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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 97-11-05

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

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


Wednesday, November 5, 1997

CONTENTS

  • [01] Massive CA losses 'to be offset by second half gains'
  • [02] Ticket chaos turning car park into war zone
  • [03] 'I am a state, whether you recognise me or not'
  • [04] Cyprus denies opposing landmine ban
  • [05] Are Akrotiri's U-2s flying over Iraq?
  • [06] Simellides accused of doing deal with police
  • [07] More support required to integrate special needs children
  • [08] Government pleads with deputies to decriminalise homosexuality
  • [09] Higher tourist arrivals figures get mixed response
  • [10] 'Turkey not up to the standards of the Euro club'
  • [11] German special envoy briefed by Clerides
  • [12] Clerides urges 'frugality and thrift' for municipalities
  • [13] Cyprus Airways pilot killed in car crash
  • [14] Diko ministers quit coalition
  • [15] Toros an `exercise in defence'

  • [01] Massive CA losses 'to be offset by second half gains'

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS Airways' (CA) massive 9.6 million losses for the first six months of 1997 were due to increased costs, chairman Takis Kyriakides said yesterday.

    Kyriakides told the Cyprus Mail that "unfortunately" the increased costs were not offset by a corresponding increase in revenue in the first half of the year.

    However, he said the "good news" was that overall losses expected for 1997 would, at 5.5 million, be significantly less than the 7 million forecast earlier.

    "The situation is that the negative picture for 1996 carried over into the first part of 1997 mainly as a result of increased costs, without the corresponding increase in revenue," Kyriakides said.

    "In the second part of the year it's the opposite. We have a 4 million difference in terms of profit over the same period last year."

    Kyriakides said that, according to the figures the company has to hand, the airline carried 50,000 more passengers between July and October than in the same period last year - a 9.4 per cent increase.

    Losses have been put down to increases in fuel and labour costs, landing charges abroad and maintenance costs.

    In 1996, the Cyprus Airways Group announced pre-tax losses of 5.2 million, compared to a profit of 5 million in 1995.

    The airline's annual report revealed massive wage bills and a dramatic drop in passenger numbers.

    Staff costs at CA were the highest single expense for the company, reaching 37.9 million in 1996 or 36.4 per cent of operating costs - an increase of 3.6 per cent.

    The company has prepared a new strategic plan which is due to be handed to the President in a matter of days. The plan envisages huge changes in relation to cost-cutting and measures to improve staff productivity.

    [02] Ticket chaos turning car park into war zone

    By Bouli Hadjioannou

    LARNACA airport car park has turned into a war zone because the new automated parking machines do not work.

    This startling claim - made yesterday by civil aviation department employees - only had Communications Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou querying why officials had not given him the full picture about what was happening.

    Especially when the employees had more colourful details:

    they told the House Communications Committee people were fooling the machines with baggage trolleys, using Greek drachmas instead of local coins, lifting the barrier or hiding behind a long queue of cars in order to sneak out without paying.

    Bona fide customers were confused about how and where to pay. Machines kept breaking down - either not registering the date or not issuing or accepting a ticket when they should.

    Frayed nerves, confusion and impatience means employees at the car park come under fire. "I tell you that during peak hours, it is a war zone. The physical safety of employees is at risk," said Theophanis Nicolaou, one of the employees.

    The minister's reaction was immediate. He said he was well aware the new automated system was not operating well and had even told officials to look into the possibility of cancelling the contract. It was decided to give the company which had installed it one last chance - it now has 15 days to make all the necessary repairs. Officials will then monitor its operation over several days. Any hiccups, and the contract will be cancelled and the machines replaced, he said.

    But the minister said officials, and particularly the airport chief, had failed to give him all these details. The reply from the airport manager was that he had been told to give the company time to fix the machines.

    Yesterday's meeting got off to a tense start with Diko deputy Nicos Kleanthous blasting the government over the installation of the new automated system.

    Kleanthous said the lack of co-ordination and the problems with the new automated system were a deliberate ploy by the government to bring in privatisation by the back door.

    "Bad planning and inefficiency by the government aim only to serve the minotaur of privatisation," he said.

    Not so, countered Ierodiaconou. Both the old and the new system were state owned. Privatisation was not at issue.

    On the actual parking machines, the minister said it had been decided to introduce an automated parking system - similar to that in most European countries. Tenders were issued and the contract went to the lowest, valid bid. No money has yet been paid as the machines are problematic.

    First installed in June, they were discontinued because they were not equipped to take new notes. Repairs were made and the machines were back in use at the end of September, but problems remained, thus the decision to give the supplier the final chance.

    [03] 'I am a state, whether you recognise me or not'

    TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has told the UN Secretary-general that the current direct talks with the Greek Cypriot side would come to an end once EU negotiations began.

    Following his meeting with UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan in New York late on Monday, Denktash told reporters he would be willing to resume talks later, but only on the basis of two separate states.

    "The EU application... is the end of the intercommunal talks," Denktash said. "So we shall stop the intercommunal talks and we shall be ready again through the good offices mission of the Secretary-general to start talks later, between two states. So the Greek Cypriots should realise that no matter what they do, through the EU or through anything else, they cannot take over Cyprus and make it Greek at our expense."

    Denktash was also defiant in the face of the international community's references to his breakaway state. "I am a state whether you recognise me or not," he said.

    Describing as a "fait accompli" the upcoming visit by UN Special adviser for Cyprus Diego Cordovez on November 18, Denktash said: "Don't tell the world that this thing will go on; this thing won't go on; it is over."

    Denktash has made it clear he will not be meeting Cordovez during the UN envoy's trip as he will be undergoing medical tests in Turkey at the time.

    Denktash said he had made his opinions very clear to Annan and to Security Council President Qin Huasun of China, whom he also met during his US trip.

    He said Turkish Cypriot participation in the EU accession talks was out of the question. "If we do participate, we will have recognised the Greek Cypriots as the government of Cyprus," he said.

    Earlier on CNN World Report, Denktash had warned the Greek Cypriot side not to try and solve the problem with an arms build-up and urged Cyprus and Greece to comply with the US-backed moratorium on military flights over Cyprus.

    [04] Cyprus denies opposing landmine ban

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS yesterday denied international reports that it opposes a global ban on landmines.

    According to reports from Singapore, the Human Rights Watch group said six Commonwealth nations, including Cyprus, opposed the global ban. The others were Singapore, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

    But a spokesman at the Foreign Ministry said yesterday Cyprus would be among the 100 or so countries expected to sign the Ottawa Treaty in Canada next month.

    "We are not opposed to a global ban on landmines," the Foreign Ministry spokesman said. "On the contrary, we will be represented in Ottawa in December and will support the Treaty, which we are in favour of."

    The spokesman was unable to say, however, whether signing up to the treaty would mean the Defence Ministry and National Guard would undertake to remove the thousands of landmines still littering areas of the 180-km long UN-controlled buffer zone dividing the island.

    "We are not sure yet on the practicalities of the Treaty, but we are willing to accept its provisions," the spokesman said.

    According to official UN reports, there are 39 minefields and booby-trapped areas inside the buffer zone, and a further 71 located within 500 metres of it. It is believed there are a total of 17,000 mines in these areas.

    Less than two months, ago a 37-year-old father of three became the latest victim of the island's 1974 landmine legacy after following his dog into a minefield in a government-controlled area, near to but not inside the buffer zone.

    The UN has repeatedly asked both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides to dispose of the landmines, but so far without success.

    A source there said yesterday Cyprus had not even attended the landmark Oslo conference in September, where more than 100 countries spent 18 days hammering out the text of the treaty to outlaw the landmines "because the situation here would have been left open to exposure."

    "Our position is that we have asked both sides for a register of their landmine positions but so far these have not been forthcoming," the UN source said.

    [05] Are Akrotiri's U-2s flying over Iraq?

    By Jean Christou

    THE BRITISH bases yesterday declined to say whether a unit of American U-2 spyplanes stationed at Akrotiri were involved in reconnaissance missions over Iraq.

    Iraq threatened on Monday to shoot down U-2 spyplanes over its territory.

    It is widely known that the U-2s - which have provided information to UN weapons inspectors since the 1991 Gulf War - are based in Saudi Arabia.

    However, British bases sources yesterday confirmed that a small unit of American U-2s were based at Akrotiri and had been stationed there since 1975. The sources could not, however, say whether the Cyprus-based U-2s had been involved in any reconnaissance missions over Iraq.

    "They have been carrying out reconnaissance in support of the Middle East peace process," the bases sources said.

    The Akrotiri-based U-2s have since 1975 been involved in monitoring the Sinai cease-fire line on behalf of the UN.

    It is also widely believed the unit was active during the Gulf War.

    The U-2 - known as 'the secretive phantom of the upper atmosphere' - has served US global military power for 40 years. The planes, whose single crewman can trigger detailed pictures of objects on Earth from 70,000 feet, are usually only noticed when something goes wrong. With a pencil-shaped fuselage and a massive wingspan of more than 30 yards, they fly relatively slowly but quietly in high, thin air, out of range of most anti-aircraft missiles. The pilot of the single-engine jet, which carries a number of electronic sensors as well as cameras, wears a full-pressure suit because of the high altitudes.

    Iraq, which could threaten the planes with its high-flying SAM missiles, has demanded cancellation of further flights by U-2s and warned that they could be shot down.

    The threat, in a letter from Iraq's UN envoy to the head

    of the UN special commission in charge of scrapping the

    weapons, was the latest twist in the stand-off between Iraq and the world body.

    [06] Simellides accused of doing deal with police

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE CHIEF prosecution witness in the trial of three Aeroporos brothers for attempted murder was yesterday accused of "doing a deal" with police to get the three convicted.

    Efstathios Efstathiou - the lawyer representing the Aeroporos brothers Hambis, 35, Andros, 30, and Panicos, 25 - put it to Tassos Simellides, 28, that he was enjoying "luxury" treatment from police in exchange for what he said was a false testimony against his clients.

    Father-of-three Simellides is serving a nine-year prison sentence for acting as driver for the May 29 machine-gun attack in Larnaca which seriously injured gambling club owner Antonis Fanieros, 57. He has named Panicos as the hit-man for the attack and his two older brothers as organisers. The Aeroporos brothers deny the charges, Efstathiou has tried to discredit Simellides as a liar.

    The defence consul's barrage against the witness continued as he took the stand for the ninth day yesterday.

    He said that while his clients were held at Nicosia central prison, Simellides and his family were enjoying the luxury of the country estate of former police chief Andreas Potamaris, with 12 bodyguards assigned to watch over them. Efstathiou also said the witness had been promised a new start abroad and a big sum of money by police for "securing" the conviction of the Aeroporos brothers.

    Simellides denied he had done any deal with police, but did admit when pressed that he had discussed his testimony with a senior policeman six days before the trial started.

    Efstathiou said Simellides' version of the events of the night of May 29, incriminating the Aeroporos brothers, was a figment of his imagination. He alleged the witness had a history of acting as a police informant.

    The trial continues today.

    [07] More support required to integrate special needs children

    By Bouli Hadjioannou

    CHILDREN with special needs are now being integrated into the public school system, but lack of staff and other problems remain, the Education Ministry acknowledged yesterday.

    Christos Kombos, head of the department of primary education, said the ministry had faced a major dilemma - either to delay taking these children into the island's primary schools in the knowledge that they would lose out, or to go ahead despite the shortcomings.

    "We do not have as many specialised teachers as we should. It is a problem and we acknowledge it. But we do the best we can," Kombos told the House Education Committee.

    Kombos was briefing the committee on measures being taken by the ministry to help educate the estimated 300 Down Syndrome children in Cyprus.

    A small minority follow classes normally, but most are moderately mentally handicapped and need special help to attend schools, he said.

    The issue was brought to committee by Akel parliamentary spokesman Andreas Christou. He said he knew of cases where parents had to fork out huge sums of money for additional afternoon classes for their Down Syndrome children.

    Ensuring education for these children was a major challenge both for teachers and for their families, he said.

    Theodoros Kapnisis, who chairs the association of parents of children with Down Syndrome, spoke from personal experience. His wife has to sit with their Down Syndrome child in school all day - otherwise the child will not stay. She then has to drive the child round Limassol every afternoon from speech therapy to other classes.

    "When does this parent have the chance to work, or to look after the house and the other children?" he queried.

    And, backed by child psychologists and psychiatrists, he called for more state support for families with children with special needs.

    There were also calls for a referral centre, where parents who have just had a child with special needs can turn for expert advice to help make the best of the crucial first years of childhood.

    Kombos noted that though parents were increasingly coming out into the open, some were still hiding their Down Syndrome children.

    And he noted that some children could not be integrated into mainstream schools and should not be forced into it because they only ended up being marginalised within the school.

    He acknowledged that resources - particularly in specialised manpower - were limited, though every effort was being made to use them in the best possible way.

    There are more than 800 children with special needs in primary schools. Of these, 101 have hearing problems, 16 have problems with vision, 24 are autistic and an estimated 800 have learning disabilities.

    The state employs 117 teachers and other staff to help these children attend school, and take extra classes within the school. They include speech therapists and other specialists. There are 250 children in special schools which employ 65 teachers.

    [08] Government pleads with deputies to decriminalise homosexuality

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE government again pleaded with the House yesterday to stop dragging it's feet and approve a law decriminalising homosexuality.

    "I want to repeat to you that the government wants this law passed," Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides told the House Foreign Affairs committee.

    And a representative of the Attorney-general's office told deputies Cyprus ran the risk of being thrown out of the Council of Europe (CoE) if sex between consenting adult males was not decriminalised.

    The CoE has repeatedly warned the government that it must conform with a 1993 European Court of Human Rights ruling in favour of Cypriot gay activist Alecos Modinos. The House was due to vote on an amendment decriminalising homosexuality last May, but the debate was postponed in the face of strong opposition from the Church and some deputies.

    The Attorney-general's representative told deputies a refusal to abide by the European court ruling weakened Cyprus's bargaining position in Europe. "We expect the court to pressure Turkey to implement decisions in our favour on human rights issues and at the same time we are in the position of ignoring the court on what is, after all, an issue of far lesser importance," she said.

    "We cannot have the luxury of picking and choosing when to conform with the court's decisions. In Strasburg, they equate our non-confirmation with Turkey's," she added.

    She said the government had managed to secure consideration of the issue by the CoE last month, but time was running out.

    Cassoulides said the postponement had only been secured on the understanding that the government "had a clearly stated position that the law must be passed."

    However, committee chairman Tassos Papadopoulos stuck to his party's guns, repeating that Diko deputies would not vote for the bill. "The amendment will not pass," he said.

    [09] Higher tourist arrivals figures get mixed response

    Hamza Hendawi

    A PREDICTED rise in tourist arrivals for the whole of 1997 compared to last year might be big enough to cancel out the negative impact on the economy caused by a slowdown in various other economic sectors, analysts said yesterday.

    They said the increase, if borne out by figures for the remaining two months of 1997, would dispel any lingering doubts about whether the economy would grow by the 2.5 per cent predicted by the government. The economy grew by a modest 1.9 per cent in 1996, significantly down from growth registered in 1995.

    The analysts were commenting on a Reuters report yesterday, which quoted Kyriakos Iacovides, a spokesman for the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), as saying that tourist arrivals were expected to increase by around five per cent in 1997 and exceed the two million mark. The increase, according to Iacovides, will take the number of arrivals for 1997 to 2.04 million.

    A rise in tourist arrivals in 1997 would be welcome news to an economy whose mainstay is tourism. Last year, tourist arrivals declined by seven per cent compared to 1995 when an all-time record of 2.2 million was registered. Also in 1996, tourist expenditure declined by 3.7 per cent to 780 million.

    Iacovides, according to the Reuters report, said year-on-year increases ranged from 16 per cent in June to 9.8 per cent in September, the last month for which figures are available.

    The rise in tourist arrivals, he said, was partly due to the strength of the sterling against the Cyprus pound. Britons account for more than a third of the tourists who come to Cyprus every year.

    "The tourism industry is so big and vital to Cyprus that when it is doing well, prospects for the entire economy become brighter," Marios Clerides, a senior economist with the Hellenic Bank, told the Cyprus Mail.

    He said activity in the construction, agriculture and manufacturing sectors was slowing down, but that this was having a negligible impact on the economy due to their small size compared to the tourism sector, which accounts for nearly 20 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

    A less optimistic picture, however, was painted by Yiannakis Tirkides, Manager, Group Planning and Development, at the Popular Bank.

    While not doubting the rise in tourist arrivals forecast by the CTO, Tirkides said the slowdown in most other sectors of the economy would ensure that the economy would not grow by the targeted 2.5 per cent. Beside construction, agriculture and manufacturing, he said consumption and spending were down, together with subsectors such as the food and clothes industries.

    "We are experiencing a kind of recession and there is a very gloomy prospect hanging over the country," he told the Mail, but added that a better economic performance was expected new year.

    Analysts predict the economy would grow by 3.0 to 3.5 per cent in 1998.

    [10] 'Turkey not up to the standards of the Euro club'

    TURKEY is happy with the status quo in Cyprus because it does not consider the situation threatening, according to

    former French ambassador to Turkey Eric Rouleau.

    Speaking on the sidelines of the two-day Political Islam and the West seminar in Nicosia, Rouleau, who is now a columnist for Le Monde diplomatique, said Turkey felt this way because it saw no chance of war in the region, it had the Turkish Cypriots under its wing and it maintained a base on the island.

    He added that Turkey was wrong in thinking along these lines, because as long as the status quo remained, it "cannot bridge the gap with the European Union and meet EU recommendations for progress in Cyprus" or those on respect of human rights.

    He concluded that "Turkey is not up to the standards of the European club."

    He also said that while the Cypriot government welcomed EU participation in the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, the Turkish side was less enthusiastic as it felt the EU favoured the Greek Cypriot side. However, he said the two sides were no longer as far apart as they had been on this position.

    Europe, he said, was much better placed than America to mediate in the Cyprus problem, but the two sides must see it as an "unbiased" third party if its involvement is to help bring about a solution. America is not in a position to put pressure on Turkey because of "domestic and strategic reasons", Rouleau added.

    But he said that the Cyprus problem has "never been a purely local problem, but was also a matter for international concern.

    [11] German special envoy briefed by Clerides

    GERMANY continues to show a keen interest in finding a solution to the Cyprus problem, Detlev Graf Du Rantzau, Germany's envoy for Cyprus said yesterday.

    Speaking after a midday meeting with President Glafcos Clerides, Du Rantzau said his presence "is meant to manifest and document the continued strong interest my government has in working together with the Republic of Cyprus to find a solution."

    He said his discussions with Clerides on the Cyprus problem had been "interesting" and that he had "learned something new," but declined to elaborate further. He added that they had also discussed the prospects for Cyprus' EU accession, but had not touched on the participation of the Turkish Cypriots.

    Du Rantzau, who is here til tomorrow, has already met United Nations Envoy Gustave Feissel. He will also hold meetings with officials in the occupied areas.

    [12] Clerides urges 'frugality and thrift' for municipalities

    "THE CHIEF problem facing the municipalities is economic" President Clerides yesterday told the 16th General Assembly of the Cypriot Union of Municipalities.

    Clerides assured the assembly that the government would continue to act in the interests of the municipalities, considering local self-government to be crucial.

    But the president stressed that municipalities would have to balance their legal rights and duties so as to "materialise their programmes with the best planning, frugality and thrift".

    Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides for his part said "the government will continue in the promotion of different measures... aimed at updating legislation so as to safeguard the... political, administrative and economic independence of the municipalities."

    These included funding for new municipal buildings as well as countering payment of value added tax.

    The government, Michaelides added, aimed at "promoting local self- government" on European guidelines and drew valuable assistance from Greece. He said the Ministerial Council had approved a co-operation protocol between Cypriot and Greek Interior Ministries and this would soon come before the House. It entailed "the exchange of information on local self-government at the European level," as well as establishing common development programmes.

    [13] Cyprus Airways pilot killed in car crash

    A 32-YEAR-old Cyprus Airways Pilot was killed in a Larnaca car crash yesterday.

    Christodoulos Loukaides from Yeroskipou was killed when his car collided with that of Costas Nicolaides, 58, from Larnaca. The accident happened at around 9am on the Kalo Chorio to Ayia Anna road.

    Loukaides was killed instantly. Nicolaides was seriously injured and was taken to Larnaca District hospital for treatment.

    In a separate incident on Monday, Christakis Panayiotou, 35, a worker for the civil aviation department knocked down Cyprus Airways employee Christakis Christodoulou, 47. The incident happened in Larnaca at around 6.30 pm. Christodoulou was taken to Larnaca District hospital for treatment.

    The roads have also claimed the life of 75-year-old Efstratios Lipnostiras, who was knocked down by a car on Monday. Lipnostiras died yesterday at Larnaca District hospital.

    [14] Diko ministers quit coalition

    By Charlie Charalambous

    DIKO banged the final nail in the coalition government yesterday when it sanctioned the withdrawal of its five ministers.

    The ministers of commerce, interior, agriculture, defence and labour will tender their resignations to President Glafcos Clerides today.

    Ironically the decision came hot on the heels of Clerides finally giving a cast-iron deadline on his intentions for the 1998 presidential elections.

    "I have already taken my decision and will make it public on Saturday," he said earlier yesterday.

    Many believe it was this protracted period of "will he, won't he?" confusion which finally led Diko leader Spyros Kyprianou to force his hand.

    Kyprianou, wanting to be front-runner in any election race, has put forward his own candidacy in the hope that Clerides might stand down and give him his support, along with that of Disy.

    Although Diko cites "purely political reasons" for an abrupt end to the alliance with Disy, Kyprianou's turbulent relationship with Clerides is seen as the overriding factor.

    The expected opt-out approval came from the party's Central Committee, which unanimously endorsed a proposal by Diko's Executive Bureau.

    "It was a unanimous decision which approved the Executive Bureau's proposal to withdraw from the alliance, and the ministers will resign tomorrow," Kyprianou said afterwards.

    In a strange twist, the five departing ministers could still see themselves 'representing' the defunct alliance tomorrow night when Clerides holds a live press conference to review the government's achievements.

    But Kyprianou sees nothing untoward in his resigned ministers flanking Clerides at the press conference, which was planned well in advance of yesterday's decision.

    "The Diko ministers participated in the government for the past five years, so I do not see what would be wrong with them being present," he said.

    Both Kyprianou and Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades are convinced that Clerides will announce his candidacy for next February's presidential poll on Saturday as a matter of course.

    "Current developments in Cyprus dictate that President Clerides should remain at the helm of the state," said Anastassiades.

    Meanwhile Diko continues negotiations behind the scenes - starting with Edek - to gain wider support for Kyprianou's own presidential ambitions.

    "We haven't closed any doors," said Kyprianou about possible collaboration with the Disy faithful.

    [15] Toros an `exercise in defence'

    Charlie Charalambous

    TURKISH F-16 and F-4 jets landed in occupied Lefkoniko yesterday as the Toros war games were hailed by Ankara military chiefs as an exercise in "defence".

    Responding to the military build-up for Toros, the government lodged fresh protests with the UN yesterday.

    "Cyprus condemns the exercises, considering them a show of force and an indication of Turkey's unwillingness to respect international law," Government Spokesman Manolis Christofides said.

    The fighter planes arrived to bolster the presence of Turkish naval ships already docked in the occupied areas for manoeuvres.

    "War should not be mentioned; it is impossible for military exercises to transform into wars," said Turkey's Chief of General Staff Ismail Karadayi.

    He said Toros was based on "defence against the upset of the status quo on the island to the prejudice of the security of Turkey and the TRNC and aggression against TRNC territory".

    Although it is understood the Americans wanted the Toros exercise abandoned, Turkey has denied that its latest show of military might is in direct response to the recent Nikiforos National Guard war games and Greek exercises.

    "There is no link... We have tasks and responsibilities and related to those we carry out our exercises. It doesn't mean our exercises are a response to theirs," Turkish Defence Minister Ismet Sezgin said in Cyprus yesterday.

    But he did say that National Guard and Greek war games had become more offensive in nature.

    He made the comments yesterday after watching four F-16 jets arrive at Lefkoniko to "test the facilities" of a new airport built for the Turkish air force.

    The exercises took place as Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis was meeting his Turkish counterpart Mesut Yilmaz on the sidelines of the Balkan summit in Crete.

    Both have pledged to keep working towards solving their differences by peaceful means.

    However Yilmaz gave short shrift yesterday to President Glafcos Clerides' demilitarisation proposal when asked about the option of withdrawing Turkish troops from the island:

    "I am not interested in this aspect. Anyone who wants to make a contribution to the long-standing problem must be realistic," he said.

    Many observers say Turkey has made no secret of the fact that Toros is part of a prepared plan to strike S-300 ground-to-air missiles if they are ever deployed on the island.

    "The only target of this arming (by the government) is to have military power to seize the whole island," claimed Ali Yalcin, commander of Turkish troops in the occupied north.

    This morning the planes will destroy models of the Russian-made S-300 missile batteries.

    "The F-16s are highly accurate against ground targets and have electronic systems to allow them to avoid S-300 missiles," a Turkish air force officer told Reuters news agency in Kyrenia.

    He said Turkish F-4 jets were able to disrupt the missiles' guidance systems.

    The joint exercises with Turkish Cypriots are due to end on Saturday.

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