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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 97-11-13

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Thursday, November 13, 1997


  • [01] More meetings possible
  • [02] Yilmaz hails Holbrooke input
  • [03] Internal Diko row boils over
  • [04] New ministers sworn in
  • [05] Who are the new ministers?
  • [06] Cassoulides sings the praises of rapprochement
  • [07] Police in the spotlight over release of drug suspect
  • [08] 'What are the police doing'
  • [09] Sri Lankan claims police beating
  • [10] Bourse chief urges more incentives
  • [11] Fire engine modifications questioned
  • [12] Pollution killing village
  • [13] Postal strike averted
  • [14] Priest to appeal to synod for daughter's release
  • [15] Police probe butchery bomb
  • [16] Panic as fire sweeps Paphos restaurant
  • [17] Bases chopper in sea rescue
  • [18] Syrian arrested in fake passport scam
  • [19] Cyta boss to sue Christofias and CyBC

  • [01] More meetings possible

    By Andrew Adamides

    THERE could be new face to face meetings between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash when United Nations Special Advisor on Cyprus Diego Cordovez arrives here next week.

    Government spokesman Manolis Christofides said in his daily press briefing yesterday that the two leaders may come together for further talks when the top UN envoy arrives on the 18th for a four-day visit. He added that the Greek Cypriot side would be willing to discuss proposals as it "did not have the luxury" of turning offers down at this particular time.

    Christofides also blasted as "fantastic" reports in the Turkish press of proposals made by the Turkish side for a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    The reports claim that the proposals were presented to United States Cyprus envoy Richard Holbrooke during his meeting with Denktash late on Monday.

    The supposed proposals, details of which were reported in yesterday's Turkish Daily News, were said to be for a federal solution under which there would be mutual recognition for both states on the island. A joint application for EU membership would then be lodged, under the power of a joint temporary government.

    Christofides said Holbrooke had not mentioned these "proposals" to the Greek Cypriot side during the meeting at the Ledra palace on Tuesday.

    Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said yesterday that Holbrooke "did not leave empty handed" after his visit, but that the Greek Cypriot side would not compromise on its positions. He added that Holbrooke's visit should lead to more direct talks between the two leaders on the island once it became clear what Holbrooke had achieved in Ankara, to where he flew from Nicosia.

    [02] Yilmaz hails Holbrooke input

    "The participation of the Turkish Cypriot side is the key to finding a solution to the Cyprus problem," US Cyprus Envoy Richard Holbrooke said yesterday after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz in Ankara.

    Holbrooke flew to Ankara on Monday in a surprise visit for talks with top Turkish officials after his two days of contacts in Cyprus.

    The American envoy appeared yesterday to have gained the confidence of Yilmaz, who described his input as "the most constructive and realistic... that had existed to date as regards the Cyprus problem."

    Yilmaz added that, despite an absence of specific proposals from Holbrooke, "long-term not immediate results should... be expected.

    Spokesmen for the Turkish Foreign Ministry said it would come as no surprise if the envoy chose to seek further Turkish Cypriot participation in future discussions. They repeated their calls for recognition of the 'TRNC' and said the attitude of the EU in hindering Turkish membership was not conducive to solving the Cyprus problem.

    [03] Internal Diko row boils over

    By Martin Hellicar

    A SIMMERING dispute between former Diko Minister Dinos Michaelides and his party leader, Spyros Kyprianou, boiled over into open disagreement yesterday.

    Michaelides said Diko was still seeking ways to resurrect its defunct government coalition partnership with Disy, while Kyprianou repeated that his party was now in opposition.

    Last week, Kyprianou ordered Michaelides (then Interior Minister) and four other Diko Ministers to abandon their posts. The Diko leader was smarting at Clerides's decision to stand for re-election, which dashed any hopes he might have had that Disy would support him in the February presidentials.

    Michaelides, and the other four departing Ministers, risked the wrath of their party leader by heeding a plea from Clerides to stay on in their posts till replacements were found. The five ministers, and Michaelides in particular, also made it plain they regretted having to leave Clerides's government.

    The issue was closed yesterday as Clerides swore in five new ministers, but Michaelides seemed to pick another point on which to defy Kyprianou.

    "We (Diko) are not yet talking of being in opposition," he stated on leaving the swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia. "The two parties are still working on ways to co-operate, this has been stated by the leaders of both parties," he said.

    "We are at a stage of negotiations which could lead to a resurrection of the Disy-Diko alliance," he said, adding that he hoped the coalition would be re-created.

    Kyprianou's response was terse: "I don't know in what context Michaelides made his comments, but I can tell you Diko is certainly in the opposition."

    He repeated that Diko was talking to all parties concerning possible alliances for February. He did not preclude an alliance with Disy, provided this was not to back Clerides, but nor did he rule out the possibility of Diko supporting the chosen candidate of left-wing Akel, George Iacovou.

    Other names in the hat for the elections so far are United Democrats' leader George Vassiliou, Edek leader Vassos Lyssarides and Liberals leader Nicos Rolandis.

    [04] New ministers sworn in

    PRESIDENT Clerides swore-in five new members to his cabinet yesterday morning, replacing the Diko ministers who resigned last week after the collapse of the Disy-Diko government coalition.

    George Stavrinakis took the place of Dinos Michaelides as Interior Minister. George Charalambides took over the Ministry of defence from Costas Eliades. Andreas Mantovanis succeeded Costas Petrides as Agriculture Minister. Efstathios Papadakis was sworn-in as Labour Minister to replace Andreas Moushiouttas, while Michalakis Michaelides took over from Kyriacos Christofi as Commerce Minister.

    The five new ministers were appointed to the 11-member cabinet for a four- month period - until the February presidentials. Their first task will be to tackle the 40 items on the agenda for tomorrow's cabinet meeting.

    "Our appointment takes place at a crucial time because of developments in Cyprus and ahead of next year's presidential elections," George Stavrinakis, acting as spokesman for the new appointees, said. He thanked the President for the trust he had shown in them and pledged to offer "substantive services to our respective ministries."

    Clerides said he was "sure we shall co-operate fully."

    [05] Who are the new ministers?

    THE NEW Interior Minister is 65-year-old Law Commissioner George Stavrinakis.

    He was born in Nicosia in 1932, and studied law in London, qualifying as barrister. He worked as a lawyer between 1955 and 1962 and was then appointed District Judge.

    In 1971, he was appointed president of the Nicosia-Kyrenia District Court and was president of the Nicosia District Court between 1978 and 1980.

    In September 1980 he was appointed Labour Minister, and in 1982 Law Commissioner.

    Stavrinakis has served as chairman numerous of investigating committees, including the one which embarrassed the former cabinet by clearing Electricity Authority board members of any wrongdoing. The cabinet had sacked the board members following allegations of mismanagement.

    Sixty-four-year-old Michalakis Michaelides, the new Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister, was born in Nicosia in 1931. he studied at the Government School of Pharmacy and was co-director and a partner in the Cyprus Pharmaceutical Company and founder and managing director of the firm Micheal P. Michaelides Ltd. He was a member and chairman of the board of the Cyprus association of Pharmaceuticals Importers and president of the board of the Nicosia Chamber of Commerce.

    Michaelides served as Commerce Minister between 1985 and 1988, during the presidency of Spyros Kyprianou.

    Stathis Papadakis, 59, is the new Labour and Social Insurance Minister. He was born in Athens in 1936 and is married with two children.

    After graduating from the Higher School of Economics and Commerce in Athens in 1957 he joined his uncle's family business dealing in oil imports.

    A board member of many private companies, including brewers KEO, he has also served on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce and the Cyprus Productivity Centre. He is also president of the Limassol Rotary club.

    The new Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment is 59-year-old father-of-five Andreas Mantovanis.

    Mantovanis studied law at the Aristotelion University in Salonica and later won a scholarship to a masters degree in Public Administration at Albany State University, New York. He than worked as a civil servant, first at the public information office and the public service commission and later at the Interior Ministry.

    A student of Greek and British electoral systems, he was instrumental in the registration of voters and conduct of the first municipal elections in 1979.

    Mantovanis was appointed Famagusta District Officer in 1985 and served as Larnaca District Officer until his retirement in 1997.

    George Charalambides, the new defence Minister, is a veteran of the 1955-59 EOKA struggle and comes from Paphos.

    After independence he served in the Paphos and Limassol District Administrations and at the Ministries of Labour, Education and Interior and the Planning Bureau.

    Charalambides studied Public Administration at the American University of Beirut and did post-graduate studies in Development Administration at the State University of Albany, New York.

    He has served as Nicosia District Officer since 1985 and in the last two years before his retirement was acting permanent secretary of the Interior Ministry.

    [06] Cassoulides sings the praises of rapprochement

    By Martin Hellicar

    FOREIGN Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides yesterday sang the praises of rapprochement, saying it could both help efforts towards a Cyprus solution and make things easier after a settlement.

    "No-one can doubt the helpfulness of opportunities for Greek Cypriots to meet Turkish Cypriots and talk, exchange views and understand each other," Cassoulides told the House refugee committee.

    "When a solution comes, it will be easier if Turkish Cypriots have had the idea of friendship cultivated by rapprochement," he added.

    The Foreign Minister was grilled by deputies on the effectiveness, wisdom and safety of bi-communal contacts and exchanges. Diko deputy Katerina Pantelidou said there had been a "worrying increase" in rapprochement recently.

    She said she was all for rapprochement with the Turkish Cypriot community, but said contacts with Turks or settlers "constituted recognition of the occupation regime".

    "Given that rapprochement is done correctly it is good - it gives a positive message abroad and helps a Turkish Cypriot voice other than that of the Denktash regime be heard," Cassoulides responded.

    He said anything indicating Greek and Turkish Cypriots could co-exist in harmony helped defeat the arguments of the Turkish side.

    "A significant proportion of Turkish Cypriots who take part in rapprochement events are targeted by the occupation regime. They have their homes searched by regime officials and suffer threats from the (Turkish nationalist group) Grey Wolves," Cassoulides added.

    While welcoming the efforts of foreign embassies in arranging bi-communal events, he said the government felt it "preferable" for such contacts to be made by Greek Cypriot groups, such as political parties and unions. "The difference is that we have faith in the patriotism and judgment of Cypriots to ensure that rapprochement efforts do not help the other side," Cassoulides said.

    Cassoulides said the government respected the opinions of groups who were opposed to any form of contact with the other side and would not stop protests against rapprochement, as long as these were peaceful.

    The Minister said the government was all for Greek Cypriots visiting the north, so long as this was not done for "tourism". He reassured deputies there was "no evidence" to support rumours that Greek Cypriots visited the north to play in casinos or otherwise help fill the occupation regime's coffers.

    The government also welcomed Turkish Cypriots visiting or coming to work in the free areas, Cassoulides told the committee.

    Official figures for Greek and Turkish Cypriots crossing the Ledra palace check-point show a slight drop in recent years.

    In 1993, 604 Greek Cypriots visited the north and 779 Turkish Cypriots the free areas. In 1994, 1,044 Greek Cypriots visited the north and 1,596 Turkish Cypriots the south. In 1995, the figures were 1,502 and 1,393 respectively, in 1996, 1,398 and 547 and projected figures for 1997 were 1, 200 and 1,122 respectively.

    [07] Police in the spotlight over release of drug suspect

    By Charlie Charalambous

    ALLEGATIONS by a former police boss that his superiors released a drug suspect from custody after he had refused to do so will be investigated by parliament.

    Although Police HQ have dismissed claims by former drug squad commander Nicos Kazafaniotis as "unfounded", the House Ad Hoc Committee yesterday demanded it be completely briefed on the matter.

    Committee chairman Doros Theodorou raised the issue during a discussion of drug-related crime, and called on attending deputy police chief Andreas Stephanou to inform the House.

    But Stephanou was not in a position to divulge further facts about the case in the public arena.

    "I would like to be allowed time to gather the information which I would like to give behind close doors," he said.

    All he would say was that there were legal proceedings under way which involved the suspects mentioned in the particular drug case.

    But Theodorou stressed that the committee could not pledge that what was said behind closed doors would remain classified information.

    "We don't want to give the public the wrong impression that we are trying to keep this quiet. If we think facts should be known, then they won't be kept a secret."

    Akel deputy Aristofanis Georgiou also requested that Kazafaniotis be called to the next meeting so the committee could hear his side of the story.

    Kazafaniotis has claimed that on August 21 an order came from the police leadership to release a drug suspect who was in custody and that he was put under intense pressure to do so when he refused.

    Despite the "illegal order", the suspect was released when the police hierarchy went over his head, Kazafaniotis claimed in a written statement.

    He suggested that this incident - among other differences with the police command - had made him to retire early from the force.

    Police HQ has responded by saying that the suspect had been wrongly arrested and that his release was linked to pending drug investigations.

    According to reports, the suspect was in fact a police informer and, and had been arrested instead of another drug suspect in a raid on a house carried out on orders from Kazafaniotis himself.

    [08] 'What are the police doing'

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THE POLICE were yesterday accused of standing idly by while criminals got rich on drug money.

    Members of the House Ad Hoc Committee blasted the various law enforcement agencies for not using everything within their power to track down criminals profiting from organised crime.

    During the debate on drug crime and money laundering, deputies were astonished to hear that last year not one case of drug trafficking had been investigated by police or a special unit created to track down money laundering.

    Attending deputy police chief Andreas Stephanou said no evidence had come to light which suggested that drug money was being laundered in Cyprus.

    He also said that statistics for 1996 showed that not one case of drug trafficking had been investigated.

    But deputies were not happy that a newly established anti-money laundering task force did not have the initiative to investigate suspected big-time criminals.

    "We approved the relevant law to prevent it (money laundering), not to wait until it happens," said Akel's Aristofanis Georgiou.

    Georgiou found it incredible that, with Cyprus receiving so much bad publicity abroad as an alleged money laundering centre, those appointed to investigate were not doing their job.

    "This unit must be allowed to work independently and not wait for the police to give it evidence. If the law does not allow this we must change it," said Akel's Costas Papacosta.

    Committee chairman Doros Theodosiou wondered why the police did not check the financial background of drug villains and request documents from the banks.

    He then became agitated when members of the security forces said there were rules and regulations concerning the acquirement of bank documents.

    "There seems to be a misunderstanding. You don't seem to understand that the law empowers you to do such things, but you don't bother investigating to see whether people are profiting from organised crime," said Theodorou.

    Raising the temperature of the proceedings, Theodorou offered his own profile of the drug baron.

    "These people have bank accounts with money earned from organised crime which they move around freely, but you don't understand the connection."

    The chairman said crime-busting measures were useless if the police could not grasp the simple fact that there was a very real link between drugs and money laundering.

    "In effect we are just allowing criminals to walk free. We should be making it harder for them and checking their sources of income."

    Georgiou backed up his chairman by saying, "when we talk about fighting organised crime, the reality is that nothing is being done."

    When Stephanou was asked whether he thought people were getting rich from drug money, he said: "Surely people do benefit, but not those planting a couple of cannabis plants for their own use."

    Before the meeting closed, Georgiou served more food for thought to the island's crime fighters.

    "If someone builds a 500,000 house and has an expensive car parked outside but is registered unemployed, is there no way of finding out where the money came from?"

    [09] Sri Lankan claims police beating

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THE ATTORNEY-general is considering launching an independent inquiry into allegations that police mistreated a Sri Lankan couple after they had criticised the authorities on television.

    Sri Lankan Chandra De Silva has accused the Cyprus police - via Interpol - of violently assaulting him and his wife before deporting him from the island.

    Attorney-general Alecos Markides has asked to be briefed on the matter and has not ruled out an independent inquiry.

    According to De Silva's allegations, he was visited by eight armed policemen who beat him to pulp before taking him to Larnaca airport and putting him on the next plane home.

    De Silva said the attack happened the day after he and his wife had appeared on a CyBC social affairs programme last week and had some unkind things to say about how they were treated as foreign workers.

    The Sri Lankan's lawyer, Michalis Vladimirou, said he had witnessed marks on his client's back.

    He also said that De Silva had since visited a hospital in his home country suffering from back pain.

    De Silva further claims that police threatened to kill him if he remained in Cyprus.

    His wife left the island earlier this week, claiming their employers had failed to pay them the agreed wage under contract.

    [10] Bourse chief urges more incentives

    By Hamza Hendawi

    SHELTERED from recent world market upheavals by its own global insignificance, the Cyprus Stock Exchange urged the government yesterday to do more to encourage new listings on the fledgling bourse.

    "Tax and other incentives must be given by the state to encourage new listings and warm up the investment climate," Dinos Papadopoulos, the bourse's chairman, told a news conference.

    He welcomed a government bill approved by parliament last month to reduce corporate tax by five percentage points for a five-year period, but said the move has removed a "disincentive" rather than giving one. The bill applies only to new floatation.

    "The relevant measures approved recently by the House are one step, however small, in the right direction," he said.

    The Cyprus stock market launched operations in March last year, replacing an unofficial, over-the-counter market which had started in 1979. The market's capitalisation stood at 1.03 billion at the end of last month, with the banking sector accounting for 63.44 per cent of that.

    Also last month, the latest period for which figures are available, the total value of transactions amounted to a modest 10.8 million with an average of 514,000 per session.

    The market, which is due for complete computerisation by the end of June 1998, emerged unscathed from last month's turmoil on world bourses, thanks primarily to the absence of foreign players and the size of the bourse which, compared to emerging markets in the immediate region of southern Europe and the Middle East, is extremely small.

    "Foreign investments in the CSE (Cyprus Stock Exchange) are still restricted and our economy is, to an extent, closed, at least as far as capital flows are concerned," Papadopoulos told the news conference, called to present the bourse's 1996 report.

    In a bid to inject life into the market, Papadopoulos said the CSE was lobbying the government to allow offshore companies based on the island to invest in listed companies, something which is banned by present regulations governing the operations of offshore companies.

    "These (offshore) companies are allowed to deposit money in Cyprus banks and collect interest. There it is not an issue, so one should not be raised in the case of the CSE," he said.

    Restrictions on foreign investments in listed companies were eased considerably by the Central Bank earlier this year, by raising ownership ceilings. Some restrictions, however, remain in force and they vary from sector to sector.

    Papadopoulos' plea for the government to do more to encourage investment in the infant bourse echoes the sentiments of many investors who complain of the government's slow pace of reform and the lack of information available to potential small investors on the market's operations.

    State control of interest rates is also cited as a major hurdle to the market developing its own potential together with the limited number of investment products available on the Cyprus market.

    [11] Fire engine modifications questioned

    "THESE are not small problems... we must discover whether wrong procedures were followed," Deputy Takis Hadjigeorgiou said in addressing the House Watchdog Committee yesterday.

    The Committee was reviewing the suitability of 14 trucks bought and subsequently modified by the Fire Department and which had since developed mechanical problems.

    Hadjigeorgiou introduced the issue to the Committee, stating that the trucks, bought in March 1995, did not fulfil safety regulations for vehicles of their size. They should have had 28 cm ground clearance, but upon delivery had been found to have only 26cm clearance. This had been countered by replacing the tyres with some having higher rims, but new problems had arisen, namely "instability in steering wheels, brake trouble and faults with speed instruments".

    Spokesmen for the Department of Electromechanical Services defended their approval of the modifications since "the tyres were changed in order to fulfill the regulations".

    Fire Department Chief Yiorgos Karides said the pre-sale agreement with the manufacturers Bedford, had been for a clearance of 29cm, although 28cm had also been deemed acceptable. Upon discovering the clearance after delivery to be 26cm, the Bedford company had replaced the truck tyres with higher rimmed "tubeless tyres", correcting the discrepancy.

    Watchdog Committee President, Christos Pourgourides queried the performance of the vehicles after the changes but Karides said all fourteen were being used in different parts of the country with success. He further stated that EU guidelines accepted clearances of "25 and 26cm" on such vehicles and that an initial "15-day trial of the trucks" had shown them roadworthy.

    Deputies remained unconvinced, however, expressing sincere hopes that regrettable incidents would not result from the continued use of the trucks.

    [12] Pollution killing village

    THE survival of Mari village is threatened by pollution and loss of farmland to industrial development, the House refugee committee heard yesterday.

    "Mari residents are in danger of becoming refugees a second time around," outspoken Akel deputy Kikis Yiangou said, in reference to the fact that most of the residents of the former Turkish Cypriot village are refugees.

    The Larnaca district village is situated right in the middle of a heavily industrialised landscape. The Vasiliko cement works and chemical industries are soon to be joined by the massive new Vasiliko power station.

    "The pollution caused by these industries goes beyond admissible levels," Yiangou told the committee. "According to measurements made a few years ago, pollution levels have reached dangerous levels with serious consequences for the health of residents in the area."

    He said this pollution was affecting not only the atmosphere but also ground-water.

    "The coal used for fuel at the Vasiliko cement works, stacked outside the factory, has contaminated the bore-hole which supplied the village animal rearing area with the result that many animals, mostly cows, have died," Yiangou said.

    He said the water had very high levels of sulphur in it. The bore-hole had once supplied water to homes in the village but contamination had meant it had to be relegated to animal use.

    Yiangou said pollution was not the only problem for Mari: 70 per cent of the village's agricultural land had been eaten-up by industrial development.

    "Over the next few years Mari will present a picture of abandonment and ruin as residents are denied the land that is vital to their livelihoods," Yiangou warned.

    The village authority has apparently secured a promise from President Clerides that the community will be re-housed at a new site. "Efforts have been made to find a new site, but nothing seems to be happening," Yiangou concluded.

    [13] Postal strike averted

    A TEMPORARY agreement has been reached to avert an indefinite strike by postal workers, Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou announced yesterday.

    Postal workers went on a 48-hour strike last week to demand that a five-day week rota implemented on a trial basis in July and August be made a permanent fixture. The workers had threatened to strike indefinitely from Monday.

    Christodoulou met with representatives from the Peo, Sek and Pasydy unions to discuss the problem yesterday.

    "We have arrived at a stop-gap, temporary arrangement," Christodoulou said after the meeting.

    He said the six-day week would remain in place till January 10, 1998, and the five-day week would then be tried for three months till March 31, 1998 - to see how it worked over the winter period.

    In the meantime, the minister said, a mixed committee made up of representatives from the Finance Ministry, the Works Ministry and the unions would work on a permanent solution to the five-day/six-day week dilemma.

    Christofides said the government had no desire to pre-empt the committee's decision: "There is no set position on this," he said.

    [14] Priest to appeal to synod for daughter's release

    LETYMPOU priest Papakyriakos Tryphonos stated yesterday that he would probably approach the Religious Synod to secure his 23-year-old daughter's release from Ayios Iraklidios Convent.

    His daughter Nectaria has recently taken the veil, but Papakyriakos alleges she was "brainwashed" into doing so. His requests for Nectaria to be released to reconsider her decision have been ignored by the Convent's abbess who has also tried to prevent access to Nectaria by her family.

    The Religious Synod, hopes Papakyriakos, will act in the family's favour since "it forbids young people to enter a monastery without their parents' consent".

    He also maintains that Nectaria had never had leanings towards a monastic life but dreamed of marrying and having a family of her own, possibly becoming wife to another cleric.

    "I had told her that for me it would have been a divine gift for my sons-in- law and daughters to be in the service of God," he said.

    [15] Police probe butchery bomb

    POLICE were yesterday investigating an explosion outside a Limassol butcher's shop in the early hours.

    The blast occurred at about 2.45pm outside a shop belonging to 60-year-old Antonis Siarmalli on Franklin Roosevelt street, disturbing the Limassol suburb of Zakaki. No-one was hurt but the window panes of the shop and a neighbouring establishment were shattered, police said.

    "Initial examinations indicate explosive material was used in the blast," a police bulletin stated.

    The shop-owner said he had no idea who might want to bomb his shop. "Perhaps someone had a bomb left over and decided to chuck it at my shop," Siarmalli said.

    [16] Panic as fire sweeps Paphos restaurant

    THERE was panic and confusion in Paphos' tourist area when a fire broke out in a Kato Paphos restaurant yesterday.

    Tourists rushed out of nearby pubs and night spots to escape the proximity of the flames after a fire started in the kitchen of the 'Zorbas' restaurant at about 10pm. The fire services and police were soon on hand to bring the situation under control.

    The fire is believed to have started by accident and no injuries were reported.

    [17] Bases chopper in sea rescue

    ANOTHER dramatic sea rescue by a helicopter of the British bases' 84 Squadron took place yesterday, after the fishing boat of Neophytos Kanetis, 36, caught fire off the Akrotiri coast.

    At around 7am, the search and rescue squadron was alerted by reports of a burning vessel in the area and scrambled a helicopter. A Cypriot Police launch had already received notification of the fire and was also in the vicinity.

    When discovered, the boat was completely ablaze and rescuers assumed Kanetis would have abandoned ship. He was picked up by the helicopter some way upwind from where he had jumped overboard.

    Kanetis was taken to Akrotiri military hospital. Helicopter crewman Bob Mullen said he was "very lucky to be alive."

    On Monday, the squadron rescued another seaman from a burning boat which sank off the Akrotiri coast.

    [18] Syrian arrested in fake passport scam

    A SYRIAN man was arrested yesterday on suspicion of being involved in a racket which stole Greek passports, altered them and sold them on to illegal aliens.

    Mohammed Bahir Mohammed was caught after a purchaser discovered the passport he had been sold was fake. When Mohammed's car was searched, a forged Greek passport was discovered, made out in the name of Ilias Zighouras.

    Mohammed admitted he had sold it for $2,500 to an alien who had been deported to Syria before having the chance to claim it.

    He denied that he stole the passport himself, claiming he was only a middleman in a wider operation. Also found in the Nicosia flat he shares with his Cypriot wife and two children, were photocopies of Syrian passports as well as photographs of their Syrian owners.

    Mohammed has alleged the ringleader of the operation is an illegal alien currently outside the island and that another member of the racket is in Limassol.

    An investigating officer said wider investigations would be launched in Greece, in collaboration with Interpol, to determine whether the Greek passports were actually stolen from the country or forged from scratch in Cyprus.

    Mohammed was remanded in custody for eight days whilst police track down at least three other suspects believed to be linked with the operation.

    [19] Cyta boss to sue Christofias and CyBC

    TELECOMMUNICATIONS Authority chairman Michalakis Zivanaris has started legal proceedings against Akel boss Demetris Christofias and CyBC TV for defamation of character.

    In a statement issued yesterday, Zivanaris announced that he had instructed his lawyers to start civil proceedings against Christofias and CyBC in connection with allegations made during a live chat show last month.

    Zivanaris denies any link or interest in a private company involved in the field of telecommunication or providing services which are offered by Cyta.

    He also rejects out of hand any suggestion that the authority is involved in any underhand activity with the private sector.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1997

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