allegedly undervalued public property. PASOK has identified Roussopoulos as the moral instigator of the deal but the prime minister’s close aide blasted the Socialists and their leader George Papandreou, saying he was the victim of «an unprecedented attack and political cannibalism which in a haphazard manner targets human and political relationships.» Roussopoulos admitted that he had a longstanding relationship with Ephraim, the chief monk at Vatopedi, that began before he launched his political career. But he also pointed out that six PASOK ministers had made significant donations to the monastery between 1997 and 2001. The government spokesman then launched a stinging attack on Papandreou. «We belong to different worlds: You were born the son of a prime minister, I was born the son of a postman,» he said. «Whatever I have achieved has been the fruit of my hard work and, as a result, I have nothing to fear. That’s why I do not worry about the tough road I have traveled but do worry about the future of this country if you and your terrible machinations ever come to power.» It was expected that the midnight vote would see the vast majority, if not all, the House approve the formation of a parliamentary committee. But this is just the first step in the process, as PASOK has asked for a vote on whether a pre-judicial inquiry, which has more powers, should be set up. The vote was due to take place tomorrow but this was thrown into doubt yesterday after the case file of the investigation carried out by the prosecutors into the property deal was sent to Parliament. House regulations require the documents to be photocopied and handed to all 300 MPs for them to study. There was a suggestion that PASOK and the Communist party would like the pre-judicial inquiry vote delayed but a final decision will be made today.