NEWS

In Brief

US VISAS

Minister says Athens and Washington are close to deal Negotiations aimed at including Greece in the US Visa Waiver Program are progressing well and expected to yield a positive outcome soon, Justice Minister Nikos Dendias said yesterday. «There has been great progress. I believe we are close to a conclusion,» Dendias said, noting that his ministry had «laid down the foundations that will allow the Foreign Ministry to reach an outcome in good time.» STATION CLOSURE Petralona latest to be shut down Petralona station is due on Monday to become the third on the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) to be temporarily closed as a result of continuing work on the line. Aghios Eleftherios and Ano Patissia stations are already closed. As of Monday, all three stations will be served by the 020 bus, which will run every 15 minutes. It is not known how long the stations will remain closed. Officer hurt A policeman was slightly injured and two people were detained after a group of some 30 people threw rocks and pieces of wood at two officers on motorcycles near the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Both policemen were members of the rapid response Z squad who ride motorbikes. No further details of the incident were made public. Zakynthos quake A mild undersea quake, measuring 4.2 on the Richter sale, was recorded off the southern coast of Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea shortly after 6 a.m. yesterday. The quake resulted in no damage or injuries and was no cause for concern, seismologists said. Shooting probe Police in Thessaloniki yesterday were investigating an attack late on Tuesday against a 23-year-old foreign national who came under fire from a group of three or four armed assailants near his home. Doctors, who subsequently removed a bullet from the shoulder of the 23-year-old, said he was not seriously injured. There was no indication yesterday of any motive for the attack. Thasos fires Four forest fires that broke out on the island of Thasos on Monday, all as a result of lightning bolts, were still smoldering yesterday afternoon as strong winds continued to blow in the area. Local fire service units said all the fires were expected to be totally extinguished before nightfall, adding that no residential areas had come under threat. Cyprus hopes Alexander Downer, the United Nations special envoy for the Cyprus problem, yesterday expressed «cautious optimism» about the outcome of ongoing talks aimed at reunifying the divided island following talks in Athens with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis. Downer noted that any settlement of the Cyprus problem should come from Cyprus leaders themselves without any imposed deadlines or interventions. Poor teachers The State Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OLME) said yesterday that some 20,000 substitute teachers will not be paid for work they have carried out until the start of the new academic year. OLME says the total amount owed to the teachers stands at 31 million euros. The federation blames the Economy and Finance Ministry for the problem.