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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 97-12-05
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Friday, December 5, 1997
 Markides the mystery man still stallingBy Martin Hellicar
DIKO revealed yesterday that Attorney-general Alecos Markides was its chosen candidate in February's presidential elections, but Markides again refused to say if he will stand.
"First of all I must say that the person we were talking about last week was Alecos Markides," Diko leader Spyros Kyprianou said after marathon central and executive committee meetings of his party yesterday afternoon.
The announcement brought to an end weeks of speculation about who Diko's mystery candidate for the elections would be, but it came as no surprise, Markides having been odds-on favourite.
"As soon as the candidacy is confirmed Diko intends to approve it," Kyprianou said, adding that the decision had been unanimous.
In response, Markides said he was "honoured" by the confidence Kyprianou had shown in him, and also by the "urgings of citizens from all parts of the political spectrum who have asked me to think about being a candidate".
"I will announce my final decision as soon as possible," he added.
Earlier in the day, Markides had defended himself against government accusations that he was letting election talk "affect" his position as attorney-general by saying it was the "constitutional right" of any citizen to seek election.
Kyprianou admitted Diko was still "in negotiations" with Markides, but said the party had good reason to be optimistic about his standing. He indicated that the attorney-general was also talking to other parties before making his final move.
"The most important issue is the result of Markides' contacts with all who might support him," Kyprianou said.
Rumours circulated all day about what Diko's move would be.
During the afternoon Diko meetings, committee member Christos Mavrellis was seen leaving the party's HQ to visit Markides at his office.
"If Markides decides not to stand, we will take a new decision - we have various options," Kyprianou said without elaborating.
"Markides would be an independent candidate, and not a party candidate, and it is up to him how he will handle things," Kyprianou added.
He called on former coalition partners Disy, for whom Markides was a deputy, to throw in their lot behind Markides.
"If Disy is really interested in an alliance then let them support Markides. I am prepared to withdraw (my candidacy)," he said.
Kyprianou has been unable to secure support from anyone but Diko for his own candidacy. Disy is backing President Clerides in his re-election campaign.
Kyprianou reiterated yesterday that Diko would not back Clerides, not even if the election went to a second round.
Commenting before Diko's announcement, Clerides said there was "no chance" of his stepping aside in favour of Markides or anyone else. And Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades dismissed suggestions a Markides candidacy would split the Disy vote.
But after Diko's decision there were signs of this happening. Disy deputy Dimitris Syllouris said a Markides candidacy would be a "chance that should not be missed by Disy".
But he declined to say whether he would back Markides if he decided to stand.
The other candidates in the running so far are former Foreign Minister George Iacovou, who has Akel's support, Edek leader Vassos Lyssarides, United Democrats chief George Vassiliou, and Liberal leader Nicos Rolandis.
 Two Germans abducted from Kyrenia officeUNKNOWN assailants kidnapped two Germans in Kyrenia, handcuffed them and later dumped them in a remote village, Reuters news agency reported last night.
Ernst Buecher and Walter Voss were taken from their estate agency offices in Kyrenia late on Wednesday, bundled into Voss's car and driven away.
Buecher was found three hours later handcuffed in the boot of the car with his mouth covered with adhesive tape. Voss was found 100 metres from the car with his hands and feet in cuffs and mouth taped up.
Their passports, a mobile phone and around $375 had been taken from them. Voss was being treated in hospital yesterday for injuries to the head.
The Turkish Cypriots have detained three other Germans and a Croatian in whose house the stolen items were found. The abduction was believed to have been prompted by an argument over debt in Germany.
 Two killed in car crashesTWO PEOPLE lost their lives in separate road accidents in the Nicosia and Famagusta districts yesterday afternoon.
A 50-year-old man was killed when his car careered over a 150-foot cliff and burst into flames after being involved in a collision with a mini-bus outside Nicosia.
Police named the victim as refugee Loukas Hadjiloukas, from Askas village, and said the accident took place at a crossroads on the Nicosia to Palechori road, near Ayios Epiphanios village, at about 4pm.
The driver and passenger of the mini-bus, which was overturned in the collision, were slightly injured.
Police said the exact circumstances of the accident were being investigated.
Two hours later, a 20-year-old man was killed when his car collided with a lorry on the Vryssoules to Frenaros road. Police said Loukas Kadjou from Vryssoules was burnt after his car burst into flames.
The lorry was driving on to the main road off a dirt track when the crash took place, police said.
 Two suspected of robbing tombA FATHER and son from Yeroskipou were arrested yesterday on suspicion of pillaging an ancient tomb they uncovered during road works.
Police said 50-year-old Andreas Ilia and his son Herodotos, 20, failed to notify the Antiquities Department after they happened upon a tomb while using a JCB to open a new road in the Ayii Pente area of the Paphos suburb. The tomb was later found to have been plundered and a search revealed two pots hidden nearby - one in a bush with a pick next to it and one in the JCB which the father had been driving.
Both men are expected to appear before Paphos District Court today.
 Signing of landmines treaty 'positive step', says UNBy Jean Christou
UNFICYP yesterday welcomed Cyprus' signing of the treaty for the global ban on landmines. Senior Adviser Peter Schmitz told the Cyprus Mail it was a "positive development".
"The secretary-general himself has made it clear in his statement that it (the treaty) is a ground-breaking development," Schmitz said.
Cyprus is being represented in Ottawa by Alecos Shiambos, director-general of the Foreign Ministry.
He told the ceremony the country's decision to sign the convention was "clear evidence of our sincere efforts to reduce tension and promote mutual confidence".
"It is directly linked to the proposal for the complete demilitarisation of Cyprus, that President Clerides put forward in the framework of achieving an overall solution to the Cyprus problem," Shiambos said. It should be seen as a gesture of goodwill, he added.
Schmitz said that Unficyp is aware that there are some 38 minefields and booby-trapped areas in the buffer zone and a further 73 minefields located within 500 metres of it.
In all it is estimated there are more than 16,000 landmines buried on the island.
"The Security Council in a resolution in 1996 called on the two sides to assist the UN in identifying the scale of the problem and to see what arrangements can be made to have the mines removed," Schmitz said.
So far Unficyp has had no success in this area but efforts are continuing.
It is believed the problem of mines is being discussed in the ongoing military dialogue between the Turkish Forces Command and the National Guard under the auspices of the UN.
Three months ago a 37-year-old father of three became the latest victim of the island's 1974 landmines legacy after following his dog into a minefield in a government-controlled area near to, but not inside, the buffer zone.
Under the treaty being signed by 125 countries in Ottawa in Canada signatories are obliged to ban the use, stockpiling, production, import and export of anti-personnel landmines.
Signatories must also destroy their existing stockpiles within four years and clear all their minefields unless they can justify an extension.
The treaty will take effect six months after the 40th signatory nation ratifies it in its legislature.
Compliance will be overseen by the UN, a provision that could also include fact-finding missions.
A source at the Foreign Ministry said Cyprus is keen to abide by the treaty but pointed out it will be a long and difficult process.
"There are a lot of mines in the buffer zone and we may even need expert assistance," the source said. "Not all the mines are clearly marked and not all are accessible."
The source said the government does not have to wait for progress on the Cyprus problem to begin work on the treaty provisions, but added that the whole issue was complicated by the fact that Turkey has not signed the Ottawa treaty.
"Then again this is not Turkish territory," the source added.
 Missing man found hiding behind bushA MAN reported missing since last Sunday has been found by police hiding behind a bush in a field near his home in Lythrodontas.
Police were anxious to locate 45-year-old Nicos Lantides, believing he was determined to take his own life after he went missing along with his army rifle.
Police said Lantides had told a friend he was going to commit suicide.
The father of five was recently dismissed from the postal service on charges of forging a government cheque and was known to be in financial difficulty.
Police found Lantides hiding in a field near his home after a fellow villager had spotted him picking mushrooms.
A search of his car recovered the rife and ammunition.
Lantides was returned to his family but did not want to speak about his disappearance.
His wife Soulla has criticised the police for announcing that her husband had domestic problems.
"We have financial problems which nobody is interested in helping us with. Since my husband was fired the situation has worsened but the welfare department has shown no interest," Soulla Lantides was reported yesterday as saying.
 Sex in the officeThe Turkish Cypriot 'civil service' has been rocked by a sex scandal, according to reports from the north.
A respected bureaucrat was caught with his trousers down engaged in unofficial business with a female employee, the Turkish Cypriot paper Kibris reported yesterday.
Employees were reported to be shocked when they entered the office only to find the couple nude and having sex.
An investigation has been ordered following the incident and the hapless couple will soon be sacked, the paper says.
 Union rejects strategic plan for Cyprus AirwaysBy Jean Christou
BRANCH representatives from Cyprus Airways' largest union Cynika yesterday voted unanimously to oppose management's strategic plan for the airline.
The plan was drawn up to put the ailing national carrier back on its feet. It has been approved by the airline's board and has been presented to the unions.
But while pilots' union Pasipy is willing to discuss the proposals contained in the plan, Cynika, which represents cabin and administrative staff, voted not to accept them "as put to us", a union representative said yesterday.
The union is not rejecting the plan outright but before entering any discussion with management on the issues they want the government to become more involved in the airline's problems.
The strategic plan, drawn up with the help of outside experts, provides for cuts in benefits up to 10 per cent and wage freezes for three years which would include the Cost of Living Allowance (CoLA) and annual increments.
Overtime would also be affected.
"A large amount of funds are being requested from staff which would essentially reduce our income levels to a very low rate in comparison to other sectors in the economy," the Cynika representative said.
"This is unacceptable when the main shareholder (the government) is not asked to do its part."
The representative said Cynika expects a revision of the strategic plan and more government participation.
"We are willing to proceed along these lines," he added.
 Date set for drugs trialTHE TRIAL of two Limassol men arrested last month on drugs charges has been set for January 12.
Michalis Ioannou Sellas and Marios Nikou Panayi were arrested after Limassol port customs officials found a cache of hashish inside a Mercedes engine imported in Sellas' name.
It has yet to be decided whether or not the two will remain in custody until the trial.
Sellas' uncle, a customs officer, was also arrested and later released with no charges being brought.
Investigations are now being carried out in England, from where the engine was imported, with the help of interpol.
 House ratifies patent conventionDEPUTIES yesterday voted to ratify the European Patent Convention and Patent Co-operation Treaty, but sidestepped the thorny problem of domestic legislation.
The House decided to rush through ratification after a closed door meeting of the House Commerce Committee early yesterday morning and amid indications Turkey was preparing to adhere to the same convention.
But the tricky question of a local law was left for later. The main stumbling block has been the effect the draft bill, particularly supplementary protection certificates and testing prior to expiration, would have on the local pharmaceutical industry.
Both the convention and the draft bill have been pending before the House since 1991. Documents sent to the Commerce Committee earlier this week indicate experts of the European Patent Office had suggested Turkey had an automatic right to adhere to the convention.
 Not yet gone with the windBy Aline Davidian
THE House Health Committee yesterday heard proposals to relocate a Larnaca cattle farm which poses a health problem to nearby villages because of the bad smell.
The owners are willing to move, but they want ownership of the new land instead of renting it from the state. This is not allowed under Town Planning regulations.
Representatives of Anaphotia and Alaminos villages said tourism in their area was being affected by extensions to the farm.
These were made recently without the appropriate permit, Larnaca District Officer Kypros Mattheou, said, and the matter was now in court.
Philippos Michaelides of the Agriculture Ministry said government compensation would cover only 25 per cent of the value of the extensions during relocation.
This drew fire from Deputy Nicos Cleanthous who said farmers were being expected to work without the incentive of proper compensation.
Michaelides countered by saying the government could not compensate those who had acted outside the law. He said two areas had been proposed for relocating the farm but both posed problems. The Aplanta area would be ideal, he said, but the Defence Ministry was likely to object because of a nearby army camp. Menoia was another alternative, but this was agricultural land, and villagers there had raised objections.
The Alethriko area was the only other alternative, Michaelides said. It was suitable for animal grazing but was again near a village.
Health Committee chairman Andreas Parissinos said the matter would be left open until the owners again meet Larnaca District officers on December 15.
 Media urged to bring two sides togetherJOURNALISTS from Cyprus and abroad converged yesterday at Nicosia's International Convention Centre for a one-day 'Media in the European Union' seminar.
Organised by the Cyprus Section of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) and the European Commission office in Cyprus, headed by EU Ambassador Gilles Anouil, the seminar featured talks on topics as diverse as media ethics in Europe, media perceptions of the EU, and an address on the operation of the media within the union, given by BBC European Affairs Specialist William Horsley.
The seminar was opened by Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides, who said there were "those who abuse the media by spreading propaganda that Turk and Greek cannot live together in Cyprus". He urged journalists to use their power to bring the two sides together.
Cassoulides also expressed regret over the Denktash regime's refusal to allow several Turkish Cypriot journalists to cross to the free areas to attend the seminar.
 Man jailed for road rage attackA 30-year-old man was given three months in prison yesterday because of a road rage incident in May last year.
Charalambos Moskovias, from Aradippou, was jailed by Larnaca court after being found guilty of assault, malicious damage, and carrying an offensive weapon.
His frustration at not being able to overtake a car driven by Neophytos Zackman, 25, exploded into road rage when he was finally allowed to pass.
But having overtaken Zackman, he forced him to stop and then attacked his car, smashing the windscreen with a baton and injuring him with flying glass.
 CyBC accused of intrusion in election coverageBy Charlie Charalambous
BROADCASTER CyBC has been accused of championing intrusive paparazzi TV in its political coverage of the presidential election campaign.
New Horizons President Nicos Koutsou blasted the corporation during a CyBC radio interview yesterday. He was outraged that one of the station's TV crews had filmed a clandestine midnight meeting, in which he took part, between Diko and Disy officials and Attorney-general Alecos Markides.
"I consider this the worst type of thing which could be presented by a TV station. It was irresponsible and maybe illegal," Koutsou said.
The meeting, at the home of a businessman in Nicosia on Tuesday, was part of a concerted effort by Diko and other party elements to persuade Markides to run for president in 1998.
Koutsou claimed the crew had taken the footage in secret, an action he described as "unethical" and a violation of privacy.
"Journalists have a specific task and if we are introducing political paparazzi to Cyprus in order to keep tabs on people and their homes, then we are entering a whole new era," he said.
Koutsou appeared to be annoyed that those present at the gathering had not been asked to comment afterwards.
"They should have got down and asked questions, not hidden in the dark and filmed," he said.
CyBC journalist Demetris Andreou said the station had been tipped off by a political source who briefed the crew on the meeting's agenda.
He said the crew was also accompanied by "a political person".
Replying to Koutsou's criticism, CyBC news editor Vangelis Louka said: "This was an important political event, and it had nothing to do with anybody's personal life."
 Salt lake protection plan drawn upBy Martin Hellicar
THE CABINET has approved a plan for the protection and management of Larnaca salt lake. Drawn up by the Agriculture and Interior ministries, it aims to protect the unique habitat while making it more accessible for recreation and nature study, the Agriculture Ministry Environment service said yesterday.
"People will not be banned from the area but neither will they be allowed to set up their barbecues anywhere they want," Maroulla Hadjichristoforou of the Environment Service said.
The plan must now be approved by the House before implementation.
Hadjichristoforou said the boundaries of the protected areas would be defined and paths laid out so people could walk through the habitat without damaging it. A massive clean-up operation would be undertaken to rid the area of discarded junk. The plan provides for an environmental study centre, car-parks and childrens' play areas for visitors.
Any other form of development - such as Cyprus Tourism Organisation plans for a golf course on the south side of the lakes - would be outlawed.
Hadjichristoforou said the plan was to come to agreements with farmers whose land would fall within the protected area to avoid the use of polluting fertilisers and pesticides. She also denied reports that the plan would cost the state millions in compensation payments to private landowners whose property would be rendered valueless by the no-development designation.
The plan also provides for the closure of the clay pigeon shooting range near the Hala Sultan Tekke on the north side of the main lake. "We found that lead from the shot used on the range was poisoning the lake," Hadjichristoforou said.
The salt lakes, extending both north and south of Larnaca airport, are important wintering and migration stop-over points for thousands of birds.
Flamingoes are the best-known visitors, but various species of ducks, waders, gulls and smaller migrants also rely on the lakes as a feeding and resting place.
Hadjichristoforou said the distinctive plant communities surrounding the lakes would also be protected under the plan.
Shooting is currently permitted for certain periods over the southern expanses of the salt lake, and Hadjichristoforou said this issue would be examined later.
 Probe into possible draft dodgersBy Bouli Hadjioannou
HUNDREDS of young men exempted from military service on psychological grounds were later judged healthy by other medical boards - raising doubts on whether they had managed to cheat their way out of the army.
Current regulations stipulate that young men exempted from the National Guard on psychological grounds are not allowed to hold a driving licence.
Police traffic section chief Savvas Lardis told the House Defence Committee yesterday that between 1991 and 1997 the National Guard had sent police the names of 1,530 soldiers exempted on mental health grounds. Of these 1,116 already had a licence and therefore had it withdrawn.
Lardis said that over the same six years, 824 of them had applied for a new licence. To back up their case they presented certificates from private doctors that they did not suffer from any psychological disorders.
Acting on legal advice, police referred them to a medical board. Of the 824 who applied 809 or 98.2% were found not to be suffering from any mental disorder and were therefore issued with another licence.
Army officers said National Guard figures, though covering only the past three years, indicated the problem was much smaller - perhaps only a third of the cases cited by police.
But Lardis stuck to his guns, saying the police had gone through each case one by one.
The police and army were yesterday asked by the committee to examine the figures again together and establish who is right.
Some deputies said the size of the problem only underlined the need for legal measures to prevent abuse of the system.
Independent deputy Marios Matsakis took things further. He asked for statistics on the number of other non-recruits deprived of their licences. And he also wanted to know how many people had been deprived of their licence to own a hunting rifle on mental health grounds.
The issue remains before the committee, which intends to ask the attorney- general's office for advice.
 Why some soldiers try to kill themselvesBy Bouli Hadjioannou
SUICIDE attempts in the National Guard are much higher than in civilian life, but the reasons are to be found elsewhere, the House Defence Committee heard yesterday.
Clinical psychologist Marina Theodorou told deputies suicide attempts among young conscripts were perhaps 30 times higher than among people of a similar age group outside the army. But she said the reasons lay not with the National Guard but with the psychological problems some young men already face when they are conscripted.
Figures given at yesterday's meeting, the second on the same issue, show a drop in the number of attempted suicides over the past two years. Army doctors said suicides in the army were about one a year (this year has seen two) - similar rates in relation to the strength of the force as in other armies in the Mediterranean.
And they linked the drop in attempted suicides (from 28 in 1995 to 14 this year) to the establishment of a mental health unit in the National Guard last year.
They said another sign the unit was working well was the fact that there was a large number of conscripts exempted from the army on psychological grounds reporting back and asking to serve. "It is an investment that is beginning to pay off," the National Guard psychiatrist said.
The committee also heard that the overall suicide rate in Cyprus was one of the lowest worldwide, and that women were three times more likely to attempt suicide. Men were more likely to succeed.
Theodorou - who has carried out specialised research on suicides, said the army was doing a good job. But she said it was impossible to establish a trend based only on one year's figures.
Asked why suicide attempts were higher in the army, the Limassol-based psychologist said the young conscripts brought their problems with them and behave in a spasmodic way in a bid to escape from an environment they feel is oppressive. One way to do this is to attempt suicide.
"The problems do not start in the army, they start much earlier, in society and in the family," she said.
Young people develop psychological disorders which they bring with them to the army. They find it impossible to adapt to an environment which, in the case of the army, requires a great deal of adaptability.
Theodorou said it was the responsibility of society to try to prevent such problems early on. And she said conscripts should be screened to establish whether they are psychologically fit to serve, and where they should go.
Army officials said new tests were introduced in Greece last year. Cyprus was considering following suit, but that this would require extra staff.
The Defence Ministry said the government has decided to strengthen the mental health unit, but could not give details. The issue remains before the committee.
 Top court may decide on deedsTHE Supreme Court will probably be asked to decide whether the government can continue to issue title deeds to refugees.
This follows yesterday's decision by the majority in the House of Representatives to reject President Clerides' call that they reconsider a packet of laws aiming to stop the government from issuing the deeds.
Clerides has argued that the laws, which only come into force once he has signed them, are unconstitutional. He is now expected to send the issue to the Supreme Court for a final decision. The government can meanwhile continue to issue title deeds to refugees.
 Defence minister denies secrets leakedDEFENCE Minister George Chalarambides yesterday denied President Clerides had leaked military secrets and urged political parties not to make a big issue out of defence matters.
He was responding to criticism from Akel deputy Doros Christodoulides over Clerides' remark at a gathering of Disy supporters that 50 armoured personnel carriers have been brought to Cyprus for the Greek contingent (Eldyk).
Christodoulides told the House Defence Committee that perhaps Clerides "between a glass of zivania, some meze and the applauding supporters" had erred in making this revelation.
He would have asked Clerides to come to the House Defence Committee to give an explanation, but did not have the constitutional right to do so, he added.
But the Akel deputy said Government Spokesman Manolis Christofides had been wrong to say all the information was already public knowledge because it had been published in a Greek defence magazine and on the Internet. The magazine had never mentioned the number of tanks, while Christofides had even gone further to give the number of Eldyk soldiers here, he added.
Charalambides countered that Clerides had been responding to criticism from Akel over what he considered a major achievement of his government - the joint defence dogma with Greece. No secrets had been revealed, and the Greek government had come out clearly in support of Clerides' statement, he said.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1997