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Greek Olympics minister sacked
ATHENS, Greece -- Preparations for the Athens 2004 Olympics have suffered another setback with the minister mostly responsible for the games sacked by Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
Culture Minister Theodoros Pangalos was dismissed for criticising the government just three days before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) visits to examine progress on the troubled event.
The IOC has repeatedly issued stern warnings to Athens that it is falling behind schedule and risking the success of the games because of bureaucratic delays and internal bickering.
Pangalos was sacked for comments to a Sunday newspaper that the government was handling labour and foreign issues badly rather than for his Olympic responsibilities.
"Mr Theodoros Pangalos ignored self-evident things," Simitis said in a statement. "A minister cannot publicly bicker with the government, use disdainful characterisations for his colleagues, or disagree but not resign."
The controversial minister was sacked once before by Simitis in early 1999 for his role in harbouring Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.
As foreign minister, Pangalos also angered his European Union colleagues, calling Germany a "giant with a child's brain" and snubbing then Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi at an EU summit in Corfu.
In his interview with the Ethnos newspaper, Pangalos said that Greek policy towards Turkey was unproductive and said of Foreign Minister George Papandreou: "I have the impression that if one wants to make foreign policy, he must have elementary knowledge of history.
Pangalos also urged the government to withdraw a draft bill on labour changes and re-negotiate the terms with unions in order to secure their agreement.
Pangalos, whose ministry oversees sports, said Greeks ought to improve their manners before the Olympics.
"Our streets are full of frowning people. We don't say 'good morning', 'good evening', 'thank you', 'please'. Foreigners are surprised at this phenomenon," he told Ethnos.
Simitis assumed personal responsibility for the Olympics effort in April, changed the organising committee president and told his ministers to get to work.
Greece has since made progress and IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch praised Athens on Friday for its improvement.
Some concern remains, however, and an IOC committee overseeing 2004 is expected in Athens on Wednesday for detailed checks on all issues.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Clouds over Athens Olympics
Athens 2004 Olympic Games
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