CYPRUS has gone on the offensive by launching an information campaign to counter a blitz of bad publicity over money laundering.
Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides held a press conference in Nicosia yesterday to champion the government's success story in preventing and combating money laundering.
Presenting a publication on measures taken so far, Cassoulides said: "this is to ensure the stance of the Republic on the issue and refute any possible misinterpretation."
The minister said that Cyprus was being singled out by the international press for the simple reason it has one of the world's largest offshore sectors.
"We are open to any allegation or any inclination that companies are acting illegally, but unfortunately the allegations are usually exaggerated and have no bearing on reality," said Cassoulides.
Answering criticism to its stance on money laundering, the government points out that the global anti-money laundering body, the Financial Action Task Force, has declassified Cyprus from its priority country list.
Moreover, Cassoulides dismissed the significance of Cyprus' presence on the US State Department's "danger" list.
"Cyprus remains a country of primary concern in the US report, but so do the United States themselves, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland and the UK."
He explained that Cyprus was being targeted not because of a lax attitude, but because of its "geographical location and offshore economy".
The 1997 State Department report, issued this March, described Cyprus' anti- money laundering efforts as "notable and encouraging".
However, the report also said "the presence of approximately 3,000 Russian and Eastern European entities among the 25,000 offshore companies in Cyprus raises questions regarding the use of these companies and banks to shelter proceeds from illicit activity."
In response, the Foreign Minister said yesterday that "all companies which join the offshore sector meet strict regulations and therefore we do not distinguish between those which are Russian or not."
Since December 1996, over 60 cases have been investigated by the authorities, 30 of which came after requests from foreign governments. From the investigations, 22 disclosure orders were requested. In addition, two freezing orders and two restraint orders were issued, representing around $13 million.
FROM tomorrow Larnaca viewers must wave goodbye to popular soaps like Eastenders and Coronation Street when BFBS TV flicks on the encryption switch.
And a large swathe of non-entitled viewers in Limassol is also living on borrowed time because they will be watching a scrambled picture come the end of May.
"The signal will be encrypted in Larnaca from Monday and then move on to the Limassol area by the end of May, once we've finished off a few technical details," BFBS spokesman Patrick Eade told the Cyprus Mail.
It has taken around four years to introduce an encryption system and get it operational in order to shut out viewers outside the British base areas.
"Because it took so long people thought we were fooling around and we expect complaints because they didn't think it would happen."
Nicosia was the first area to be scrambled in April 1997, but excluding the signal from Limassol and Larnaca -- where the bulk of non-entitled viewers receive BFBS -- proved more difficult.
But Eade is confident that the new technology will work and prove almost impossible to crack by local hackers.
"Encryption will be comprehensive; during tests we were quite happy that it works."
The station has received dozens of calls asking for decoders, but Eade underlined that they were not for sale or for the general public, but for bases personnel only.
BFBS TV was forced to consider the scrambling option back in 1994 when Logos first complained of breach of local rights to English football because non-entitled viewers were watching forces TV.
The protests became more persistent when pay-TV firm Lumiere gained the rights to Premiership football and ensured that BFBS could not screen games in Cyprus because of the wide spillage.
The Forces station was also finding it difficult to secure other programme rights because of the same argument raised by Lumiere -- that at least 60, 000 non British army personnel had access to the transmission.
"Complaints were made at the time and we had to make the adjustments," said Eade.
He added: "the rights of all programmes are restricted to forces personnel only."
However, this will be of little comfort to the many expats and Anglophile Cypriots who have enjoyed the BFBS mix of UK sport, news, soaps and dramas for over a decade.
CYPRUS faces the choice between becoming an ethnic war-zone by allowing racism to fester, or taking the path towards an integrated multicultural society.
Marie Macey, a senior lecturer at the University of Bradford, told a seminar on racism that Cyprus is at a crossroads, "not only geographically but in the nature of its future society".
"There are some lessons Cyprus can learn from Britain," Macey said, adding the island today faced a similar situation in relation to immigration to that of 1950s Britain.
"As soon as the indigenous population moves up and moves away from the 'dirty' jobs they bring in workers to do them," Mace said.
"They came and worked for us and we made no provision for them. We just ignored them and pretended they were not there."
Macey said Britain eventually "got around to acknowledging a black presence". It then went through an "assimilation" phase, an "integration" phase, "all with no acknowledgement of racism".
According to her, Britain is now at the stage of pluralism with a focus on anti racism.
"But what we've got now is a retreat into other forms of ethnicity and religion and we've done that to them," she said. She said this has led to all sorts of social problems, including violence.
"If you are denied access to a national identity you will find another one, but this one will be built on hatred of the society which has done that to you," Macey said.
Referring to Europe today, she said the general picture was that racism was being institutionalised.
"The effects of globalisation should not be underestimated. Europe is going through mass restructuring. As soon as jobs are gone or threatened then there is a search for scapegoats and the immigrants are targeted as being responsible," Macey said.
"Anyone who doesn't fit it in or is different seems to be a target. Nationalism has become racism."
Cypriot professor Savvas Katsikides said one of the main reasons for racism in Cyprus was the deeply-entrenched nationalism.
"Our convictions are very deeply rooted and historically determined," giving politicians no incentive to change things.
"The political game is to create convictions that will never be doubted. There is no one in authority who will stand up and say the legal framework for immigration is a jungle. There is no incentive for them to do so," he said.
Katsikides described Cyprus as a society fumbling along "like a blind man, learning... actually not learning at all... just handling various crises that erupt once in a while."
He said programmes had been developed to determine the extent of the problem of racism in Cyprus.
"Racism is not outside our doors but within our heads, and that's were it has to stop," he said.
The seminar which continues today and which is entitled 'Different But Equal' is the first undertaking for the newly-formed local volunteer group ISAG -- the Immigrant Support Action Group -- and is being held under the auspices of the European Commission.
Subjects covered include global and European racism, racism in Cyprus and the island's laws and other issues relating to immigrants with a view to targeting where problems lie and how they can be rectified.
Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said latest statements by the US State Department referred to "two communities" rather than US envoy Richard Holbrooke's controversial comment about "two peoples" in Cyprus.
"I think there it an attempt in the statements by the State Department spokesman to correct those made earlier...," Cassoulides said.
"The issue is not just the statements but a more general situation which we have to deal with".
State Department spokesman James Foley said late on Friday it had been clear that Holbrooke had been describing the de facto situation "which has existed in Cyprus for a long time".
"In particular Ambassador Holbrooke was not in any way signalling a policy change with regard to our excellent relationship with the Republic of Cyprus, which indeed is the only government that we recognise on the island, nor was he according any official status to the Turkish Cypriot entity in the north," Foley said.
However, Cassoulides said the current "de facto" situation was a result of the 1974 Turkish invasion, "the reversal of which we demand," he said.
General Cevik Bir is expected to hold talks with the Turkish Cypriot leadership tomorrow.
On arrival in the north, he said the Turkish military, which keeps 30,000 troops there, was important for maintaining stability.
"The peace and stability brought by Turkish armed forces in the region will be maintained and enhanced," he said.
Scotland Yard is investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Vakis Pavlou, 28 and Lesley Tibbles, 23.
Foul play and suicide have already been ruled out and police have sent out an appeal for witnesses to what happened on Hungerford Bridge.
Earlier reports suggested Pavlou had merely been a bystander who had jumped in to rescue Tibbles.
But reports yesterday said they had been lovers and that on the day of the accident they had been out to celebrate Tibbles' new job.
They were last seen at the entrance to a club and about 15 minutes later Pavlou was seen running along the bridge looking agitated and peering into the water. Then suddenly he jumped in. Police were called but could not find him.
The bodies of the couple were found miles from the accident.
DIKO leadership contender Kypros Chrysostomides claimed yesterday he was punched by party members who shouted him down from the podium.
The Diko conference in Nicosia, which is seeking to elect a new leadership and address the party rebel issue, was marred by rowdy scenes during yesterday's session.
Chrysostomides, who is vying for the deputy leadership, said he was not allowed to answer personal criticisms despite asking for a right to reply.
Afterwards, he alleged that members of the conference punched him in an organised attack and described the tense atmosphere at the meeting as "resembling a third world situation".
There were also stormy scenes at the beginning of the conference when Diko leader Spyros Kyprianou motioned that the Diko exiles and rebels be allowed to participate.
Party parliamentary spokesman Tassos Papadopoulos disagreed with the proposal, saying it was against Diko procedural rules.
When Polyvios Kolokos stepped in to support the move to allow the rebels to participate he faced a barrage of heckles and demands to stand down.
Kyprianou was eventually obliged to change tack and say the rebels would be excluded.
An atmosphere of tension and recrimination is expect to govern today's proceedings and an unscheduled third day may be necessary.
A DOMESTIC squabble over a night out between a former club singer and her live-in boyfriend ended in bloodshed yesterday morning.
Blonde singer Eliana Angelis, 45, was remanded in custody for eight days by a Nicosia court on suspicion of attempted murder.
Police said they were called to the scene in the Archangelos suburb of Nicosia at 3.30am, where they found 49-year-old Solomos Herodotou lying in his back garden suffering from a stab wound to the stomach.
The distress call to police came from Angelis, who said her lover was trying to force his way into their home.
During the remand hearing the investigating officer
said the argument started at a friend's house when Herodotou, Angelis's boyfriend of three and a half years, objected to her wanting to spend the night at a bouzouki club.
Police believe the victim was stabbed with a kitchen knife during a heated row.
However, Angelis told police that it was Herodotou who had brandished the knife and that he had injured himself during the struggle.
The wounded Herodotou was rushed to Nicosia General hospital where he underwent several hours of emergency surgery.
Doctors described his condition as serious but said he was out of danger.
In a police statement Herodotou alleged that his long-term partner had attacked him with a knife.
A police search of the house and surrounding area failed to uncover the weapon.
Nicosia CID are continuing their investigations.