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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-06-04
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Thursday, June 4, 1998
 Cyprus Airways braced for 'suicidal' strikeBy Jean Christou
COMMERCE Minister Nicos Rolandis yesterday called on Cyprus Airways (CY) staff not to commit professional suicide by going ahead with tomorrow's planned strike action.
Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Rolandis appealed to the airline's biggest union Cynika not to go ahead with tomorrow's 24-hour strike.
"It is not only transportation that this will cripple but also tourism and ultimately Cyprus," Rolandis said.
"If we want to commit suicide, let's just go ahead."
But his appeal fell on deaf ears as an eleventh-hour crisis meeting between management and union broke up in deadlock last night, with Cynika threatening to step up its action if tomorrow's strike failed to yield results.
The two sides now appear on a collision course for a bruising confrontation.
Cynika, which caters mainly for cabin crew, but also some pilots, is in dispute with the airline over demands for a rise in pay and benefits.
Pilots, meanwhile, are also on the verge of strike action following failure to agree on the renewal of their collective agreement. A general assembly of the pilots' union Pasipy yesterday gave the executive a vote of confidence following an earlier green light to strike if necessary.
A Pasipy spokesman said the union had not yet fixed any date for strike action. A further general assembly would be held next Wednesday, he said.
"We have to wait until the first strike finishes first," he said, referring to tomorrow's industrial action.
CY was yesterday counting the likely cost of tomorrow's Cynika strike, which will affect 32 incoming and outgoing flights and 5,000 tourists, according to airline spokesman Tassos Angelis.
Ten of the flights are Athens-bound, affecting around 1,200 passengers, he said. Other destinations affected included London and other European cities.
Cynika wants a 4.5 per cent rise in wages and other benefits.
They claim that, according to an agreement signed with the company in 1995, their members are entitled to the same pay rises as those agreed in the semi-government sector.
This would amount to a 2.5 per cent rise in wages from January 1, 1997, and 2.0 per cent in benefits.
CY Chairman Takis Kyriakides yesterday made a new appeal to Cynika to return to the negotiating table.
In a letter to the union, he said a strike "will not only not solve the problems of the company, but will be a blow to the country as well."
But the union remains determined. "We are only seeking what all our other colleagues in the semi-government sector receive," said Cynika president Costas Demetriou.
CY says money is tight and claims Cynika's demands will add a million pounds a year onto the company's wage bill.
General staff costs per employee rose by 50 per cent at the airline between 1992 and 1997, while the total wage bill in the period went from 25 per cent of total expenditure to 33 per cent.
 Christodoulou promises 'listening government'By Hamza Hendawi
FINANCE MINISTER Christodoulos Christodoulou, in an apparent bid to sweet- talk his way out of his taxation blunder, yesterday denied the existence of a rift with Disy, saying his relationship with the party was excellent.
Christodoulou, in a gross and costly miscalculation, kicked up a political storm last Thursday when he took to the House a package of new taxes without sufficient consultation with the junior partners in President Glafcos Clerides' coalition government.
His tactics angered politicians from across the island's political spectrum and left him the target of a barrage of criticism. But Christodoulou, speaking to reporters yesterday, appeared to go out of his way to appease critics.
Using conciliatory language, he talked of future co-operation, and of a government that would "listen carefully."
Deputies from Disy, the senior coalition partner, came to the defence of Christodoulou and his measures in the House last Thursday. But the government's junior government partners -- the socialist Edek and the United Democrats -- broke ranks and joined the opposition in voting down part of the package. At the end, Disy was left alone to vote in favour, but was resoundingly defeated.
The move by Edek and the United Democrats deeply embarrassed the government, prompting Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades to concede that more consultations by Christodoulou were indeed needed.
He also singled out Christodoulou as the one Disy and cabinet minister who had a particular "communication" problem with the party.
The Thursday fiasco had cast serious doubts about the minister's political judgement and even his career, but no signs have yet emerged that he might be on his way out. The fact that he has kept his job a week after the government's defeat can only mean that he is safe, at least for the time being.
"I state categorically that there is no rift," the Finance Minister told reporters yesterday after a Cabinet meeting. "My relations with Disy were and remain excellent.
"It is natural that, after the events at the House, certain opinions be expressed which I welcome and view positively. So, let us not view this as a matter of rift, but rather as a matter of opinion."
The House voted down proposals for fuel price hikes and an increase in taxes on all-terrain vehicles, together with changes in the laws governing the import of second-hand cars. The House's powerful Finance Committee, led by government sympathiser Alexis Galanos, decided on Monday to shelve until October discussions on other parts of the package.
Christodoulou, widely viewed as the most powerful member of Clerides' 11- man cabinet, said yesterday that he would meet with Galanos tomorrow to prepare for a meeting with the entire committee, tentatively scheduled for June 19.
"The government will listen carefully and will embark on a dialogue on the rest of the tax measures, because our aim is co-operation not confrontation, " said the Finance Minister.
 Shacolas in acquisition talks with PilavakisBy Hamza Hendawi
THE SHACOLAS group broke its silence yesterday on persistent market rumours linking it to one of Pilavakis' two supermarkets in Nicosia, saying it was in contact with the owners, but that talks were still in the preliminary stages.
"There have been no offers from either side," said a brief statement issued by Woolworth, the Shacolas group retail company involved in the talks.
"There have been exploratory contacts," the statement added, without giving further details.
The company was commenting on a report published yesterday in the English- language weekly Financial Mirror that tycoon Nicos Shacolas was negotiating the takeover of the Pilavakis supermarket in the Nicosia suburb of Lakatamia.
The second Pilavakis store in Strovolos, it said, would remain under the control of the family.
"...If the deal goes through, members of the Pilavakis family will receive £2.5 million worth of FWW (Woolworth) shares, with the restriction that these may not be sold for at least two years," the Mirror said in its widely-read Market Talk column.
"FWW is expected to give a guarantee that if members of the Pilavakis family do not wish to hold on to their shares after two years, then they will receive a seven per cent interest rate. Otherwise they will be free to sell the shares." Woolworth will also have to take over a £3 million debt owed by Pilavakis to the Bank of Cyprus as part of the deal," the newspaper added.
Traders said a Shacolas acquisition of the Pilavakis Lakatamia store would be a master's stroke. "It takes two years to build a supermarket that size, " said one trader. "But here is one that you can take over and operate over a very short time," said the trader, who is familiar with the Shacolas operations.
A Shacolas takeover, furthermore, will certainly dent plans by Christos Orphanides, owner of two successful supermarkets in the coastal cities of Larnaca and Limmasol, to capture a worthwhile slice of the lucrative Nicosia market.
Construction has just begun on a mega Orphanides supermarket at a site just over a mile away from the Lakatamia Pilavakis. Orphanides is also planning a stock listing later this year.
The takeover of Pilavakis Lakatamia by Woolworth will also come in the wake of the much-publicised opening of its seven-storey department store at Ledra street in the heart of Nicosia.
Woolworth shares closed up 1 cent at £0.645 yesterday, with nearly 70,000 stocks changing hands as the market bucked losses of nearly three per cent on Monday and Tuesday to close 0.86 per cent up on a thin volume of less than £900,000.
 Businessmen slam high Turkish rates on Green Line phonesBy Jean Christou
TURKISH Cypriots using the new telephone lines between the two sides are asking their Greek Cypriot friends to call them back because they can't afford the high cost of calls in the north.
Just days after the new automated telephone system was inaugurated by US presidential emissary Richard Holbrooke last month, the Turkish Cypriot side imposed international rates on calls made across the Green Line.
The regime argued that the calls -- which cost Turkish Cypriots ten times what they should -- are being made beyond 'TRNC borders'. Greek Cypriots pay only the local rate.
Holbrooke proposed the idea of upgrading the system from three manually operated lines to 20 automated lines at a meeting of the Brussels Group of leading Greek and Turkish Cypriot businessmen in the Belgian capital last November.
It became operational last month, but has not been without problems, though the UN claims 20,000 calls a day are being made form both sides.
There has also been talk of expansion to meet demand.
But last week lines were down to four for a 24-hour period after a glitch the UN said emanated from the Greek Cypriot side, though this was denied by Cyta.
The Greek Cypriot side said the problems lie in the rudimentary communications systems operating in the north.
An announcement by the Brussels Group which pioneered the lines yesterday expressed dissatisfaction at the way the system had operated so far.
They said the cost to Turkish Cypriots was the biggest obstacle yet. "Ninety per cent of Turkish Cypriots who use the phones ask Greek Cypriots to phone them back because of the high cost," the statement said.
"This practice adopted by the Denktash regime is unacceptable and violates the agreement (for the system)."
The Brussels Group said they had been in touch with UN technicians who informed them the teething problems being experienced were natural and would be ironed out.
There was no suggestion of sabotage by either side, the group said.
A report on the operation of the system so far is being prepared by UN technicians and will be completed today, Unficyp spokesman Waldemar Rokoszewski said, admitting there had been problems.
"The system is working," he said. "But you have to learn to walk before you can run."
 Bases denies harassment of Greek shipBy Jean Christou
THE BRITISH bases yesterday hit back at reports that an RAF Wessex helicopter had illegally inspected a Greek-registered ship on Tuesday.
Press reports yesterday accused the bases helicopter of a "hostile act in illegally inspecting" the Greek-registered MV Raphael off Akrotiri.
They said the helicopter circled around the ship and then asked the captain for information on its crew and cargo.
"The newspaper reports are complete nonsense," said bases spokesman Mervyn Wynne-Jones. "The helicopter approached the vessel and then moved off when there was no response."
An official bases announcement said that, contrary to claims by the vessel's captain, no instructions had been issued to the MV Raphael and no one had boarded the ship.
"The stories are a complete fabrication and have no basis in fact, and no attempt was made to verify the story with the bases prior to publication," an announcement said.
According to the bases, the Raphael was approached by an RAF Akrotiri- based helicopter and a request was made by radio to lower an RAF winch-man onto the deck and then to lift him back off.
There was no reply from the vessel, so the helicopter flew away.
The bases said such requests were a daily occurrence, and that all vessels sailing past Akrotiri peninsula were approached within the framework of "search and rescue" exercises, and asked to co-operate by allowing a man to be lowered onto deck.
"Almost all -- if hearing the request by radio -- agree," the bases said.
The bases maintain that the only way their search and rescue operation can remain efficient is for continuous training to take place, involving real ships.
"Most ships are only too pleased to assist, knowing that one day their lives may be in the hands of these highly skilled helicopter crews."
The Greek captain of the Raphael, which was on its way from Greece to Cyprus with a cargo of animal feed, said he had told the British bases personnel that he did not speak very good English.
The bases said that during 1997, RAF helicopters were involved in more than 40 rescue missions around Cyprus, saving 25 lives. There were a further 252 flights out to sea in response to alerts from maritime emergency beacons during the year.
 Cyprus ship says it came under Egyptian navy fireBy Charlie Charalambous
THE EGYPTIAN navy said yesterday it seized a Cypriot-flagged ship when it tried to escape from Suez after a court had ordered it be impounded.
According to the Egyptian authorities, the Cypriot-flagged Global Sky was being held by naval and border guards 50 miles south of Suez after it had tried to flee.
Lloyd's shipping service said the 12,000-tonne vessel had sent a radio message claiming it was coming under fire from an Egyptian warship.
"We are under fire from Egyptian navy. We are an ordinary merchant vessel now with an out of order main engine. Please immediate help," was the ship's SOS message.
Egyptian officials have denied that any shooting took place.
"We have received no official information or protest from the Egyptian authorities," Cyprus Merchant Shipping Department official Andreas Constantinou said yesterday.
"We have received a call from the agent, who said there was a problem with the ship's engine, but nothing else of substance."
Egyptian port officials have confirmed that the Global Sky escaped from Suez on Monday evening after a ship repair company had obtained a court order for it to be impounded.
The company said the owners of the Global Sky owed it $617,000.
It is understood the vessel was carrying rice from India to Ukraine.
Lloyds reported the ship's distress message as stating the number 956 -- possibly referring to the Egyptian navy's Chinese-built frigate, El Nasser, which is armed with anti-ship missiles.
 Bomber floored in club brawlBy Charlie Charalambous
NUMBER one contender Steve 'Bomber' Bishop bombed out of his world title fight in Cyprus after receiving a sucker punch at a Liverpool nightclub.
Shame-faced promoters, who have been plugging tonight's contest for months, had to find an eleventh-hour replacement to fight local boy Andrew 'The Snake' Michael.
The World Professional Boxing Association had trumpeted the Snake v Bomber fight as an attractive ground-breaking event for local fans.
Now a quick-fix replacement has been found after the man with the "knockout punch and granite chin" was floored by thugs in a night club brawl.
And that's something that Bishop's rivals have failed to do inside the ring.
"According to the information we've received, Bishop was working as a bouncer in a night club when he was attacked and received a shoulder injury, " local PR man Lakis Avraamides told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.
But there was no official explanation of why Bishop was exposing himself to the rough and tumble world of Liverpool night life on the eve of a top title fight.
However, boxing is no stranger to adversity, and Avraamides said the world lightwelterweight title fight would go ahead with substitute Jeff Bullock standing in for Bishop.
The 33-year-old Bullock is ranked number three by the WPBA and has notched up 33 knockouts in a 67-fight career.
Michael, from Ayia Napa, is now being tipped to clinch the title in only his ninth appearance as a professional.
"It is of no consequence who my opponent is. The only thing that is important is that I'm in good shape and the crowd get behind me," The Snake said yesterday.
 Philoxenia next on privatisation listNEXT ON the government's privatisation list are the International Conference Centre in Nicosia and the nearby Philoxenia Hotel.
The Council of Ministers decided yesterday to promote the selling of shares in the two government-owned enterprises. Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister, Nicos Rolandis made the announcement following the cabinet meeting.
The issue of Philoxenia Hotel was tabled by the Minister in view of the hotel's decline from a four to a two-star grading and a deterioration in its services. The cabinet appointed a ministerial committee to look into the matter, and, according to Rolandis, "the government insists on the selling of shares in Philoxenia and the Conference Centre."
"Without the selling of shares, we will not proceed with the refurbishment of the hotel," he added. "The hotel faces serious problems, but we cannot provide money from the public purse for the project when there are such serious problems."
A recent estimate by the Development Bank had placed the cost of refurbishing Philoxenia, which needs a new air conditioning system and replacement of electrical cables among other things, close to £1.9 million.
The Minister said he would make every effort to convince the House of Representatives that the Philoxenia Hotel must be partly-privatised. He pointed out, however, that the government would remain the majority holder.
 Cracking down on road safetyBy Andrew Adamides
DRIVERS who refuse to buckle up will find themselves twice as heavily penalised from Monday, police warned yesterday.
Fines for motorists caught without seat belts, bikers not wearing crash helmets or riding noisy motorbikes, and owners of cars that produce too much pollution will rise to £30 from the current £15.
Traffic Officer Savvas Lardis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that the heavier fines were being introduced as part of a package of measures being taken in an attempt to cut the number of road deaths.
He said other measures to be introduced would include a campaign to promote proper motorway driving behaviour, making the public aware of the purpose of each lane, as well as the minimum and maximum speeds at which it was safe to travel on the motorway. The motorway safety campaign will start tomorrow and continue until June 28.
Police will also be cracking down on those breaking the speed limit around town, and carrying out more breath tests in order to cut down on drink- driving.
The new measures come in the wake of a recent spate of road deaths, in which six people were killed within a week. So far, the police crackdown has included an exhibition of accident-damaged vehicles on its stand at the State Fair, while many of the personnel recently pulled off ministerial guard duty have been reassigned to traffic-related duties.
According to official police figures, by May 17 there had been 110 car crashes this year. Out of these, 38 were fatal, resulting in 43 deaths.
 Parents protest at school sub-stationBy Andrea Sophocleous
PRIMARY school children in Limassol staged a two-hour protest yesterday demanding that an Electricity Authority sub-station built next to their school be moved.
Three hundred and twenty pupils at Limassol's Third primary school, led by teachers and parents, skipped classes yesterday morning to protest against the construction of an electrical sub-station in the basement of a luxury apartment complex directly next to their school playground.
The electricity sub-station, which has a power of 11,000 volts, was built to reinforce the electricity supply network of the neighbourhood after an increase in demand created by the building of the apartment complex.
The protest, organised by the school's Parents' Association, was also attended by various environmental groups and Limassol municipal members.
The Parents' Association has appealed to the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) to move the sub-station away from the school and has asked the Education Ministry to intervene, without receiving a response.
Parents' Association president Yiannis Efthimiou argued that "international studies indicate that electrical stations like the one built next to our school cause health problems such as cancer, and this is extremely dangerous for young children."
However, a joint statement released yesterday by the Health and Trade Ministries and the EAC claims that "research carried out on an international scale" as well as research by the Health Ministry in Cyprus proves there is no causal link between electricity sub-stations and any illness.
The statement argues that, "based on laboratory research and scientific studies, there is no shred of evidence up to date to connect electromagnetic fields caused by electricity lines of low or high voltage or any other technical equipment with any sort of illness." The statement points to studies conducted by the World Health Organisation, the US Cancer Association, the Institute of Electrical Engineering in Britain and other official organisations, and argues that "it would be a mistake if we did not base our conclusions on these findings."
The Health Ministry's own study, which examined cases in areas where a rise in cancer cases had been claimed as a result of high voltage, also allegedly there was no such link, the statement claimed.
The ministries and the Electricity Authority conclude that "the public should under no circumstances give any importance to unfounded scare- mongering relating to electricity installations."
The Parents' Association, however, announced yesterday that it would escalate protests and shut down the school if all else failed.
"If they do not move the sub-station, we will hold a meeting to decide further measures," Efthimiou said.
 Police seek Turk wanted for abducting daughterPOLICE were yesterday searching for a Turk wanted in Norway on suspicion of abducting his nine-year-old daughter.
It is believed that 43-year-old Ali Erdal Oeztarman has fled to Cyprus from Norway with his daughter Selma, police said.
Norwegian police describe Oeztarman as 1.76 metres tall with curly black hair and brown eyes. His daughter is described as dark-skinned with black hair and eyes, police said.
Police appealed for anyone with any information concerning their whereabouts to come forward.
 English school teachers warn of dire consequencesTHE ENGLISH School Staff Association (ESSA) yesterday repeated its call for the removal of Thomas Thomas as headmaster, saying this was the only way the school's mounting problems could be overcome.
And it is inviting parents to a meeting at the school tomorrow to brief them on ESSA's stance and on the dire repercussions the school faces if the dispute is not resolved soon.
In a statement, ESSA said the failure of the last board meeting on Monday to take any decision showed a lack of courage on the board's behalf.
It added that a solution put forward by the Parents' Association and the English School Old Boys and Girls Association (Esobga) -- in which Thomas would leave the school and an acting head be installed until a formal appointment could be made for the next academic year -- satisfied the staff entirely. The board has rejected the proposal.
The Staff Association had, the statement noted, deliberately avoided causing disruption to the day-to-day running of the school. It also noted that in the opinion of the staff, the appointment of a Ministerial Committee on the crisis at the school demonstrated the interest of the state in the school.
All parents, it added, were being invited to the school at 7.30pm tomorrow for a full briefing on the crisis.
A staff association member said yesterday that the meeting, which will also be attended by members of Esobga, was being held mainly to warn the parents of the catastrophic situation that would prevail in September if drastic action was not taken immediately.
Teachers are currently working to rule and have threatened strike action if the issue is not resolved to their satisfaction.
Teachers want Thomas to leave over his alleged favouritism in the promotion of a female member of staff, and because they feel unable to work with his "autocratic" style of management.
The headmaster dismisses all allegations.
 Thinking about the millenniumCYPRUS will be celebrating the millennium in style, along with the rest of the world at midnight on December 31 1999, the Education and Culture Ministry said yesterday.
A ministry official told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that a Ministerial Committee had been appointed to discuss the matter, and decide in exactly what way the island would mark the arrival of the year 2000.
There is currently a flow of ideas between ministry and the four-man committee, which includes Education and Cultural Affairs Minister Lycourgos Kappas.
Although there are no concrete plans as yet, certain proposals have been suggested, but as nothing has been finalised, the ministry was unable to supply details.
There is no deadline by which to decide Cyprus' millennium celebrations.
But according to Cultural Officer Maria Nicolaidou, the department has been approached by a Millennium Institute in Virginia, which is setting up celebrations around the world: co-operation was a possibility, she added, although the matter had not yet been discussed.
The Nicosia Municipality has also set up a special committee, which hopes to decide on how the island's capital can best mark the millennium. According to Nicosia's Mayor, Lellos Dimitriades, there have been a number of suggestions made by the committee.
These include building a new Town Hall, turning Eleftheria Square into "a real square" and publishing a book on the history of the capital. He stressed, however, that events or monuments to mark the coming of the new millennium would largely depend on the question of money.
The Mayor said the Nicosia Municipality had little money, and as such "we want ideas to attract sponsors to fund celebratory events."
And suggestions from the public are very welcome, the Mayor said.
 Cypriot boxing for world titleBy Charlie Charalambous
LOCAL boxing fans have an unprecdented chance to witness a World Championship title fight in Nicosia tonight when Cypriot Andrew "The Snake" Michael meets Jeff Bullock from Liverpool.
The Snake was scheduled to fight the number one contender Steve "Bomber" Bishop, also from Liverpool, but he had to pull out after suffering an injury at the weekend.
As the Cypriot is ranked number two, he is now firm favourite to beat substitute Bullock, who is ranked one place below him, for the world title.
The crown for World Professional Boxing Association (WPBA) light- welterweight title will take place at Nicosia's Eleftheria indoor stadium in a fight scheduled for 12, two-minute rounds.
The contest was supposed to be over 12 three-minute rounds but this was changed due to the heavy lighting in the indoor arena.
Although the WPBA is one of the lesser known boxing bodies the fight is still a great opportunity to promote the fight game in Cyprus and see a local boy become a world champion.
It is the first time Cyprus has held such a prestigious boxing contest and having a Cypriot fighting for a world title is also a first.
The six foot 18-year-old Andrew "The Snake", from Ayia Napa, is ranked number two in the WPBA pecking order and is renowned for his knockout punch and iron chin.
His professional record is unblemished in securing eight wins from as many fights.
He should prove more than a worthy match for the 33-year-old Bullock who concedes a four-inch height disadvantage.
And The Snake is also big on confidence;
"I will win the title in style and move up to the next weight division and become a legend," he said recently.
But the WPBA number three from Liverpool is no slouch, knocking out 33 of his 67 opponents and only losing 10 fights in his professional career.
Bullock's style is suited to wearing down opponents with non-stop combinations of hooks and body punches.
It is a contest which pits youthful exuberance against a wily old pro, a perfect mix which promises a close run fight.
The fight card has eight bouts altogether in which Cypriots are all involved, mainly against UK opposition.
However, the event is not a male-only showcase.
Two women, Eleni Andriopoullou of Cyprus is matched against Matesa McKeefery from the UK in a world title eliminator which should interest neutrals.
LTV will screen the Snake v Bullock contest live this evening.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998