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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 97-11-08

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Saturday, November 8, 1997


  • [01] Ministers asked to leave their posts today
  • [02] Kyprianou sees foreign plot behind Clerides candidacy
  • [03] All in the dark about Holbrooke visit
  • [04] Denktash finally agrees to meet Cordovez
  • [05] Cyprus straying away from the Maastricht criteria
  • [06] Analysts see foiled takeover bid in Shacolas Liberty sale
  • [07] Conflicting evidence at Aeroporos trial
  • [08] Indefinite postal strike looms
  • [09] Time running out for heritage in the north
  • [10] Hit and run man jailed
  • [11] Matsakis calls for action on UK meningitis
  • [12] Cyprus Airways to fly to Milan
  • [13] Can Alki arrest decline?

  • [01] Ministers asked to leave their posts today

    By Jean Christou

    DIKO leader Spyros Kyprianou yesterday demanded that his five ministers cease working with the Clerides government as of today.

    Although the five Diko ministers have already submitted their resignations to the President, Clerides had asked them to stay on to complete some outstanding issues at the Council of Ministers.

    The cabinet met yesterday to clear up its agenda and will continue on Wednesday.

    But an angry Kyprianou said he expects all his ministers to stop their cooperation with the government as of today.

    However it appears not all of the five ministers are willing to give up their posts.

    There were tense scenes outside the Diko leader's Nicosia home late yesterday afternoon following a 30-minute meeting he had with the five ministers.

    After the meeting all five ministers refused to comment on what had gone on and it was clear no agreement had been reached.

    Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides told reporters: "I do not want to comment. Ask the party leader."

    Immediately after the five ministers left, Diko general secretary Stathis Kittis arrived for a meeting with Kyprianou.

    Meanwhile possible names for five replacement ministers at the Agriculture, Commerce, Defence, Interior and Labour ministries were being speculated on.

    Former Nicosia District Officer George Charalambides was suggested as a possible Interior Minister, Larnaca District Officer Andreas Mantovanis as Agriculture Minister and presidential adviser Pantelis Kouros as Defence Minister.

    [02] Kyprianou sees foreign plot behind Clerides candidacy

    By Martin Hellicar

    DIKO leader Spyros Kyprianou yesterday suggested foreign countries were plotting to secure the re-election of President Clerides.

    His hopes that Disy might back him for the February presidentials having been dashed by Clerides' announcement of his own candidacy late on Thursday night, Kyprianou went on the offensive, saying he "had information" that foreign embassies in Nicosia were "favouring" Clerides' re-election.

    "I want the people to know this and be wary," he said.

    He declined to state which the "offending" embassies were, but said the snap visit of US special envoy for Cyprus Richard Holbrooke on Monday was "not unrelated" to Clerides' announcement of his candidacy. There was no other way to explain why Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash had suddenly changed his stance and was now willing to meet Holbrooke, the Diko leader said.

    Kyprianou has implied Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash might be in on the "plot" to get Clerides back in.

    "I want to know, since Clerides made his decision because he is expecting something from the Americans, why we have not been informed what it is that is to come from the US: is it just Holbrooke's visit, or is it a change in Denktash to ease Clerides' candidacy? I hope it is not these things," he said on Thursday night.

    In announcing his candidacy, Clerides said he felt it was his "duty" to seek a second term as the UN and US were about to launch a major initiative on Cyprus.

    Kyprianou claimed Clerides was favoured abroad because he was seen as most likely to sign a settlement agreement and most able to "pass it off" it to the people.

    Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides dismissed suggestions Holbrooke's visit had anything to do with Clerides' election campaign. "I do not think that we should see these movements as having anything to do with elections, " he said. Cassoulides added that Holbrooke had stated his intention to visit Nicosia as long ago as September.

    Kyprianou's suspicions of a foreign plot to get Clerides elected at his expense appeared to be confirmed by reports on Turkish Cypriot TV yesterday. The reports referred to "indications" that the US favoured Clerides over Kyprianou because the Diko leader would further complicate the problems in Cyprus.

    Kyprianou attacked Clerides for his handling of the Cyprus problem, said he did not think him capable of securing a viable settlement and complained that he had only informed him of his intention to stand an hour before he told the nation.

    "He told me at 10pm during the break in his press conference," he said.

    Disy leader Nicos Anasstasiades denied this, saying Clerides had informed Kyprianou of his long-awaited decision when he met him on Monday. But Government spokesman Manolis Christofides contradicted Anasstasiades by confirming that Kyprianou had indeed been put in the picture less that an hour before Clerides' public announcement.

    Kyprianou said Diko was now an opposition party.

    He did not preclude a resurrection of the Diko-Disy alliance so long as this was not behind Clerides. The two right-wing parties joined forces to secure Clerides's election in 1993.

    Kyprianou also did not preclude election pacts with left-wing parties Akel and Edek.

    Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides, one of the five Diko ministers who resigned on Wednesday as the Disy-Diko pact folded, did not preclude a return to the coalition "if it is in the interest of the party (Diko)."

    The five departing ministers took part in a cabinet meeting yesterday and will do so again next week, Christofides explaining there was "unfinished work" to do. Christofides said the replacements for the five would be announced next week.

    Works Minister Leontios Ierodiakonou, a Disy member, said trying to save the coalition was "a must".

    But Christofides said Disy and Clerides would be having contacts with all parties concerning possible election pacts. He said Clerides was not a Disy candidate, but did enjoy the support of the party he founded.

    Meanwhile, Akel knocked back a proposal from Edek leader Vassos Lyssarides for an election pact between Akel, Edek and Diko.

    "We want the right and far right out of government," Akel spokesman Nicos Katsourides said. He added that his party was still supporting independent candidate George Iacovou.

    Lyssarides, also a candidate for 1998, said he hoped this was not Akel's final say on his proposal.

    Other candidates for the elections so far are Liberal leader Nicos Rolandis and United Democrats' leader George Vassiliou.

    [03] All in the dark about Holbrooke visit

    By Jean Christou

    THE IMPROMPTU visit of US envoy Richard Holbrooke has caught the government and diplomatic circles off guard.

    UN officials on the ground were not informed in advance of the presidential emissary's visit, the Cyprus Mail has learned.

    Senior Unficyp personnel only found out about the visit after it had been announced officially on Wednesday by US State Department Spokesman James Rubin.

    Rubin said Holbrooke would meet both President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash separately on Monday and then hold a joint meeting with the two men on Tuesday.

    Diplomatic sources told the Cyprus Mail the US had no obligation to inform Unficyp of its plans, but that "it should". Unficyp has been engaged in renewed efforts to promote dialogue between the two leaders, the latest development being the planned visit to the island of UN mediator for Cyprus Diego Cordovez on November 18.

    Holbrooke's sudden decision to visit preempting Cordovez's arrival has come as a surprise since the US envoy said in September that he had plans to visit the island, but not soon.

    This will be his first visit her since his appointment as US presidential emissary for Cyprus.

    "We have no clue what the visit is about. Ask the Americans," diplomatic sources told the Cyprus Mail. "Maybe it is something big and then again maybe it's not."

    The diplomatic sources said the entire Cyprus peace effort seemed to be developing "more and more into an American-run endeavour."

    "And this visit could be to keep the performance going on," the sources said. "We don't know what he expects to come out of it."

    It is not the first time the Americans have run roughshod over parallel efforts on Cyprus. In September, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright unexpectedly breezed into Larnaca Airport on a lightning stopover and announced the two leaders had agreed to meet on security issues.

    One meeting took place, but the momentum collapsed in the same way as that of the US-brokered indirect dialogue between the UN and the military on both sides. A year later that dialogue has also stalled.

    The government yesterday also appeared to be in the dark about Holbrooke's visit, though Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said: "It appears that after recent meetings with Denktash (in the US) he thought a visit here would be useful."

    Using the terms "maybe" and "might", the Minister spoke of "exchanges of views" and of Holbrooke "listening" to the two leaders.

    Cassoulides admitted the government had not been informed of the exact purpose of the visit and that Holbrooke "was keeping his cards close to his chest".

    Rubin said the visit would be informal with no "specific game plan", just that "he felt the time was right".

    Turkish Cypriot press reported yesterday that Holbrooke - "who got none of the things he wanted during his recent visit to Ankara" - had called Denktash and informed him he would be coming to Cyprus to bring the two leaders together. Holbrooke and Denktash met for times in the US in the past two weeks.

    According to the reports in the north, Holbrooke told Denktash: "We are trying to improve Turkey's position in the EU... Come together with Clerides for the sake of Turkey."

    The papers quote an expert as saying that Holbrooke had just now realised how tough the Cyprus problem was and that he was becoming anxious.

    [04] Denktash finally agrees to meet Cordovez

    TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has agreed to meet UN chief mediator Diego Cordovez during his upcoming visit to the island.

    The UN Secretary-general's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said yesterday Denktash would after all be meeting Cordovez. Denktash also confirmed yesterday, following a meeting with UN Permanent representative Gustave Feissel that he would see the top UN diplomat.

    The UN mediator will arrive on the island on November 18.

    During his recent visit to the US, Denktash told UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan he would not meet Cordovez because on that day he would be in Turkey for a medical examination.

    Denktash told reporters on his arrival back from the US on Thursday that he had informed the Secretary-general that Cordovez's visit was untimely as he would be in Ankara at the time. But the Secretary-general had asked him to postpone his medical examination, Denktash said.

    The Turkish Cypriot leader said he was told Cordovez was not coming to start talks or to get him to meet Clerides, but simply to get to know the region.

    Denktash said he would welcome Cordovez and show him "all aspects of the Turkish Cypriot people".

    Cordovez was the chief mediator in the two rounds of direct talks which were held in New York and in Glion in Switzerland during the summer.

    [05] Cyprus straying away from the Maastricht criteria

    By Charlie Charalambous

    ECONOMIC growth is expected to accelerate in 1998 after a slowdown in many sectors this year, according to Planning Bureau forecasts.

    Planning Bureau director Panicos Pouros told a meeting of the House Finance Committee yesterday that economic indicators for this year pointed to a growth rate of between 2 and 2.5 per cent, but predicted a higher rate of between three and four per cent next year.

    He said the main negative features of the economy this year were the depressed construction and intermediary industries as well as an uncompetitive manufacturing base.

    But Pouros did say there was room for agricultural production to improve its contribution to GDP growth.

    The committee was worried that Cyprus was straying away from the Maastricht criteria it had until now so proudly complied with.

    "I am guilty of claiming Cyprus complies with all the Maastricht criteria when travelling abroad, but this is no longer the case," admitted Edek deputy Takis Hadjidemetriou.

    Pouros told the committee that Cyprus' fiscal deficit projection was now four per cent of GDP, rather than the Maastricht ceiling of three per cent.

    "There should be some flexibility in departing from the three per cent guideline, but not in the long term," he said.

    The area for greater growth and expansion, he added, was the services sector since tourism had almost reached saturation point and could only grow at a limited pace.

    The service sector now contributes some 70 per cent of the GDP, an increase of 15 per cent since 1974.

    Main areas for exporting services are in health, education and banking.

    Akel deputy Kikis Kazamias said he would submit a motion asking why the previously independent Bureau had now been incorporated into the Finance Ministry following a decision by the Council of Ministers.

    Pouros said this could only happen if the House approved the relevant amendments.

    [06] Analysts see foiled takeover bid in Shacolas Liberty sale

    By Hamza Hendawi

    THE PURCHASE of the Shacolas Group's large stake in Liberty Life by directors of the insurance company has rid the young firm of what had been widely viewed as an unwelcome presence and a possible takeover bid by the expanding conglomerate.

    Market analysts, speaking to the Cyprus Mail yesterday, said the Shacolas Group's decision to sell might have been taken after it had become apparent that it would not be able to take control of the company, a move that would have further consolidated the group's share of the lucrative insurance market.

    "Shacolas is the father of takeovers on the island," said Theodoulous Charalambides, manager of Laiki Investment, the Popular Bank's brokerage and investment arm. "The man has a large track record of takeovers in the last three years or so," he told the Mail.

    Charalambides refused to be drawn on Shacolas's bid to take over Liberty Life, but other market analysts suggested that there had been a conflict of interest between the Shacolas Group and Liberty Life directors which had prevented the former from taking over the company.

    Liberty Life has been linked in persistent market rumours with Hellenic Bank, the third largest bank in the island and, unlike the Popular Bank and the Bank of Cyprus, does not have an insurance company.

    "The Shacolas Group's presence was not welcome and that was manifested by the fact that no one from the group was allowed to sit on the Liberty Life board," said one analyst who did not want to be named.

    The Shacolas Group, which made a handsome profit from the sale, said in a statement on Thursday that it had sold its stake in Liberty Life Insurance Ltd in order to allow itself to concentrate on its own insurance business.

    It said it had sold to seven investors, which it did not identify, its 28.3 per cent stake in Liberty Life's share capital at 1.45 a share and its 15.1 per cent stake in warrants at 0.95 apiece.

    The Shacolas Group, a vast business empire led by its founder Nicos Shacolas, includes two insurance companies - Philiki and InterAmerican - which operate under a holding company, Paneuropean. All three are listed on the Cyprus Stock Exchange.

    Liberty Life was founded in 1994 and floated on the Cyprus Stock market a year later. Its initial share issue was oversubscribed five-fold. The Shacolas Group acquired most of the stake it had held in November 1996, when Liberty Life shares were traded around 0.80 apiece.

    The Shacolas investment pushed the share dramatically higher and it has since been traded at around 1.20-1.30.

    There was more than one explanation for the fact that the seven Liberty Life directors paid about 10 cents more for every share than its average market price at present.

    "It is not unusual to pay more when you're buying a huge number of shares," said a senior Liberty Life official, who declined to make further comment. Other Liberty Life officials were not available for comment.

    Louis Clappas, a prominent independent broker, offered a slightly different explanation. "It happens when you are buying a large slice of a company. It was a strategic selling, so you pay a premium... Shacolas was not considered a friendly participant (in Liberty Life)," he told the Mail.

    "You can also say that the premium on the price of the share was offered in a good strategic move on the part of Liberty Life's board of directors," he added.

    Clappas and other market analysts put the value of the deal at close to 1.5 million and, according to Avros Constantinou, a financial analyst with Hellenic Bank, the purchase of the Shacolas shares should have given the board together with Managing Director Neocleous Evripides, who alone has a 10.3 per cent stake, control of the company.

    [07] Conflicting evidence at Aeroporos trial

    POLICE witnesses yesterday gave conflicting evidence before the Nicosia Assizes concerning the colour of the motorbike used by Antonis Fanieros' would-be killers.

    Officers who investigated the Larnaca attack told the court the bike used by the hit-men was blue, and the Suzuki GSXR-750 recovered in the Mari area, believed to be the one used in the May 29 attack, was also blue. However, the duty sergeant on call at Larnaca police station on the night of the drive-by shooting, Michalis Karaiskakis, said the reports which came in to him spoke of the attackers using a red motorbike.

    The three Aeroporos brothers Hambis, 35, Andros, 30, and Panicos, 25, are charged with attempting to kill Fanieros at his gambling club. Chief prosecution witness Tassos Simellides, 28, has testified that Panicos shot at Fanieros from the back of a bike he himself was riding while his two brothers had helped plan the attack and helped in their get-away afterwards. Simellides, who is serving a nine-year sentence for his part in the attack, said the Aeroporos brothers wanted Fanieros dead because they held him responsible for a machine-gun attack on Hambis in 1995. He claimed the brothers forced him to take part in the hit.

    The three accused deny any involvement in the attack.

    A total of 19 witnesses took the stand yesterday, most of them police officers who detailed how the attack happened and how a motorbike and kalashnikov thought to have been used by the attackers were recovered with Simellides's help.

    Simellides has also named Panicos Aeroporos as the man who shot at two police officers on the Nicosia to Limassol highway shortly after the murder attempt.

    The trial continues.

    [08] Indefinite postal strike looms

    By Aline Davidian

    AN INDEFINITE postal strike will begin next week if the demands of striking temporary and permanent postal workers are not met.

    The postal workers are completing a two-day strike today, to protest at the delay in implementing a five-day working week.

    Peo Trade Union representative, Christos Alekkou, stated the demands of the postal workers remained the same. He said after two years of discussion, an agreement had been reached between postal workers and the Ministry of Finance that a five-day week be instituted for a two-month trial period. This had taken place in July and August, and the two sides had met again in September to see whether there had been any problems.

    "It was the conclusion of both sides," said Alekkou, "that the trial had not caused any problems and could function without additional (government) expenditure".

    Refuting the view of the Minister of Finance that the trial had been merely a gesture of good will, Alekkou said the trial was part of a definite agreement and had given positive results. He claimed the Ministry had confused the issue of instituting a five-day week with that of temporary postal workers receiving hourly salaries.

    For the moment, he said, no headway seemed likely, which would result in an indefinite strike starting next week.

    Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said the Ministry would only enter into discussions if regulatory guidelines were followed.

    "The Ministry has no problem in satisfying any of the demands," he said, but pointed out that the contract of a temporary postal worker dictates a six-day week. The public should not have to cover a break from legal obligations, unless there was a clear agreement, said Christodoulou. Such an agreement had not been reached.

    The Minister pointed out that the strike had already cost tens of thousands of pounds. "It seems it is easy to resort to striking when it can affect people's lives" he said.

    [09] Time running out for heritage in the north

    TIME is running out for the archaeological sites and Greek Cypriot heritage in the occupied areas, the Antiquities Department has warned.

    In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), Acting Antiquities Director Sophoclis Hadjisavvas warned that in a few years the monuments and ancient sites in the occupied areas, some dating back to prehistoric times, would be completely destroyed.

    "People may be able to return to their homes but if the destruction continues at the same rate there will be nothing left of the island's heritage," Hadjisavvas said.

    "You can never rebuild 12th century churches and ancient sites."

    Hadjisavvas said archaeological sites dating back to 1700 BC, such as the ancient town of Engomi in the occupied Famagusta region, were not protected and no restoration work had been done since the Turkish invasion in 1974.

    Just before the invasion, Hadjisavvas said, Cypriot and French archaeologists had been excavating the Bronze Age site where they had unearthed buildings, roads, metallurgy facilities, Mycenean jars and other artifacts.

    "The Turks aim at changing the ethnic character of the occupied areas. To leave behind nothing Greek and Christian," Hadjisavvas said.

    "If we return to the occupied areas soon, then we could restore monuments, churches, icons and frescoes that have not been completely destroyed.

    Since 1974, churches in the north have been razed and allowed to crumble, ending up as stables and storehouses.

    Over 20,000 antiquities have also been stolen from the occupied areas and sold to art dealers abroad, as recent cases which have come to light show.

    Hadjisavvas expressed regret at the inability of international organisations to help end the destruction.

    "Unfortunately the political situation in Cyprus makes our efforts more difficult as the occupation regime is trying to take advantage of it to gain recognition," Hadjisavvas said.

    He said Cyprus has tried to involve UNESCO and other international organisations in efforts to salvage its cultural heritage.

    "We want experts to visit the occupied areas, examine the state of monuments, write a report and then we will find the funds needed to start restoration work," Hadjisavvas said.

    However, he added that bodies like UNESCO have to have the consent of both sides before they can act.

    [10] Hit and run man jailed

    A LIMASSOL man was sentenced to two months imprisonment yesterday for abandoning the scene of an accident.

    Limassol District Court heard that 36-year-old Michalis Triantafyllides hit a pedestrian with his car in Limassol on November 11 two years ago and then drove off, leaving his victim on the road. The court also ordered that Triantafyllides be deprived of his driving licence for two years.

    [11] Matsakis calls for action on UK meningitis

    LIMASSOL deputy Marios Matsakis yesterday called on the government and the House to inform him of what was being done to protect Cypriots in Britain against the outbreak of meningitis there.

    In a written letter to Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides, Matsakis, the island's former state pathologist, said there were hundreds of Cypriot students and thousands of residents in the UK who are now exposed to the meningitis outbreak.

    Matsakis said the British authorities were not doing enough and were attempting to downplay the situation and asked what measures were being taken by the Cyprus authorities to ensure the safety of Cypriots in Britain against the outbreak.

    [12] Cyprus Airways to fly to Milan

    CYPRUS Airways yesterday announced twice-weekly flights to Milan as part of a new co-operation agreement with Italian airline Alitalia.

    According to an announcement, the flights will begin on December 2 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, using an Airbus 320 with a capacity of 165 passengers.

    [13] Can Alki arrest decline?

    AFTER a disastrous start to the season that has seen them take one point from six matches, Alki will be hoping for a change of fortunes when they play Apollonas in Larnaca tonight.

    Boasting the third worse defence in the first division - 18 goals conceded in six matches - the Larnaca side are second from bottom and desperately need some points to boost their battered confidence.

    For a team in Alki's position taking points from home matches is of paramount importance for survival, even when the opponents are second- placed as Apollonas, who need to stay in touch with leaders Anorthosis. A victory tonight - even though a draw would be no disaster - could turn around the season for Alki.

    Past experience is not on Apollonas' side. They lost the corresponding fixture last season 1-0, while in their previous visit to Larnaca last month, they were defeated by Salamina.

    Despite being in second place and showing some improvement this season, the Limassol club have not been very convincing title challengers.

    One greatly improved side this season has been Apop, who only narrowly escaped the drop last spring. The Paphians have lost only once so far and this has not been because they have had easy fixtures.

    They held Apoel to a 1-1 draw a fortnight ago and last week came back from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw at Aek. Had they not conceded last minute equalisers in two games they would have been as high as fourth place in the table.

    With summer signing Sasa Jovanovic getting on the scoresheet regularly (scored five goals) and the two Michailovices settling in well, Apop could turn out to be the surprise package of the season.

    This afternoon they will be looking for their third win of the season at home to Paralimni, whose midfielder Bizic, faces his former club.

    Omonia, after a after start, look to be hitting top form, having netted 13 goals in their last two games. Today they will be looking for their fourth successive victory when they meet Ethnikos Ashias at the Kykkos gymnasium ground.

    Ashia coach Nicos Andronikou resigned this week after his side suffered their sixth consecutive defeat and caretaker coach Stylianou will probably be content to keep the scoreline respectable against Omonia.

    Anagennisis started last season as badly as Ashia (losing their first seven games) but still managed to survive. Although Anagennisis have made a better start this season -they have collected four points - they could return to the second division if their defence does not improve dramatically.

    It is the worst in the first division, having let in 22 goals. With such a defence survival becomes very difficult indeed. The rear guard will be tested by Aek, today in a game to be played at a neutral ground.

    Aek's performances have been marked by inconsistency and today they will be further weakened by the absence of Theodotou who is suspended.

    Finally Ethnikos Achnas, the most successful village club of the last few years, travel to Limassol where they meet Ael, a side still trying to find its way in the first division after a 12-month absence.

    With the league's top scorer Mousic on song, Ethnikos could leave Limassol with all three points. Ael are still smarting from the 5-1 drubbing by Anorthosis last weekend.

    Champions Anorthosis meet third-placed Apoel in an evening game at the Tsirion stadium on Sunday.

    © Copyright 1997 Cyprus Mail

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