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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 97-10-24

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>


Friday, October 24, 1997

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greek-Turkish tension rises
  • [02] Cem sees no short-term Cyprus solution
  • [03] UN prepares for day of protests
  • [04] Suspect gun smugglers caught
  • [05] Simellides 'tried to warn Fanieros'
  • [06] Greek and Turkish Cypriots talk business in Athens
  • [07] CoE concern over settlers as 'Minister' calls for 200,000 more
  • [08] Unficyp urges both sides to show up at Ledra Palace open house
  • [09] Conflict resolution plan
  • [10] Pek says 'no to barley for occupied fields'
  • [11] Former Indian foreign minister is Commonwealth's Cyprus envoy
  • [12] Equal opportunities for the disabled
  • [13] Public sector pledges misleading, Akel charges
  • [14] House aims to restrict abuse of dealer plates
  • [15] Defence committee fury at army secrecy
  • [16] Welfare review on the cards
  • [17] Minister 'painting a rosy picture' of heart surgery ward
  • [18] August arrivals up on 1996
  • [19] Concern at 'mediaeval practices' in Azur dispute
  • [20] Potato pesticide traces would disappear in a week

  • [01] Greek-Turkish tension rises

    TENSIONS rose between Greece and Turkey yesterday as each country accused the other of being at fault over a near collision between naval ships in the Aegean Sea.

    Defence Ministry officials in Athens said a Greek navy minesweeper brushed against a Turkish patrol boat on Wednesday in international waters between the two Greek islands of Chios and Lesbos.

    The incident was the result of "dangerous handling by the Turkish captain", the officials said.

    A statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry in Ankara said the Greek minesweeper hit the Turkish patrol boat that had come to prevent the Greek ship from "harassing" a Turkish submarine.

    "Today the attention of the Greek embassy's first secretary was drawn to the gravity of the harassment incident... Turkey demands that Greek authorities take the measures necessary to prevent a repeat of such an event," the statement said.

    Turkey's army chief Ismail Hakki Karadayi accused Greece of raising tension in the Aegean Sea.

    "We avoid provocations as much as possible... They (Greece) always hope to benefit from tension. But we are after the truth," Anatolian news agency quoted Karadayi as saying.

    "Of course, this is a very serious event. It's something like striking a man on the shoulder as he is walking down the street, it's like a punch," Karadayi was quoted as saying. He earlier described the event as an example of a Greek "hostile attitude".

    No injuries were reported on either side.

    The slight collision was the latest in a series of incidents between Nato- members Greece and Turkey, which are at odds over Cyprus and the sovereignty of various small islands in the Aegean.

    Athens has accused Ankara of numerous violations of its airspace coinciding with last week's Nikiforos '97 military exercises on the island.

    "Our warning to Greece is that they should abandon this kind of game. We always accept them as a permanent friend and neighbour and a country with which we should cooperate within the Nato alliance," Karadayi said yesterday.

    [02] Cem sees no short-term Cyprus solution

    TURKISH Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said yesterday he saw no short-term solution for Cyprus, despite US envoy Richard Holbrooke's fresh efforts to solve the dispute.

    "This dispute is not solved by saying a marvellous negotiator has been appointed," Cem told reporters in Ankara, referring to Holbrooke's appointment in June as President Bill Clinton's Cyprus envoy.

    Holbrooke, the broker of the Bosnian peace agreement, visited Ankara earlier this month and met Cem for the first time since taking up the key post.

    "I told Holbrooke that he should not expect a sudden breakthrough just because the actors had changed in the 23-year-old problem," Cem said.

    He said the first step to solve the division of the island should be recognition of the breakaway Turkish state in the north as an "equal counterpart" to the Greek state in the south.

    Cem said the tense relationship between Turkey and Greece was also blocking a lasting solution.

    "We have serious differences on the Cyprus issue with Greece. I tell my counterparts I do not think much will occur in Cyprus," he said.

    [03] UN prepares for day of protests

    By Jean Christou

    UNFICYP is gearing itself up for a glut of anti-occupation demonstrations on November 15, the anniversary of the creation of the breakaway regime in the north.

    In addition to a 'drive home' demonstration by the anti-occupation group Pak, bikers yesterday announced separate plans for a protest drive from Greece, through Dherynia and on to Nicosia, also on November 15.

    Student organisations also have plans for a Ledra Palace protest.

    UN spokesman Waldemar Rokoszewski said yesterday Unficyp would try to contact the organisations involved and also the Cyprus authorities "to secure co-operation so that no intruders enter the buffer zone".

    Pak announced months ago that - in co-operation with 22 refugee organisations - they would load their belongings on to their vehicles and head for home in a symbolic gesture.

    "It is planned to be a peaceful demonstration," a Pak representative told the Cyprus Mail yesterday, although he conceded that the date of November 15 had been deliberately chosen as a counter-protest against Turkish Cypriot 'celebrations'.

    Turkish Cypriots are likely to be out in force on the same day to celebrate the anniversary of their unilateral declaration of independence in 1983.

    "We want them to know we will never recognise them," the Pak representative said. He added that the demonstrators would try not to get into trouble, but could not rule out that some may try to enter the buffer zone.

    "We'll see on the day," he added.

    Motorcyclists' federation president George Hadjicostas said yesterday the bikers' journey would begin in Evros in northern Greece on November 8.

    It will end in Cyprus on November 15, when bikers will gather at Dherynia and ride to Nicosia, a plan similar to last year's anti-occupation ride which ended in the death of a Greek Cypriot protester.

    Hadjicostas denied any suggestion that the bikers are looking for trouble by picking that particular date. "We just want to express our opposition to the Denktash regime, he said.

    [04] Suspect gun smugglers caught

    TWO Turkish Cypriots were arrested in the Athienou area last night on suspicion of smuggling guns from the north.

    Police said 41-year-old butcher Osman Kontoz and 33-year-old shepherd Mustafa Veli, both from occupied Louroudjina, were caught crossing from the north with a loaded pistol and a number of bullets at about 9.10pm. According to police, on October 18 Kontoz and Veli had sold a pistol to two undercover policemen posing as arms buyers.

    The suspects are expected in court today. When apprehended, they apparently said to police: "We're poor, this is our work."

    [05] Simellides 'tried to warn Fanieros'

    By Martin Hellicar

    A MAN convicted for his part in the May 29 shooting of Antonis Fanieros tried to warn him before the attack, the Nicosia Assizes heard yesterday.

    Tassos Simellides, chief prosecution witness in the trial of three Aeroporos brothers for the attempted murder of the 56-year-old gambling club owner, told the court he tipped-off Fanieros two days before the attack to be careful because he would "come to harm".

    Father-of-three Simellides - who has named Panicos Aeroporos, 25, as hit- man for the drive-by shooting and his two brothers Andros, 30, and Hambis, 35, as planner and instigator respectively - was cross-examined by defence consul Efstathios Efstathiou yesterday. Efstathiou put it to the 28-year- old witness that his testimony against the brothers was a "fabrication of his imagination" intended to convict the three.

    Simellides has claimed Hambis, Andros and Panicos forced him to

    act as motorbike driver for the attack by threatening to kill him if he declined.

    "Why did you not go to police when they threatened you?" Efstathiou asked the witness.

    "I was afraid of the Aeroporos brothers," Simellides said, and proceeded to give a catalogue of violent offenses he claimed the brothers had committed.

    "In your original statement to police on June 13 you made no reference to being threatened by the Aeroporos brothers," Efstathiou retorted.

    "I thought it would be easier to do it now I'm in court, to avoid danger. If they go to prison both I and my family will be safe," Simellides responded.

    Efstathiou also challenged Simellides's account of being verbally threatened by Hambis. He told the court the elder Aeroporos had no voice at the time that Simellides said the threats were made because of injuries suffered in a 1995 machine-gun attack.

    "If what I have told the court is lies then may I burn in hell," Simellides said.

    During two days of testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday, Simellides told the court Hambis wanted Fanieros dead because he considered him responsible for the 1995 attempt on his life.

    The hearing is to continue today, with police again expected to mount a massive security operation at the court for fear the Aeroporos family might try a hit on Simellides.

    Hambis, Andros and Panicos deny involvement in the attack on Fanieros.

    Meanwhile, Larnaca police reported bomb threats had been made against Fanieros on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. In both cases an anonymous called said a bomb had been placed at the same Atalantis street club where Fanieros was shot on May 29, police said. Both threats proved to be hollow.

    Police added that another 13 similar threats against the club had been made since the shooting.

    [06] Greek and Turkish Cypriots talk business in Athens

    By Jean Christou

    PROMINENT Greek and Turkish Cypriot industrialists will meet in Athens today to promote better relations between the two sides.

    A delegation of Greek Cypriot businessmen including former Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides, Constantinos Lordos and former Keve chairman Phanos Epiphaniou left the island for Athens yesterday.

    A 10-strong delegation from the north left the island on Wednesday.

    The Athens meeting which mainly concerns Greek and Turkish businessmen began yesterday. The Cypriot delegations will join today for a one-day discussion on promoting co-operation between all concerned.

    Before leaving the island yesterday, Epiphaniou said the aim of the delegation was to promote business between the two sides to help towards a solution.

    Difficulties that might be encountered under a federal solution may also be discussed.

    He stressed, however,that at the current stage no joint ventures between the two sides were under way.

    "Our aim is not to go today to set up businesses," Epiphaniou said. "This must be made clear."

    He said the Athens meeting was a continuation of a similar meeting held in Istanbul earlier this year.

    The Istanbul meeting was followed within a week by a gathering of Greek and Turkish Cypriot businessmen at the Ledra Palace.

    "The positive outcome of those meetings cannot be defined, but there was a tangible willingness," Epiphaniou said.

    He said although no deals had yet come from the meetings, "if and when there is a solution to the Cyprus problem," the two sides will have to work together. He suggested an analysis of the different growth rates of the island's two economies be drawn up and the gap studied "so that we can see how this can be breached at a future stage".

    "We believed there must be an infrastructural base for business co- operation and free communication," Epiphaniou said.

    He stressed, however, that the Greek Cypriot businessmen would not take any steps which would be contrary to the government's policy on the handling of the Cyprus problem.

    [07] CoE concern over settlers as 'Minister' calls for 200,000 more

    By Jean Christou

    THE COMMITTEE of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE) has said it will support a census of the island's entire population if the parties involved agreed to such an action.

    The Committee based its decision on recommendations made in 1992 by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which also urged the government and the Denktash regime to keep the arrival of aliens under strict control.

    The Committee of Ministers' decision was taken at its 606th meeting which ended in Strasbourg on Wednesday following a discussion on the demographic structures of the Cypriot communities.

    The Committee said it was aware of an artificial change in the demographic structure of the island which - with a political objective - could only delay the prospects for an equitable solution of the current deadlock.

    The Committee also reiterated its previous position that the situation prevailing on the island appeared increasingly anachronistic in an era characterised by the breaking down of barriers and the search for greater unity in Europe.

    The 1992 Assembly resolution gave the population of the free areas as 505, 000 in 1974 and 575,000 at the end of 1990, an increase of 13.7 per cent for the period.

    According to Turkish Cypriot figures, the population in the north in 1974 was 115,600, compared to 171,500 in 1990, an increase of 48.35 per cent.

    The Assembly concluded the differences in the rate of increase on both side "can only be accounted for by a substantial influx of migrants" to the north.

    "At first the Turkish Cypriots regarded this injection of manpower as essential," the 1992 resolution said. "Today the growing number of migrants, their naturalisation and the important role that some of them play in political life have given rise to wide divergences within the Turkish Cypriot community."

    It adds that the situation constitutes an additional obstacle to a peaceful solution of the Cyprus problem.

    The Committee's statement comes as officials in the north are pushing for more settlers.

    The 'Finance Minister' of the Denktash regime has asked for 200,000 settlers from the Black Sea area of Turkey to boost the population of the occupied areas.

    According to reports in yesterday's Turkish Cypriot press, Salih Cosar said the settlers would help match the population to that of the 700,000 of the free areas.

    Cosar made the comments to Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper during his recent meeting with visiting businessmen from the Trabzon region near the Black Sea.

    The comment has drawn an angry response from Turkish Cypriots, whose population has been dwindling dramatically over the past few years.

    "Cosar should first see to it that his own citizens live like proper human beings and that the youth of the country do not emigrate," the Avrupa daily said.

    Cosar told Cumhuriyet that Turkey had no population policy for the 'TRNC' - a situation which had led to serious difficulties. If this "population problem" were solved, he said, the Cyprus problem would find a solution by itself.

    Pointing out that the Greek Cypriot population had risen to 700,000 "through immigration", Cosar said the 'TRNC' population should be raised to twice its size by settling 200,000 Turks from the Black Sea in the occupied areas.

    At least 60,000 Turkish Cypriots have emigrated to the UK and other countries since 1974, reducing the number of Turkish Cypriots living on the island to 120,000.

    Last April, Turkish Cypriot politician Alpay Durduran said he believed some 50,000 Turkish Cypriot living in the UK would return to Cyprus if a solution was found.

    He said the population of the occupied areas remained stable at around 170, 000, but that Turkish Cypriots were gradually being replaced by Turkish settlers.

    [08] Unficyp urges both sides to show up at Ledra Palace open house

    UNFICYP'S annual open house for Greek and Turkish Cypriots will take place tomorrow at the Ledra Palace hotel.

    The bi-communal Open House, now in its third year, gives families from both sides an opportunity, not only to meet each other but to get a firsthand glimpse of Unficyp's work and personnel.

    According to a UN announcement, there will be games for the children as well as music and dance groups from both communities.

    Different Unficyp contingents will play their national music and offer food and refreshments during the open house. Unficyp will also display its equipment, including a helicopter and an armoured personnel carrier.

    Activities will include abseiling from the roof of the hotel and playing crazy golf.

    Peo union federation yesterday called on all its members and their families to attend the bi-communal events, which last year attracted 4,000 people from each side.

    An announcement from the union yesterday said the mass attendance by Greek and Turkish Cypriots would provide a platform for rapprochement for a common future and common homeland.

    Greek and Turkish Cypriot unions meet regularly to sort out labour issues which may come up in the event of a federal solution.

    The latest meeting between Peo and Turkish Cypriot union Dev-Is took place on Wednesday in the occupied areas.

    Representatives from the two unions exchanged views on the latest developments in the Cyprus problem.

    They also discussed the problems of unemployment among Turkish Cypriot workers and plans for the organisation of the next All-island Trade Union Forum in 1998.

    [09] Conflict resolution plan

    By Aline Davidian

    AMERICAN professor Marco Turk will be leading a 40-hour bi-communal training programme in conflict resolution next month. This is being funded by the Fulbright Commission in line with its policy to offer exclusive grants for conflict resolution in Cyprus.

    Turk, a lecturer in Social Ecology in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, will work with two groups of 24: 12 Greek Cypriots and 12 Turkish Cypriots.

    "The aim of the programme is to train people... to acknowledge, but not necessarily agree with the other person's point of view in an attempt to transform the relationship between the parties involved," said Turk.

    He added that the training would encourage people to "acquire skills that are not political," thus making it "easier for them to transcend their differences."

    The training scheme will take place at the Fulbright Centre located on the Green Line buffer-zone. It will include discussion on the conduct of family members and the viewing of videos on counselling for domestic violence. There will also be a role-playing session to encourage participants better to understand each other.

    The programme is to be completed next May when Turk will report back to the Fulbright Commission on the outcome of his work. He may also train mental health care professionals with a view to setting up a bi-communal professional training programme in this field as well as working with police officers on issues of public interaction.

    [10] Pek says 'no to barley for occupied fields'

    THE Greek Cypriot agricultural organisation Pek has come out against the sale of barley seed to Turkish Cypriot farmers.

    Earlier this week, Turkish Cypriot press reports said farmers in the north had asked to buy 100 tons of barley from the Cyprus government. The government was apparently considering the request.

    The Cyprus Turkish farmers' Union requested the seed barley from the Greek Cypriot agricultural organisation, Eka.

    The Secretary-general of the farmers' union in the north, Alican Kabakci, said they had been in touch with Eka through the World Farmers' Union concerning the request.

    He added the authorities in the north had been informed of the approach and said the union was now awaiting the decision of the Cyprus government.

    However, in an announcement issued yesterday, Pek said it was against the government giving its approval.

    The organisation said there were no guarantees the barley would end up with Turkish Cypriots, and not Turkish settlers.

    Pek added that it was unacceptable for seed to be sown in the occupied fields of Greek Cypriots.

    The organisation said it is not against peaceful coexistence, but not before a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    [11] Former Indian foreign minister is Commonwealth's Cyprus envoy

    THE NEW Commonwealth envoy for Cyprus has been named.

    Commonwealth Secretary-general Chief Emeka Anyaoku yesterday announced that Kris Srinivasan, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General for political affairs, had been appointed to the post.

    The creation of the post was announced by Anyaoku on Sunday during an interview on the BBC World Service's Question Time. He said the role of such an envoy would be "to touch base" with the parties directly involved.

    Srinivasan has previously served as Foreign Minister of India.

    [12] Equal opportunities for the disabled

    By Bouli Hadjioannou

    AN AMBITIOUS law to ensure equal job opportunities for the disabled - including the introduction of quotas, is under review, officials revealed yesterday.

    Moments later, Michalis Demosthenous, a wheelchair-bound member of the association of the disabled, had to be helped out of the House of Representatives building by two journalists because there was no ramp.

    His plight only highlighted the urgent need for action to ensure people with special needs could lead a dignified life.

    At issue at yesterday's House Labour Committee was the extent to which people with special needs enjoyed equal job opportunities. The response from both government officials and the disabled themselves was a sad 'no'.

    "Yes there is a problem. They do not have equal opportunities," a Labour Ministry official said.

    Problems include lack of qualifications - particularly university education - because of lack of facilities and discrimination by employers.

    Thus a draft bill currently in its final stages of preparation designed to ensure equal job opportunities. Key provisions include:

    - the introduction of a quota system for employers, state and private, who employ above a certain number of employees. One idea being floated is whether to reserve specific positions in the civil service for the disabled.

    - other incentives being considered are 'preferential treatment' in government contracts for companies set up by the disabled. The aim is not to create protected workshops but to encourage profitable, efficient companies by people with special needs. These companies would also enjoy technical and other assistance from the state, at least in order to help them get started.

    Mikis Flourentzos, a blind lawyer at the Attorney-general's office and a member of the association for the disabled, said members could not wait for the completion, approval and implementation of a bill on equal job opportunities.

    Priority must be given to ensure that people with special needs have access to jobs in the public sector, he said.

    Flourentzos said this was best addressed through a uniform law along the lines of legislation in force in the education service, which he said was working well.

    He said that the disabilities of people with special needs in themselves constituted the first form of discrimination, because it restricted what they could and could not do.

    The issue remains before the committee.

    [13] Public sector pledges misleading, Akel charges

    By Bouli Hadjioannou

    AKEL yesterday accused the government of misleading public opinion over pledges to curb increases in the public wage bill.

    The broadside was fired by Akel deputy Kikis Kazamias during yesterday's debate in the House of Representatives of supplementary budgetary bills to the tune of 1.1 million to cover the reorganisation of several government departments.

    The proposal - the result of an agreement between the government and the civil servants' union Pasydy - was part of a more general package on reorganisation submitted last May.

    Kazamias said the government had trumpeted its commitment not to take on extra staff or upgrade existing positions in its 1998 budgets.

    "Yet three departments and ministries have already said they too plan to reorganise, and when they say reorganisation I translate that into upgrades, " he said.

    The Akel deputy added that although he did not want to stand in the way of agreements reached between employees and their employers, the government would be guilty of misleading public opinion unless it made a clean breast of its plans.

    Diko's Alexis Galanos, who chairs the House Finance Committee which unanimously approved the plan, said Kazamias was being unfair. He said the proposal had been submitted some time back, was not connected to the 1998 budgets and aimed to increase efficiency in the civil service. Disy's deputy president Panayiotis Demetriou spoke in a similar vein.

    But Diko parliamentary spokesman Tassos Papadopoulos said deputies should be the last to complain since the proposal had approved upgrades for House employees.

    United Democrats' president George Vassiliou said the impression being created that there would be no new civil service positions in 1998 was wrong. But he said all sides bore their share of the blame for the process which led to upgrades in posts. The bills were approved unanimously.

    In a separate decision the House voted in a new law and regulations on the stock market aimed at improving the operation of the stock market. The vote was unanimous.

    [14] House aims to restrict abuse of dealer plates

    RULES to restrict the use of vehicle dealer plates are in the pipeline in order to stamp out abuse.

    The new proposal sent to the House of Representatives yesterday, aims to overhaul the regime governing dealer plates and to close loopholes which allow buyers to delay registering a new vehicle.

    Current regulations allow dealers to use dealer plates to demonstrate new vehicles to potential clients. But the practice has proved flawed, the Ministry of Communications and Works said in a report accompanying the draft bill.

    In numerous cases vehicles circulating with dealer plates have already been bought and handed over to their new owners before being properly registered.

    "This means a large of cars without 'identity' are on the roads, and when they are involved in road accidents, traffic or even criminal offences, this makes the work of the police difficult," the ministry said.

    The state was losing revenue because of the delay in registration - since a large number of vehicles were circulating for a considerable time with dealer plates or no plates at all.

    The ministry said there had also been cases where vehicles handed over to their owners before registration had been subjected to modifications which could affect their weight and therefore registration fees and road tax.

    Its proposal is a new bill which would enable the commissioner of motor vehicles to issue authorised dealers with a number of dealer plates proportional to their turnover.

    These plates will be placed on all non-registered vehicles used for demonstration. The use of plates not given under the new law would not be allowed. Authorised dealer plates could only be used on the same vehicle for a maximum of one month.

    The commissioner could cancel a dealers' licence if he violated the law. Courts, in addition to other penalties, would also be able to order confiscation of a vehicle which was circulating without licence plates. All dealers would be obliged to hold analytical data on all their vehicles circulating with dealer plates.

    The bill is subject to the approval of the House of Representatives.

    [15] Defence committee fury at army secrecy

    HOUSE Defence committee deputies were yesterday incensed with the "secretive" attitude of National Guard officials.

    Akel deputy Doros Christodoulides, storming out of a closed committee meeting yesterday morning, described National Guard Command representatives as "provocative". He said the army officials invited to brief deputies had flatly refused to give any information.

    On the agenda for the meeting were two things: progress towards completion of the contract to buy S-300 missiles from Russia and the adequacy or otherwise of equipment for army reservists.

    Christodoulides claimed reservists taking part in the recent Nikiforos exercise had marched in the final parade with borrowed guns and uniforms. He said no comment had been forthcoming from army officials.

    Committee chairman Takis Hadjidemetriou, speaking at the end of the meeting, echoed what Christodoulides said, albeit in more reserved tones.

    "I want to express my disappointment as this is not the first time this has happened, where they (army officials) come and are unable to enlighten us and we face an uphill task to complete a discussion fruitfully and carry out our constitutional role as deputies," Hadjidemetriou said.

    He said he had been forced to cut short the debate and call a fresh meeting on the same issues for 15 days' time. Hadjidemetriou said questions concerning the S-300s remained unanswered because army representatives had either pleaded ignorance or stated they had not been given authority to comment. The Edek deputy warned that it was against the law for anyone to refuse to answer questions put by a House committee.

    Christodoulides said he would be taking up the matter with House president Spyros Kyprianou.

    [16] Welfare review on the cards

    THREE new studies on welfare - including a review on public benefits - will be under way soon, government officials told the House Labour Committee yesterday.

    They said the need to review the whole system of public benefits had first been identified in 1992, but the study was held up because of the large number of departments involved in the issue.

    It has now been decided that the study will be carried out by the Planning Bureau - and provision to pay for the project has been included in the Labour Ministry's budgets for 1998.

    The other two studies will cover the ageing of the island's population and how to make the best use of the services of the island's voluntary groups.

    The committee heard that a reorganisation plan for the welfare department had stumbled on social workers' objections to the appointment of six senior district officers.

    Officials from the personnel department said the reorganisation plan had been implemented in Nicosia with success, and six new positions had bee opened for assistant district welfare department officers.

    But the union objected because the six positions were not within their job specifications, and the issue has been deadlocked since then.

    Another 32 positions in the department remain unfilled because of legal and technical complications. Efforts are under way to fill them as soon as possible.

    Meanwhile social workers plan to strike next Thursday over the delay in filling vacant positions.

    [17] Minister 'painting a rosy picture' of heart surgery ward

    HEALTH Minister Christos Solomis yesterday defended the work of Nicosia hospital's heart and thoracic surgery department, but heart patients' president Pavlos Dinglis countered the minister was painting a rosy picture.

    The conflicting statements came after the House Health Committee met behind closed doors to investigate the operation of the ward.

    The probe comes in the wake of complaints from heart patients and the publication of a letter by one of the surgeons at the ward highlighting problems in its operation.

    For his part, independent deputy Marios Matsakis who took the issue to the committee, said if he had to have a heart operation, he would not go to Nicosia hospital. He did not elaborate.

    Solomis told reporters the ward was working well - there have been 1,180 operations since it was established and mortality rates were at an enviably low level. And he said that for the time being there did not appear to be a need to separate thoracic from the heart surgery.

    But Dinglis said there were many problems and the rosy picture painted by the minister did not reflect the real situation. And he said it was essential to create two separate departments.

    Health Committee chairman Andreas Parisinos said he had been satisfied with the explanations given. The committee would decide on whether it was essential to split thoracic from heart surgery when it completed its inquiry. It will meet again next Thursday, again in closed session.

    Meanwhile the Cyprus Cardiology society said that, despite efforts being made, heart surgery services "cannot respond to the increased demands of the time."

    It said the best solution would be the establishment of an independent, autonomous heart surgery centre.

    [18] August arrivals up on 1996

    THE NUMBER of visitors to Cyprus during August this year is significantly up on August 1996, according to a report by the Department of Statistics and Research.

    The report, issued yesterday, said 390,000 people, including tourists, visited the island last month. This figure represented an increase of 12.2 per cent on 1996;

    62.5 per cent of the visitors came from European Union countries.

    August also saw the number of people visiting for pleasure increase from 275,535 in July to 293,887 in August. Of the tourists, 37.7 per cent came from the UK, 15.7 per cent from Russia, 9.8 per cent from Germany and 4.1 per cent from Sweden.

    The number of Cypriots travelling overseas in August almost doubled on last year with 80,172 heading for foreign shores, compared to 49,301 in August 1996. The favourite destination was Greece, with 46.7 per cent travelling there. Second was the UK with 9.5 per cent followed by Israel with 4.6 per cent.

    [19] Concern at 'mediaeval practices' in Azur dispute

    THE GENERAL Council of Hotel Industry Employees yesterday expressed its anxiety over the situation surrounding the Azur Hotel strike in Limassol.

    In a statement, the Council said it was concerned over reports of acts "reminiscent of mediaeval times" perpetrated on striking workers by the hotel's owner.

    The statement added that the workers had the Council's support and called for the Ministries of Tourism, Commerce and Social Security, as well as tour operators to start a dialogue in order to resolve the dispute.

    Meanwhile, bosses at workers' unions Peo and Sek have warned that the Limassol-wide hotel strike threatened if there is no change in the Azur situation will materialise before the end of October.

    After a meeting on Wednesday, Sek Limassol secretary Andreas Gabriel said Union reps had been instructed to give the word to members in the town that if there were no drastic developments in the Azur dispute over the next few days, they will be called out in protest.

    However, hotel sources in Limassol have warned that if the city-wide strike goes ahead, bosses will not take it lying down and may retaliate with action of their own.

    [20] Potato pesticide traces would disappear in a week

    By Aline Davidian

    HEALTH Minister Christos Solomis told reporters yesterday that potatoes imported from Austria had been seized when tests had shown they contained four times the acceptable level of a particular chemical present in pesticides.

    He also stated, however, that should the contaminated potatoes be stored for about a week, all traces of the chemical substance would disappear.

    He said a container bearing the potatoes had been shipped into Limassol Harbour on October 8 when government health inspectors had taken samples for testing. As soon as the results showed dangerous elements to be present, the inspectors automatically brought into operation a law which prohibits the circulation of produce bearing harmful substances.

    It was unfortunate for Limassol grocer Polycarpos Kattasiis who had imported the potatoes, that he placed them for sale at his grocery on October 14 - four days after the unfavourable test-results. They were seized immediately by health inspectors and a penalty imposed on Kattasiis.

    The Health Minister pointed out, however, that according to the state lab, storing the contaminated potatoes would lessen the dangers. If they were kept "one week at least in a free space whether open or enclosed, then certainly the pesticides... would disappear" he said.

    Solomis added that measures taken would always depend on the particular case and the findings of the state lab, since, as he stated, "we live in a country where police rules and import prohibitions are not enforced".

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