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Greek Minister Wants Airline Shut

April 30, 1998

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Comparing Olympic Airways to a ``black hole″ that gobbles up taxpayer money, Greece’s foreign minister urged the government Thursday to shut down the debt-ridden national carrier.

``No logical person will travel with Olympic anymore,″ Theodoros Pangalos told the Athens daily Eleftherotypia. ``Every day that passes, new tremendous debts are created.″

Thousands of travelers have been stranded and bookings have dropped by 15 percent over the past few months because of strikes that have led to frequent cancellations. Workers for the first time this week suspended protests.

Employees have been fighting cost-cutting legislation aimed at turning Olympic into a competitive company.

``Instead of the workers realizing this is their last chance, they shut down the company, cancel routes and take revenge on the public which is at their mercy,″ said Pangalos, a former transport minister.

``Olympic has become a black hole which has absorbed 700 billion drachmas ($2 billion) of money coming from the Greek people,″ he added.

The government has threatened to sell the airline.

Pangalos blamed both the current and previous governments, bad management at the airline and intransigent airline employees for creating Olympic’s fiscal problems.

But he said the national carrier was not unique, claiming that such problems are shared by all public utilities in Greece.

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