'Outgoing pensioners minister on costly, state-funded London trip'

Outgoing Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan is spending the final days in his job on a costly, week-long, state-funded trip to London, Channel 2 reported Monday. Eitan and the director-general of his ministry were meant to go on a three-day trip to the British capital for meetings on the return of Jewish assets from Arab countries, but the length of the visit was suddenly extended to eight days, the report said. In addition, Eitan's and the director-general's wives, as well as an assistant, joined the trip. A Pensioners Ministry source told Channel 2 that the total cost of the trip would come to some NIS 30,000. It includes three hotel rooms amounting to 3,080 pounds and car rental costing 1,500 pounds. From Eitan's timetable, obtained by Channel 2, it appears that some of the events he plans to attend - including hospital visits, Purim festive meals and other dinners - are unconnected to the principal reason for his visit and in any case don't fill even half of the eight days. In response to the report, Eitan's adviser emphasized that the director-general joined the trip specifically because Eitan would shortly be leaving the government and ministry officials needed to be updated on developments. He also said that the wives had paid for the trip themselves, and that the visit was extended because additional meetings that don't appear on the timetable were added.