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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-06-03
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From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Wednesday, June 3, 1998
 Rolandis warns on missile storiesBy Charlie Charalambous
ANY MORE scare stories like that published in this week's Sunday Times will hit the economy and keep tourists away, Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis warned yesterday.
"Tourists are like birds on a tree: one loud bang and they are off," Rolandis said after meeting British High Commissioner David Madden.
Rolandis said he had discussed with Madden the need to avoid any UK government leaks like the one Cyprus claims is behind the Sunday Times report about a British mass evacuation plan should war erupt in Cyprus over the deployment of Russian-made S-300 missiles.
"I've conveyed to the British High Commission that such leaks should be avoided because it will only harm our tourism and the wider economy."
The British High Commission has denied that there was a deliberate leak to the Sunday Times.
The story - described as "extremely sensational" by the British government - sparked nervous selling on the Cyprus stock market, causing the official index to shed nearly three per cent since Monday, wiping tens of millions of pounds off the value of shares.
Rolandis said yesterday it was time for the local media to act more responsibly when covering stories on the Russian S-300 missiles.
"We are expecting more than 900,000 tourists from the UK this year, and if there are similar reports then we will have a real problem."
Rolandis said the government was now carrying out a concerted damage- limitation exercise to reassure nervous UK tour operators.
Madden said that evacuation scenarios planned by the British government were prepared for a wide range of countries, and not just Cyprus.
"Our assessment of the risk in Cyprus is in the fact that we have not issued any travel advisory notices in connection with Cyprus," said Madden.
The High Commissioner added that all governments "look from time to time at contingency plans... there is nothing terrible in that, but it is unhelpful to have the information put in the public domain."
Despite assurances from Britain that a plan to evacuate 250,000 tourists this summer was merely contingency planning, the Cyprus government was yesterday still smarting with indignation over the issue.
"We will decide when the issue is over, and representations have been made to London," said government spokesman Christos Stylianides.
Defence Minister Yiannakis Omirou suggested the story had been planted by the British in an effort to scupper the missile deal.
"Unfortunately, it was an orchestrated effort to blackmail the Cyprus government and to damage the economy", he said. "This is unacceptable, and we will not hand over our sovereign rights (to defend the island with S-300 missiles)."
 Drunken dreams spark air-and-sea searchBy Charlie Charalambous
A POLICE air-and-sea rescue for four Swedish tourists feared drowned off Ayia Napa was called off when the missing persons were discovered in a local pub.
On Monday night, Swedish tourist Michael Andersson, 24, rushed to Ayia Napa police station to report that four of his friends had gone diving near the harbour and failed to resurface.
Andersson said he had been the only one to reach dry land alive.
A huge rescue operation was launched by Famagusta police, with local fishing boats called in to assist.
As patrol boats and helicopters failed to discover any trace of the four, anxiety about the divers' fate turned into morbid resignation.
But the four Swedish divers were eventually found alive and well, drinking the night away in an Ayia Napa bar.
And seeing his friends again, Andersson realised that the nightmare scenario had been just that.
Apparently, the Swede had had one too many to drink and collapsed after going for a jog on the beach.
He told police that when he woke up, hours later, he thought he had just been washed up by the sea after a diving session with his friends.
Once his friends were found, he realised that the diving disaster had just been a very bad dream.
Police were not impressed with the explanation, but thought it so unlikely to be fabricated that they chose not to charge the tourist with wasting their time.
 Ministry seeks reform of teacher appointment regimeBy Andrea Sophocleous
THE APPOINTMENT of a 58-year-old man to his first teaching job highlights the crisis in the current system of teachers' appointments, the House Education Committee heard yesterday. The current system of appointments cannot continue, according to Education Ministry representative, Andreas Filactou, who pointed out that the average age of newly-appointed teachers was rising every year.
As the system stands, teachers applying for jobs in state schools are put on a list and given jobs when their turn comes round.
Highlighting the extent of the problem, Filactou reported two recent examples: one of a retired policeman who had completed a teaching degree in his younger days and was now being called upon to teach, and the other of a 58-year-old man who had been appointed to teach this year at a Polis Chrysochou high school.
The issue was discussed by the House Education Committee within the wider discussion of a Bill that has been before the committee since 1994.
The new bill, as explained by Filactou, provides for two sets of lists of teachers waiting to be appointed. The current catalogue will be maintained, while a second one will be established listing qualified teachers who have completed a series of interviews and exams. In both cases, the teachers will have to sit through a one-year refresher course to ensure quality of teaching.
The Education Ministry representative said that during the first year of the new law, 80 per cent of appointees would come from the old list, and 20 per cent from the new list; each year the balance would be tipped in favour of the second list.
The president of the Education Service Committee, Stavros Olympios, said the committee did not have the correct procedure to evaluate potential teachers, some of whom had not taught for years since graduating; he argued that refresher courses would go a long way to solving the problem.
And he pointed out that, beyond a teachers' right to be appointed, no one should forget the right of parents, and more importantly the right of children to a proper education.
Oelmek teachers' union opposed the refresher courses, stressing that the average age of secondary school teachers was just 37, therefore not as old as the Education Ministry was making out.
 Anger at plans for salt lake desalination plantBy Martin Hellicar
THE HOUSE environment committee yesterday slammed a cabinet decision to locate the island's second desalination plant next to the Larnaca Salt Lake.
"You don't have to be an expert and you don't need an environmental impact study to know that the location is not suitable," said Larnaca deputy Andreas Mouskos, challenging Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous.
"The plan should be shelved because this area is a unique biotope already threatened by development," the Disy deputy said.
The plant was originally to be built 9 km inland, at Kalo Chorio outside Larnaca. But Themistocleous told deputies the extra cost of piping sea water to, and waste water from, a Kalo Chorio plant -- coupled with the risk of spillages from pipes carrying this saline water -- had convinced the ministry to change tack.
Themistocleous said the pumping station and outflow site would remain as in the original plan, so the impact from these aspects would also be the same. He promised that the contractor who won the tender for the £30 million plant would be compelled to carry out an environmental impact study before work began.
"Certainly, having the plant next the salt lake is a problem, but as it will be next to the sewage works the area could not be used for tourism development anyway," the minister said.
Themistocleou's argument did not impress Larnaca Mayor George Lykourgos. He said the cabinet decision flew in the face of the government's area development plan for Larnaca. "The location of the factory would be within the salt lake protection zone," Lykourgos said.
Agriculture Ministry director Simeon Matsis refuted this, drawing a sharp response from Lykourgos. "A private individual asked permission to build a home in the same area and the ministry said no because it was in the protection zone," Lykourgos charged.
He also complained that Larnaca municipality had only heard of plans to build the plant in their back yard "from newspapers". Matsis conceded that not officially informing the municipality had been a "mistake", an admission that drew praise from committee chairman Dimitris Iliades and committee members.
"That's the first time we've heard an apology from the government side," Androulla Vassiliou said. "Usually we just get a barrage of lies and excuses," she added.
Lykourgos also said any impact assessment commissioned by a contractor would be nothing but a whitewash. "The contractor will have a study done to suit himself, it will ensure the development goes ahead," the mayor said.
His worries were echoed by deputies, but Antonis Antoniou of the Environment service sought to assure the committee the impact study would be carefully scrutinised by his department.
Deputies said they feared that, as in the case of the island's first desalination plant at Dhekelia, the government's review of the impact study would only be finished after work on the plant was well under way, rendering the study obsolete.
But Themistocleous said that given the current drought situation the project could not be held up for the sake of an impact study. "If the study is finished first and not done in parallel we will have long delays, which we cannot afford with the current water situation," he said.
Lykourgos was also sceptical of government claims that brine discharges from the plant would have no significant environmental impact. "We need convincing that the impact on the sea will not be bad," he said.
"Concerning tourism development I can say that the site is next to a fine beach and the municipality has plans to create a camping site there," the mayor said.
The Water Development department representative dismissed the impact of the plant saying that at 100 metres square it was "small compared to the sewage plant."
Iliades was incensed by this. "That is irrelevant. It is like saying that just because Ayia Napa has been destroyed we may as well destroy the Akamas as well," he said.
The new desalination plant will be put to tender on June 17 and is expected to begin operation in the year 2000.
Themistocleous revealed yesterday that the government was considering building a third desalination plant in the Limassol area.
 Turks want Patriots to counter S-300sTHE TURKISH government has decided to buy Patriot missiles from the United States to counter the perceived threat from Cyprus' planned S-300 missile deployment.
According to the Turkish Daily News, Ankara has also asked for three more frigates from the Pentagon and is keen to buy two giant US-made Kidds Class radar ships.
Turkey is said to be lobbying Washington in earnest over its proposed purchase of extra frigates and Patriot missiles.
The Office of Defence Co-operation in Ankara is preparing the Turkish proposal, which it is thought will top the agenda when Turkey's General Ismail Karadayi visits Washington on July 14.
And in its bid to stoke further controversy over the island's S-300 missile purchase, Ankara is warning Israel, Egypt and Britain that their aircraft could be shot down as well.
"Due to the fact that the S-300 missile is unable to distinguish the country of origin of the planes within its range, the planes of Israel, Egypt and Britain are also under threat," the official Anatolia news agency reported quoting experts.
The Turkish Daily News also cites Israeli diplomatic sources voicing concern over the planned deployment of the S-300s, because their aircraft could be targeted during war games in the Mediterranean.
 Officials defend decision to shoot dogBy Martin Hellicar
YERMASOYIA municipality yesterday denied allegations that its dog catchers ran over and shot dead a pet dog in a Limassol street as a crowd of horrified tourists looked on.
The dog in question was not run over, and was a "dangerous" stray, which had been the cause of many complaints over recent months, municipality health inspector Timos Miseris said.
The dog's owner told the Cyprus Mail that tourists had watched in horror last Thursday morning as a little grey terrier called Patch was chased down a street by a dog catcher van till it collapsed. Patch was then run over by the van before a dog catcher got out and, ignoring the pleas of onlooking tourists, shot the animal, the owner said.
But Miseris said the catchers did all they could to avoid putting the dog down before the eyes of the tourists. He said the catchers had acted "within their rights by shooting an animal they considered dangerous on the spot."
"The catchers chased the dog to get it away from where the people were," he said. "They did not run over the dog. They shot it with a dart to put it to down but it takes about ten seconds for the drug to take affect and the animal ran off, finally collapsing outside a swimming pool," he said.
"By the time the catchers got to the dog, a crowd of tourists, including children, had gathered round it. They saw the people's reaction and did not go near," he said.
The owner had charged the dog catchers with leaving the dead dog in the street for two hours before coming to collect the body.
"This is not true," Miseris said. "I went down soon after to collect the dog but a hotel owner had thrown it away."
"I tried to explain to the tourists that we had not wished to cause any distress, but I do not know whether they understood," Miseris added. "We were very saddened that the tourists had witnessed the incident," he said.
The owner said tourists who witnessed the incident were vowing never to return to the island.
"This case had been going on for several months," Miseris said. "We had repeated complaints from hoteliers and shopkeepers about the dog and we tried dozens of times to catch it, but it always got away. The dog was very wild and the situation got to a point of no return," he said.
He disputed the existence of an owner: "There was obviously no owner, we asked and no-one came forward."
The dog's owner said last week the dog had at one time been a stray but had been taken in by her and a friend. She also said the animal was very popular with tourists in the area.
She said the municipality had not met their legal obligations to keep captured strays for 24 hours before putting them down in order to give owners a chance to recover them.
But Miseris said dog catchers were allowed to put down dogs that they considered dangerous on the spot.
 Half of Cypriot children are overweightAN ALARMING number of Cypriot children are walking health disasters, according to the results of a recent study.
Commenting yesterday on the results of the 'Child Health' survey, University of Crete specialist Dr Michalis Tormaritis said an astounding 53 per cent of children in the 11 to 12 age group have cholesterol levels above the recommended threshold.
He said tests on 11,000 Cypriot children in this age range had revealed that 46 per cent of girls were overweight, as were 34 per cent of boys, while six per cent of girls and 16 per cent of boys were obese. Just 50 per cent of Cypriot children are the correct weight for their height, he added.
The highest percentage of overweight girls is in Limassol, with 49 per cent weighing in over recommended levels. In Nicosia and Larnaca, 45 per cent are overweight, while in Paphos the figure stands at 44 per cent.
Tormaritis also warned that, according to the study, children in Cyprus consume more calories than anywhere else in the world.
He said the project aimed to give general health information to those who took part, as well as individual attention to each child.
For his part, Health Minister Christos Solomis said the diet of Cypriot children needed improvement and that healthy eating habits needed to filter down through the family.
The health programme was co-ordinated by the Health and Education Ministries, and sponsored by the Popular Bank.
 Philoxenia must revamp or shut downTHE PHILOXENIA Hotel in Nicosia will either have to be revamped or shut down.
These stark alternatives will be brought before the Council of Ministers today by the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Nicos Rolandis.
The Minister will put forward a plan to refurbish the government-owned hotel at a total cost of £1.9 million. He has called for a "total refurbishment" so that the hotel can function properly.
The upgrade will help the hotel recover some of the ground it has lost since falling from a four to a two-star grading.
"In the state it is in now, it's a shambles," the Minister said, noting that the air conditioning system did not work in most rooms.
He added that the Philoxenia played an important role in terms of conference tourism, because of its proximity to the Cyprus Conference Centre.
The cabinet approved a sum of £960,000 for the refurbishment of the hotel in 1996, but a more recent estimate by the Development Bank has placed the cost closer to £1.9 million. It appears that the initial cost estimate failed to take into account the replacement of electrical cables, purchase of basic products and other services.
 'Tax hikes killed the football pools'THE SOLE representative of Littlewoods Pools on the island claims he has been driven to the wall by the Finance Ministry's "ridiculous" tax demands.
Kostakis Shekerdemian, owner of K.Shekerdemian Ltd -- the sole representatives of Littlewoods Pools in Cyprus for the last 50 years -- has lost his operating licence because of the ministry's inflated charges, and claims now that his "representation will now go to Turkish Cypriots in the north."
According to Shekerdemian, the introduction of fixed odds football betting has slashed his company's income from pools coupons dropped by about £1,000 a week. He said the company had been reduced to making £200 a week, half of which would go to regional representatives and the rest on sending betting slips to England.
But the fatal blow came at the beginning of this year, when the Finance Ministry radically hiked the licensing fee from £20 a year to £5,000 and increased the fee for each agent from £2 to £300. Before losing its operating licence because of the inflated licence fee, K.Shekerdemian Ltd had 15 agents. To make things worse, the company was asked to pay a £30,000 guarantee.
"This is not logical," Shekerdemian told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.
With the company going out of business, Littlewoods Pools coupons are no longer available to punters in Cyprus, and, according to Shekerdemian, representation will now go to Turkish Cypriots in the north.
Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou has not responded to a letter sent by Shekerdemian calling for his licence to be re-issued based on basis of the old regulations.
"The Minister would rather lose the £12,500 in tax that he made from us until now and have the representation go to the Turks," Shekerdemian complained yesterday.
"Obviously simple citizens like us are not good enough to be seen by the Minister," he added.
 Dalaras honouredPROLIFIC Greek singer Yiorgos Dalaras is now officially Cypriot after he was awarded citizenship yesterday in honour of his contribution to the island.
The Greek singer was presented with his citizenship papers and a Republic of Cyprus passport in an Athens ceremony hosted by Cyprus ambassador to Greece, Christodoulos Pasiardis.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Pasiardis said the award expressed "a huge thank you and respect" from the island.
Pasiardis hailed the popular singing icon as a tireless ambassador for the Cyprus cause who never asked for anything in return.
On receiving his citizenship, Dalaras said "this is a great honour and the best gift I could ever wish."
Dalaras is as popular in Cyprus as he is in his homeland for his many sell- out concerts which have raised money for the defence of Cyprus.
 Day trips to the Holy LandCYPRUS Airways (CY) will introduce one-day excursions to the Holy Land, beginning next month in co-operation with the Israeli airline Aeroel.
CY announced that with this move it intended to improve the island's tourist product; the target group for the day trips is expected to be foreign holiday-makers visiting Cyprus.
Flights to Haifa will initially leave twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays, from Larnaca airport. More flights will be added depending on demand.
The flights will be operated by Aeroel Dash-8 50-seater aircrafts, and passengers will be taken from Haifa to the Holy sites by bus.
Departures will be at 8am from Larnaca, arriving at Haifa airport at 8.45 am; the return flight will leave from Haifa at 8pm, landing in Larnaca at 8.50pm.
 Half a million for telethonTHIS year's telethon clocked up half a million pounds for charity, it was announced yesterday.
Telethon '98, which officially ended at midnight on Monday, will mainly aid Muscular Dystrophy research, as well as other medical charities. A variety of events was staged to collect cash, which was topped up by street collectors.
This year's total is significantly up on last year's £355,000.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998
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