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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 97-12-19
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Friday, December 19, 1997
 Torrential rain needed to fill the reservoirsBy Hamza Hendawi
ABOVE-average rainfall in November and satisfactory downpours so far this month might have been a welcome respite for the drought-hit agriculture sector, but they have done precious little to restore depleted water levels in the island's reservoirs.
Not only that, but the persistent drought besetting Cyprus for much of this decade has given rise to fears that dry weather conditions are becoming the norm rather than the exception in the eastern Mediterranean. Only two of the past 10 years saw rainfall reach average or above average levels.
Already, the drought has taken its toll on the island's farming sector, prompting the government to give millions of pounds to farmers in subsidies.
Trade figures released on Wednesday showed that agriculture exports fell by almost 50 per cent in the January to July period, compared to the first seven months of 1996.
The government, aware of the steady decline in rainfall, has built a water desalination in the southern coastal area of Dhekelia. The facility is producing 25,000 cubic metres per day and output is scheduled to increase to 40,000 cubic metres in June. Tenders are already out for a second plant.
"Maybe our region is getting less and less rainfall," Christodoulos Christodoulou, director of the Agriculture Ministry's Water Development Department, told the Cyprus Mail. "There is a definite indication that we are getting less rainfall on average. There is a certain downward trend because we are getting less and less rain."
Rainfall in November totalled 74 mm, 139 per cent above the average for the month, which is 53 mm, according to Cleanthis Phylaniotis, director of the Meteorological Department.
So far December has attained 48 per cent of the month's average 106 mm of rainfall. October, Phylaniotis told the Mail, fared poorly, with only 25 mm of rainfall, eight mm below the month's average.
The average rainfall is based on records for the past 30 years.
"The situation in the reservoirs is exactly the same as it was before the latest rains," said Christodoulou when asked about whether the level in reservoirs had risen.
"What we have in the reservoirs today (December 18) is 28.8 million cubic metres. What we had on December 18, 1996 was 55.1 million cubic metres," he said.
"But we must wait to see what happens in the rest of December and all the way up to March or even April," he cautioned.
The soil, he added, must first be fully saturated with water before the island's 101 reservoirs and ponds begin to receive run-off. "This is taking a long time because the soil is very dry as a result of the drought."
"Let me put it to you this way: the average run-off water we get in the hydrological year, which begins in October, is 120 million cubic metres, but what we have so far is 3.3 million cubic metres."
"What we need to restore water levels in reservoirs to normal is torrential rains, which is unlikely, although you never know with nature," said Christodoulou.
Agriculture, a small contributor to the island's tourism and services- dominated economy, receives nearly two thirds of the 135 million cubic metres available from government sources every year, according to Christodoulou.
 Disy insists coalition can yet be savedTHE GOVERNMENT yesterday refused to believe Diko had ruled out supporting President Clerides for re-election.
Diko leader Spyros Kyprianou - speaking after his party's chosen candidate for the February presidentials, Attorney-general Alecos Markides, decided not to stand - said there was no way Diko would back Clerides.
But Government spokesman Manolis Christofides said there was still hope the Disy-Diko coalition which got Clerides elected in 1993 would be resurrected. "Anything goes in politics," said Christofides, who usually speaks on behalf of the President and his backers Disy on electoral issues.
"If your aim in politics is to serve the people then if the first choice you hoped for does not come through you have the right to seek other options," the spokesman said.
"I am given to understand that support for Clerides has not been ruled out (by Diko)," he added.
Kyprianou again refused to reveal the names of the three possibles his party were considering post-Markides. He did say Akel candidate George Iacovou met both his party's criteria for a candidate: an agreeable approach to the Cyprus problem and electability. Kyprianou said veteran Edek leader Vassos Lyssarides, also an election candidate, was okay on the national issue but unelectable.
Meanwhile, former Diko vice-chairman Alexis Galanos continued to push his credentials as alternative Diko candidate. He said it would be a "historic mistake" for Diko not to have its own candidate for February, even if this candidate did not win outright.
He warned choosing to back Clerides or Iacovou would only serve to "divide" the party vote, claiming not all Diko voters would be happy to support such a choice.
 Road deaths down to five-year lowENCOURAGED by healthier traffic statistics, the police will be out in force over the festive period to ensure that road deaths remain the lowest for five years.
Anticipating increased recklessness on the roads over Christmas and New Year, the police will launch a comprehensive anti drink-driving campaign.
Traffic police will also come down hard on dangerous drivers, those caught speeding and drivers not wearing seat-belts.
Road accident figures released yesterday reveal that road deaths - at 111 so far this year - are at their lowest since 1991 when 103 people died on the roads.
Until yesterday, there had been 97 fatal accidents this year resulting in 111 deaths, compared to 108 fatal accidents and 125 deaths in the whole of 1996.
Police believe that greater road awareness and increased road checks and patrols have kept down the death toll, which only three years ago reached 133, the second highest figure on record.
Since 1992, a total of 626 people have died on the roads and a further 22, 957 have suffered injuries.
Cyprus has one of the worse road death rates in Europe, with only Portugal scoring more deaths per head of population.
 Motorcyclist killed in NicosiaTHE ROADS claimed the life of a 23-year-old Strovolos man early on Monday morning.
At around 2am, Petros Ioannou lost control of his motorcycle on Nicosia's Makarios Avenue near Lycavitos Police Station. The vehicle then skidded into a shop front, catapulting its rider through the display window. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Nicosia General Hospital.
Pillion passenger Andros Inisiforou, from Ayios Dhometios, was also injured. He is now being treated at Nicosia General Hospital.
Neither Ioannou nor Inisiforou were wearing crash helmets.
 'We're winning the war on crime'POLICE yesterday declared they were winning the fight against serious and organised crime by producing "tangible" results.
Latest figures covering the period January 1 to November 30 1997 show that serious crime declined by 10.4 per cent on the same period last year.
A total of 3,615 cases were reported this year, in contrast to 4,038 serious crimes reported for the same period in 1996.
But the crime detection for 1997 was down by nearly two per cent on last year's 76.25 per cent.
Overall crime may be down, but this year has seen a rise in drug related crime.
Two hundred and twenty-five drug cases were reported this year against 170 during the same period in 1996, an increase of 32.35 per cent.
However, the success rate in solving drug related crime remains high at around 95 per cent.
There was a significant fall this year in the number of murders and attempted murders.
In 1996, 10 murders were committed (including four by Turkish occupation troops - which remain the only ones unsolved), while this year has seen only four to date, of which two have been solved.
The police stressed that none of this year's four killings were linked to organised crime.
Seven out of the ten attempted murders last year were solved, compared to eight out of nine this year, a 30.7 per cent improvement.
 Duty free cars for repatriating overseas-born CypriotsCYPRIOTS born abroad will be entitled to a £3,000 duty exemption for the purchase of a car when they repatriate, under a proposal submitted by the government yesterday.
At the moment, Cypriots who come back to the island for permanent residence after at least 10 years of living or working abroad are entitled to a £7, 000 exemption for their imported vehicle.
The existing regulations did not cover Cypriots who were born abroad, even though they would be obliged to serve in the national guard. The government's proposal is subject to the approval of the House.
 Feissel 'positive' despite Denktash threatsBy Martin Hellicar
UN PERMANENT representative to Cyprus Gustave Feissel remains positive about the talks process despite the combative stance of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Smarting from the EU's decision to begin accession talks with Cyprus in March, Denktash has declared the talks process "dead" and has threatened partition of the island. Reuters reported yesterday that Denktash had told the UN that future Cyprus talks could only take place if the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was recognised.
Undaunted by all this, Feissel, who met with Denktash yesterday, said he remained optimistic.
"I have always felt positive in the sense that regardless of what is going on the main issue is a settlement and nothing that has happened affects this process," Feissel told the Cyprus Mail.
Feissel described his meeting with Denktash as "good", but declined to give details.
He said it was a "long time" before accession talks were scheduled to begin and it was important that everyone "remains calm and does not over-react".
A UN source in New York said Denktash was, again, demanding recognition of the 'TRNC' before he would resume talks with the Greek Cypriot side, Reuters reported.
The demand was apparently stated in a letter Denktash sent to Diego Cordovez, the UN co-ordinator for the Cyprus settlement talks, on December 10 - before the EU announced the start of accession talks with Cyprus.
"If we want to establish a partnership in Cyprus, the equality of the two sides has to be respected and future talks have to take place between two politically equal and sovereign units," Denktash was quoted as saying in the letter.
 Greek labels on all foods from next monthBy Bouli Hadjioannou
GREEK labelling will be compulsory on all foodstuffs as from January 1, despite last ditch efforts by the government to postpone the measure for five months.
The House of Representatives, in a majority vote of 25 votes to 21, decided last night to reject a government request to put off the enactment of a 1995 law until June to give importers a last chance to adapt.
Most Disy and Diko deputies backed the government's proposal, arguing that it was not unreasonable to give importers one last opportunity. They said the measure would push up costs and hurt small companies or those who were just starting out.
But Akel and Edek countered that the House had approved a law first proposed by the government and it would be inconsistent to keep putting off its implementation. Problems were inevitable, and postponement would not solve them. Ensuring labels on foodstuffs had Greek labelling on contents, ingredients and expiry date would better protect consumers, they added.
Earlier yesterday Commerce and Industry Minister Michalakis Michaelides appeared before the House Commerce Committee to plead for more time. He said the law could lead to higher prices because of the small size of the Cyprus market, spoke of technical difficulties, and said some manufacturers had warned their local agents they could not interrupt production simply to put in Greek-language labels. Some importers may have to give up their agencies or turn to Greece.
Vassilis Rologis, chairman of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, suggested the law be abolished since it would drive up costs, and therefore work against the interests of the consumer.
 Limassol traders will continue to flout the lawBy Bouli Hadjioannou
A GROUP of Limassol supermarkets, at odds with the law over opening hours, will not back down unless there is a change.
"The police can take me away with a bulldozer, but I will carry on until I am destroyed because the law on tourist zones is unfair," Christos Orphanides, one of the owners told the House Labour Committee.
At issue is a law which allows shops in tourist areas to stay open late on weekdays and Saturdays, and to open on Sunday mornings.
Other shopkeepers say this is unfair discrimination, but some Limassol supermarkets have gone further, choosing to defy the law by staying open late. They have been reported by police, some owners have been arrested, but their stores continue to open late.
The issue was taken to committee by Limassol deputy Rikkos Erotocritou who, though a supporter of more liberal shopping hours, argued that it was wrong for a few to take the law into their own hands.
Erotocritou said smaller shopkeepers caught violating hours were obliged to close. Larger stores can just pay out the fine and stay open.
Attorney-general Alecos Markides spoke of a collapse in the implementation of the law in Limassol. Police had been instructed to report those who violated it, and if necessary to make arrests. But he conceded there may be gaps in the law which may need to be reviewed.
A police spokesman said four large Limassol supermarkets had been reported 258 times since April, and there had also been several arrests. But he admitted that shops remained open. And he said police would seek advice whether they could actually "put a lock on the door."
Orphanides hotly defended supermarkets' action. He said it was unfair discrimination to allow some supermarkets to stay open later and not others. The problem is not restricted to Limassol. Paphos is already affected and next year Larnaca and Nicosia are expected to face the same problem, he said.
Trade unions countered that no-one should be allowed to get away with systematically flouting a law, just because they did not like it.
Povek, the small shopkeepers association spoke in a similar vein, while large retail stores said the whole problem revolved round restrictive opening hours.
Committee chairman Avraam Antoniou of Akel urged supermarkets not to violate the law. He said the committee acknowledged that there was a problem with the whole issue of tourist areas which had to be examined.
If trade unions, employers and the government failed to come up with a proposal soon, then the House would do it for them.
A Labour Ministry spokesman said the issue would be reviewed at a meeting later this month, in the light also of experience in implementing extended shopping hours introduced in April.
 Attorney-general promises new look at salesTHE ATTORNEY-general's office will take a fresh look at possible sales legislation and come back with advice to the House of Representatives, Attorney-general Alecos Markides said yesterday.
The issue was raised in the House Commerce Committee by deputies concerned about the situation created in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling striking down a law regulating sales as unconstitutional.
Akel's Kikis Kazamias said that in the absence of a law, shops were already advertising sales. The concern is that this could lead to the whole principle of sales being overturned altogether.
Markides said the issue was complex. Any legal step had to be properly drafted to guard against the possibility of it being challenged in the Supreme Court as limiting the right to work. He promised to be in a position to advise the committee when it meets again after the Christmas holidays.
The confusion over sales is only the latest twist in a protracted debate on whether sales should be regulated or not. Previous practice, challenged by large shops but doggedly defended by the small shopkeepers union Povek, was to restrict sales to specific periods - in February and August.
This was achieved through legislation which restricted the right to advertise sales outside the two defined sales periods. But there have long been complaints about the system, with calls ranging for a demand for abolition to an even stricter law.
 Prophet Elijah lifted my shedBy Charlie Charalambous
THE PROPHET Elijah, last seen ascending into heaven on a fiery chariot, is alive and kicking in Kato Lefkara, according to village residents.
Believer Tassos Yiallouros told reporters yesterday that the prophet lifted his two-ton shed six metres off the ground and left it in a heap 250 metres away from its starting point.
At the time of the "miracle", Yiallouros was building a foundation for a chapel to the prophet in memory of his son who was killed in a car crash.
The "lifting of the shed" was also witnessed by Chrystalla Yiakoupi who was picking mushrooms at the time.
She was convinced it was the prophet Elijah because he moved the shed towards the uncompleted chapel.
"We are not saying this so we can collect money because the church of the prophet hasn't been built, but to make people believe the prophet Elijah came down to earth and made this miracle," said Chrystalla.
The local priest, Father Papasotiris, believes the prophet is making things happen because the church hasn't been built yet.
Needless to say the talk of Kato Lefkara, is all about miracles and the prophet.
 Central Bank to allow commercial banks to lend moreBy Hamza Hendawi
IN A move designed to sustain economic growth, the Central Bank yesterday decided to increase by 11 per cent to £460 million the amount of money that commercial banks are allowed to lend in 1998.
After a sluggish start in the first six months of the year, the government says the economy has since been growing at an impressive rate of four per cent but is projected to end with 2.5 per cent for the whole year, an increase of 0.6 per cent over last year's Gross Domestic Product growth.
The government forecasts a GDP growth of 4.5 per cent for next year on the back of better performances by the key services and tourism sectors, but some analysts are saying this might be too ambitious.
The decision to empower commercial banks to lend more money was taken by the Central Bank's board of directors and followed a meeting on Wednesday between the bank's top officials and representatives of the island's commercial banks to discuss monetary and credit policies for 1998.
In a brief statement, the Central Bank also said it would pursue in 1998 the same "interest rate policies as in 1997." The vague phrasing appeared deliberate and might have been designed to leave the door open for possible changes in interest rates in the coming year.
At any rate, a watershed in the interest rate policies pursued by the Central Bank this year was the reduction in March of interest rates on deposit accounts by a half percentage point to 6.5 per cent. The rate on lending was similarly cut in July and now stands at 8.0 per cent.
A cut in commercial interest rates by a further half a percentage point has been widely anticipated in recent weeks to absorb liquidity and to give the economy a much-needed boost by making borrowing from the banks cheaper and thus encourage business activity.
Lower interest rates on deposit accounts should also encourage small investors to look for more attractive alternatives to put their money in, such as government bonds or equities.
In a separate development, Finance Minister Christodoulous Christodoulou yesterday pledged £5 million in state funds next year toward the technological updating of light and intermediate industries. He said the funds would be available from next year, when a similar £8 million programme runs out.
The announcement was made after the minister met the boards of the Chamber of Commerce (Keve) and the Industrialists and Employers Federation (Oev).
 Matsakis takes deputies to the brinkINDEPENDENT deputy Marios Matsakis had colleagues sweating yesterday when he came close to scuppering moves to extend 128 contract workers' tenure for six months.
All parties, despite pledges to put an end to the use of contract workers in the civil service, had agreed to approve a package to ensure the 128 - whose contract expires at the end of the year - were not pushed out of their jobs.
They were taken by surprise when Matsakis asked for a postponement on technical grounds. This meant the contracts would not be extended, or that the House would have to reconvene in an emergency session before December 31.
Party leaders - and even House president Spyros Kyprianou - took turns to plead with him to withdraw his objection. They cited humanitarian reasons, said it was wrong for the House to throw people out of a job and promised an in-depth review, and resolution, of the thorny issue of contract workers soon.
Matsakis would not be moved. He said it was unfair to cite humanitarian grounds just because he was adhering to House regulations and others were not.
The pleas turned to a clear warning that if Matsakis did not play ball, then the House would simply declare the bill urgent and push it through that way. Matsakis relented. "As I see a danger of rash solutions, I will withdraw my objections," he said. He nevertheless voted against the bill.
In another decision, the House postponed a long awaited broadcasting bill until January 15.
 Screening programmes offer early detection for mental illnessBy Aline Davidian
CYPRUS has taken a lead in the prevention of mental retardation through the screening programmes offered by the Prevention of Mental Retardation Centre.
This was message spelled out yesterday by Centre chairman Dr. Americos Argyriou who said almost 100 infants had been treated for congenital diseases such as Down's syndrome and hypothyroidism in the last 16 years.
Unlike in other countries, said Argyriou, "100 per cent of children in Cyprus are examined by our Centre," which to date has screened 90,000 babies.
This allowed early detection, which was "the only real remedy" for such diseases, he said.
The Centre currently runs two screening programmes: one begun in 1981 offering amniocentesis tests for mothers over 35 whose infants have an increased risk of being born with Down's syndrome; another programme, launched in 1989, offers tests for metabolic diseases such as hypothyroidism and phenylketonuria.
"The proof of our success is that hypothyroidism has never appeared on the island since our 1989 programme began," said Argyriou, adding that this had been internationally acknowledged in seminars he had attended abroad.
Argyriou also said the "national status of Cyprus" favoured the operation of the Centre, allowing co-operation with scientists from other countries.
But he warned that the Centre was in dire need of financial aid from the government as it was modernising its present screening programmes. Argyriou said a recent meeting with the Health Minister had been positive, with the minister promising to recommend an increase in funding.
The services provided by the Centre are offered to all mothers on the island free of charge.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1997