US PRESIDENTIAL emissary for Cyprus Richard Holbrooke is due on the island tomorrow to bang heads over the stalled peace talks, diplomatic sources confirmed yesterday.
State Department special co-ordinator Thomas Miller, who was here last month but made no progress on the resumption of talks, is expected to arrive today.
"He traditionally comes ahead of Holbrooke," said diplomatic sources in Nicosia, who wished to remain anonymous.
The sources said the unexpected visit was designed for Holbrooke to "get an idea" of the current situation.
"They want to see the re-start of the talks, that's the general idea," the source said.
During his visit, Holbrooke will meet both sides, despite reports from Ankara that he would only visit the occupied areas to meet Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
A Turkish spokesman told journalists Holbrooke and Denktash would hold talks tomorrow night and also have a working breakfast on Saturday.
The duration of either American envoy's stay of the island could not be confirmed.
Denktash — who has just returned from a meeting in Geneva with UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan — is due to leave for a cruise along the southern coast of Turkey later on Saturday.
Meanwhile, top Russian envoy Vladimir Tchizov also arrives in Cyprus today on the back of contacts in Athens and Ankara.
He is scheduled to meet President Clerides this afternoon and will stay on the island until Sunday.
Holbrooke, architect of the Dayton accord that ended the war in Bosnia, was last on the island in November when he managed to bring President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash together for a three-hour meeting.
Since then, Denktash has declared the UN-led intercommunal talks dead following the EU's December decision to open accession talks with Cyprus.
The Cyprus-EU negotiations officially began in Brussels on Tuesday and Denktash refuses to resume the direct talks until they are suspended and unless talks take place between two equal 'states'.
DEFENCE Minister Yiannakis Omirou yesterday said the government was hopeful of overcoming Italy's misgivings about completing a delivery of Aspide 330 missiles.
"There were some difficulties with the export licences but we are in contact with the Italian government and the problems should be overcome," Omirou said.
Earlier this week, Government spokesman Christos Stylianides admitted the Italian government was having second thoughts about completing a National Guard order for Aspide 330 ground-to-ground missiles.
Stylianides said Italy's ambassador Francesco Bascone had told both Omirou and President Clerides there was "serious concern at high levels in Italy about the completion of the order."
Omirou said yesterday the government had made official representations to the Italian government over the missile issue.
The minister said the order for the missiles, which can be converted for ground-to-air use, had been placed in 1996 and was due for completion "now".
Omirou declined to reveal how many missiles had been ordered or at what cost.
He confirmed that the National Guard already had Aspide 330s in its arsenal but refused to say how many.
In statements to the press, Bascone has said the problem with the order rested with the manufacturing company. He refuted suggestions Italy had imposed an arms embargo on Cyprus.
Omirou has said the National Guard could get its weapons from other sources if Italy remained reluctant.
The government has come under considerable international pressure in recent months to cancel an order for Russian-made S-300 ground-to-air missiles. Turkey has threatened a military strike against the missiles should they be deployed.
The government has maintained throughout that the S-300s will arrive on schedule in the Summer unless there is substantial progress towards demilitarisation or a settlement.
CYPRUS could face a gruelling at the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers next week over its failure to conform to a Human Rights Court decision to decriminalise homosexuality.
The Committee of Ministers meets in Strasbourg on Tuesday. The agenda is confidential, but the Cyprus Mail has learnt that the issue has been included.
This means the meeting may examine what progress Cyprus has made in implementing the court decision — nearly five years to the day since the European Court of Human Rights first ruled in favour of gay activist Alecos Modinos.
Modinos had argued that Cyprus' colonial law prohibiting male homosexuality was violating his right to privacy. The court, dismissing the Republic's defence that the law has been inactive for years, ruled in his favour — automatically obliging Cyprus to take steps to remedy the situation.
The government sent a bill to the House of Representatives and pleaded for its approval, warning that failure to comply could lead to Cyprus' ejection from the Council of Europe.
Church groups mounted a powerful opposition, while the Holy Synod threw its weight behind the opponents condemning homosexuality and warning that decriminalisation would "open the floodgates of immorality".
As a result, a vote in the House of Representatives — initially scheduled for May 1997 — was postponed and the bill has remained frozen for months.
The last Committee of Ministers review in October had prompted a plea from Cyprus' embassy in Strasbourg for approval of the bill as a matter of urgency.
A letter from the embassy to the Foreign Ministry leaked to the press noted diplomats were hard put to argue for a further postponement. Twice before Cyprus had secured a postponement on the grounds that the matter was before the House Legal Affairs Committee.
"A repeat of the same argument, if not accompanied by some concrete proof of progress on the matter, would make a plea for a further postponement difficult," the letter said.
With no progress achieved since, Cyprus may find itself on the spot on Tuesday.
A LONG-AWAITED patent bill goes before the House of Representatives today amid signs pressure could prompt a postponement — and push Cyprus beyond a European patent convention deadline.
Drug importers have been actively canvassing deputies to vote for the bill today — in time for the April 4 deadline — and a full seven years after it was first submitted.
Manufacturers, who say the bill spells disaster for their industry, are reported to be pressing for a postponement to discuss possible changes.
The government has thrown its weight behind the bill, while both the European Union and the United States have made clear they want the patent bill adopted as soon as possible.
Indicative of the significance the international community attaches to approval of the bill, was the prominence given to patent protection by US ambassador Kenneth Brill at a business gathering on Tuesday night.
Brill, the main speaker at the Nicosia ceremony for the 1997 US-Cyprus Awards for Commercial Excellence, was frank.
Talking to a packed audience, which included President Clerides and two government ministers, Brill said patent protection was an important element of Cyprus' EU harmonisation drive.
And he added: "Cyprus will find that the European Union, just like the United States and the rest of the international community, is looking for action, not promises." Speedy progress on the patent law was hoped for, he added.
For their part, pharmaceutical importers are actively lobbying deputies to approve the bill. A letter signed by their president, Andreas Papaellinas, has been sent to the 56 members of the House, and will be delivered by hand today.
He notes that Cyprus, having ratified the European Patent Convention, must enact national legislation by April 4. Any delay would run contrary to commitments undertaken by the Republic, and would "expose Cyprus to the possibility of being overtaken in its entry to the European Patent Office by Turkey, with obvious political repercussions."
The bill conformed to EU and GATT requirements and was in line with promises given by the government to the European Commission and EFTA.
Approval of the law would lead to a transfer of technology to Cyprus and the establishment of joint ventures. It would not harm the local generic industry since existing, British legislation, was actually tougher than the proposal, he added.
Local drug companies, which have been calling for a more flexible regime as concerns research, are reported to be mounting a powerful campaign of their own.
Haravgi yesterday said that the Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEV) chairman Andreas Pittas had been urging Disy for a postponement and that the issue had been put to the party's political bureau and the parliamentary team.
TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash was the favourite subject for April fool's stories in local dailies yesterday.
Both Simerini and Agon ran stories detailing a "shock" Denktash decision to accept the government invitation for Turkish Cypriots to participate in EU accession talks which kicked-off this week.
Agon said Denktash himself was on his way Brussels to represent the Turkish Cypriots in the accession negotiations. The only sticking point, Agon said, concerned seating etiquette: should Denktash sit between Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides and the leader of the government's negotiating delegation, George Vassiliou or on Cassoulides's right?
Simerini detailed how Denktash conveyed the surprise news to British High Commissioner David Madden who conveyed the news to EU bigwigs. EU external affairs commissioner Hans van den Broek was planning an emergency visit to the island for meetings with both Denktash and President Clerides, to sort out the details of Turkish Cypriot participation.
Denktash has in fact turned down the government's invitation and is refusing to return to settlement talks unless the EU cancels entry talks with the government.
On a darker note, Machi carried a story, under the banner headline "urgent", saying Denktash had suffered a heart attack. Quoting UN sources, the paper said the Turkish Cypriot leader's condition was so serious that he was to be flown to Turkey for open heart surgery.
Machi said UN sources were attributing the episode to Denktash's disappointment at Cyprus being invited to accession talks accession talks. The 74-year-old politician has a history of heart problems.
Continuing on the theme of Turkish Cypriots and Europe, Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) radio reported yesterday that Cyprus had been excluded from the Eurovision song contest to take place in Birmingham on May 9. Organisers — under pressure from Germany, Italy and France — had cancelled Cyprus's entry because there was no Turkish Cypriot participation in the singing effort, CyBC said.
Alithia took a different tack, reporting that thousands of tonnes of precious water had spilled out of a crack in the Kourris dam.
The leak was spotted by game wardens patrolling the area late on Tuesday night, Alithia reported, but experts were unable to do anything about it at the time because it was dark and pouring with rain.
Water was meanwhile gushing down the river and flooding nearby plantations, Alithia said.
Left-wing Haravgi stated Disy-backed Health Minister Christos Solomis was to resign his post following "revelations" about his active participation in the 1974 coup by the Greek military junta. Haravgi have been running a campaign against Solomis, carrying accounts by various people claiming they were interrogated by a gun-wielding Solomis during the coup.
Philelephtheros stuck to its tradition of steering clear of April's fool stories.
The Cyprus Mail's contribution to the seasonal silliness was a front-page "revelation" about government plans to construct a £1.5 billion rail network linking all major towns by the year 2006.
"We honour today the wonderful sacrifice of the fighters, martyrs and heroes of 1955-59 who set the foundations for the creation of the independent state of Cyprus," Defence Minister Yiannakis Omirou said in his Eoka day message.
He described Eoka as a "great historic moment of challenge to slavery and foreign tyranny."
In his Eoka-day message, Education Minister Lykourgos Kappas spoke of the duty modern day students had to defend the freedom of their homeland.
"The generation of '55 reminds us of the way we as Greeks must defend the freedom of our homeland," he stated.
"You (students) are the continuation of this generation and on you falls the honour to struggle for the realisation of the freedom of Cyprus," he said.
SEAFARERS certificates issued for some of the crew of a cargo ship which ran aground off Paphos last week were forged, shipping authorities said yesterday.
The Honduran-flagged Demetrios II, whose eight crew members — four Greeks, two Pakistinis and two Syrians — had to be airlifted by helicopter, ran aground on March 23.
They were airlifted to Paphos by a British bases helicopter. The Demetrios II is still stranded on rocks near the Paphos lighthouse, but the vessel's crew, apart from the captain and Chief engineer, have been repatriated, said Captain Andreas Constantinou from the Merchant Shipping Department.
Constantinou confirmed a report which appeared in Lloyds List yesterday that the competency certificates issued for the Greek captain and the Pakistani first officer were forged "high-quality" Liberian fakes.
Lloyds said the authorities here had also received confirmation from Beirut that crew members on board two other ships which called at the island recently were carrying false Lebanese competency papers.
Of these, the Panamanian-flagged cargo ship Hatch End had been trapped in Limassol port for two months for a string of deficiencies.
Lebanon has told the Cypriot authorities that the licences held by three of the ship's officers are all forged.
Beirut has also asked Cyprus to seize false seamen's certificate in another two cases.
Constantinou told the Cyprus Mail yesterday there was little Cyprus could do on the issue of forged certificates in general.
"The forgeries did not take place in Cyprus so there is little we can do about it," he said. "We can report it to the flag state authority and the country in which the certificates were issued and to the national country of he seamen involved."
Constantinou said there such incidents were common. "It is a real problem, but nobody else seems to bother about it," he said.
However, he praised the Lebanese authorities for their quick response to the problem. "They are determined and are approaching the matter categorically by looking into every case."
Speaking after Tuesday's Ankara meeting at which the communiqué was issued, Huseyin Celal of the Republican Turkish Party and Mehmet Emin Karagil of the Communal Liberation Party said that demands for the recognition of the occupied régime before talks could continue was "unrealistic".
They added that although their objections had been raised at the meeting, they had been ignored.
The two also criticised the structure of the Association Council, claiming a "parliamentary committee" should also have been established as the views of 'deputies' were being overlooked in the process.
Brill, who was speaking during Tuesday night's ceremony for the 1997 US- Cyprus Award for Commercial Excellence said this was the third year in a row that US exports had registered an increase. Proof that the US-Cyprus business partnership was blossoming was the advent of US franchises, parallel to the increase in the export of goods.
Brill said the selection committee had faced a hard task deciding which companies should win the awards. The final results were: