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Firefighters Continue Battle Against Greek Wildfires for Fifth Day


Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has urged citizens to maintain unity as crews from around Europe battle wildfires sweeping the country for a fifth day.

His comments came as opposition Socialist Party leader George Papandreou criticized government efforts to deal with the crisis. Several hundred people demonstrated in Athens Monday expressing frustration over the situation.

Greek firefighters joined by colleagues from Israel and around Europe are using water-dropping planes and helicopters to try to gain the upper hand on the fires.

Police have charged seven people with arson and are offering a reward of $1.4 million for information leading to more arrests.

The fires have killed at least 63 people, wiped out thousands of hectares of forests and destroyed numerous villages.

Some officials blame the blazes on rogue land developers whom they suspect of burning down forests to clear the land for development.

Prosecutors are checking whether police can use the broader powers of anti-terrorism and organized crime laws to investigate arson suspects.

Some Athens newspapers have accused the government of incompetence in fighting the fires. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for September 16.

While the fires rage, Greek scientists say an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.4 shook areas near Athens Tuesday.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.