Doctors step up protests with seven strikes starting Friday Protesting Social Security Foundation (IKA) doctors are to launch a series of seven 24-hour nationwide strikes this Friday, obliging clinics across the country to operate with emergency staff on June 7, 10, 13, 18, 21, 25 and 28, unionists said yesterday. Doctors have been striking on and off for the past year in pursuit of permanency for 5,500 staff contract workers. ATTIKI ODOS Electronic toll payments begin, 5,500 ‘e-passes’ already sold Many drivers, accustomed to grappling for change when approaching the Attiki Odos toll posts, yesterday glided through a designated fast lane thanks to an electronic device attached to their windscreen which pays their fee when scanned. A total of 5,500 «e-passes» had already been sold before the new system started operating yesterday and its managers reckon that «e-passes» will soon be used in 10 percent of toll payments on the Attiki Odos (around 35,000 daily). There is a fixed monthly charge of three euros for the pass which can be purchased at the main toll posts on the road to Athens for 30 euros. «Smart cards,» which hold 30 euros of credit, can also be used to pay toll fees, and cash payments can still be made. ATHENIAN PROBLEMS Bakoyianni outlines city’s main woes Opposition New Democracy’s candidate mayor of Athens, Dora Bakoyianni, yesterday gave her views on the worst problems besetting the capital, which she defined as traffic congestion, insufficient parking areas, a lack of parks and open spaces and ugly, badly-maintained buildings. Speaking at a seminar organised by the Constantine Karamanlis Institute, she also criticised the ongoing project to join the main archaeological sites of Athens in a pedestrian network as insufficient. Taxi strike Traffic in central Athens was unusually light yesterday as the capital’s 16,000 taxi drivers joined a 24-hour strike protesting at legislation which will create taxi cooperatives and renew the taxi fleet. Most drivers own their cars and object to the formation of cooperatives – which would exercise tighter controls over service standards – and the withdrawal of vehicles more than 8 years old. The government also plans to issue no more new taxi licenses until the end of 2005. Forest fire The first major forest fire of the year ravaged more than two hectares of pines in Ano Vassilika, on the Saronic island of Salamis, yesterday afternoon but the blaze was put out before it could spread to residential areas. An operation involving 15 fire engines, 65 firemen, two fire service aircraft and a helicopter took two hours to extinguish the blaze, which started just before 1 p. m. Forged euros Another fake 50-euro note was found in a bank in the town of Serres yesterday after police in the northern prefecture last week asked banks to exercise extra vigilance following the discovery of several forged 10-, 20- and 50-euro notes at two banks. Fifteen forged notes have been found in Thessaloniki and the northern towns of Komotini and Orestiada over the last few weeks. Teachers’ rally Substitute teachers are to stage a protest rally outside the Education Ministry next Monday, unionists announced yesterday. Protesters want the recruitment of more supply teachers and changes to the system of evaluating their performance. Greek-Turkish talks Greek and Turkish diplomats met in Athens yesterday for the latest in a series of talks to review longstanding disputes over boundaries in the Aegean Sea and the divided island of Cyprus. The meetings are not open to the media. Turkish-Cypriot defects An 18-year-old Turkish conscript who defected from his base in occupied northern Cyprus on Friday presented himself to police in the south, telling them he could not bear army oppression, reports said yesterday. A Nicosia court ruled on Saturday that the young man – who has not been named – should be detained for two days. Vartholomaios Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios is to arrive at the Cretan port of Iraklion on June 15 for a six-day private visit to the island, the Cretan archbishopric announced yesterday.