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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-06-06

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Saturday, June 6, 1998


  • [01] Clerides snubs the Queen
  • [02] US court awards $17.5mn to family of slain Cypriot
  • [03] Vassiliou, Christodoulou all out to reassure offshore community
  • [04] Waiter convicted on Aids charge
  • [05] EU hopes for Turkish change of heart
  • [06] Picking up the pieces from the helicopter débâcle
  • [07] Ombudsman slams the public sector
  • [08] Airline union says pay rise still top priority
  • [09] Second-hand car importers warn tax plan would kill them
  • [10] Larnaca to shut down in protest
  • [11] Bethlehem exhibit marred by protocol 'blunder'
  • [12] Police step up road safety appeals
  • [13] Tourist suspected of dealing drugs
  • [14] Heart patients anger at drug price hike

  • [01] Clerides snubs the Queen

    By Jean Christou

    PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides last night boycotted the Queen's official birthday celebrations at the British bases following a damaging report in London's Sunday Times on his plans to deploy Russian missiles on the island.

    According to a British bases spokesman, President Clerides and Justice Minister Nicos Koshis had been invited to the celebrations at the Western Sovereign Base Area of Episkopi.

    But neither Clerides nor Koshis, nor any other Cypriot officials attended, the bases confirmed. It is the first time in recent history that a president of Cyprus has failed to attend the annual party marking the Queen's official birthday.

    The snub was compounded by the fact that Clerides, 79, was an RAF gunner in World War II during which he was shot down over Germany and taken prisoner of war.

    "He (Clerides) was invited and chose not to attend," said bases spokesman Captain Jon Brown, who added that the President had officially declined the invitation on Wednesday.

    "The invitations are offered out to individuals so if they are busy or choose not to attend it is obviously their business," Captain Brown said. "We do not consider it to be a snub".

    Captain Brown conceded that as far as he was aware no Cypriot officials had attended the party.

    Earlier yesterday government spokesman Christos Stylianides confirmed that the President's name would not be appearing on the guest list.

    He said Clerides received many invitations from embassies and diplomatic missions on the island "and chooses which ones he wants to go to".

    According to guests, who included British High Commissioner David Madden, the Cypriot invitees missed an excellent rendition of Zorba the Greek by the band of the First Battalion Light Infantry.

    The usually good relations between the two countries cooled this week when Cyprus accused Britain's Defence Department of leaking damaging information in an effort to prevent the deployment of Russian S-300 missiles on the island later this year.

    An article in the Sunday Times on May 31 revealed a contingency plan by Britain to evacuate 250,000 tourists from Cyprus, leading the government to warn of a cooling in relations with Britain.

    Sources close to the government said last night the snub by the President was directly linked to the Sunday Times report which was "being taken seriously at the highest levels".

    "The government is extremely angry and feels the British Defence Ministry acted deliberately to put pressure on it not to take delivery of the missiles," the sources said.

    The possibility of a contingency plan to evacuate tourists has highlighted fears of a war on the island, which appear to be spreading to other diplomatic missions.

    Sigma TV last night said the US embassy had issued letters to its citizens in Cyprus requesting information on the number of Americans living here.

    Sigma said the embassy denied any such letters had been sent.

    But the US embassy told the Cyprus Mail this week that it does have a contingency plan to evacuate some 2,000 US citizens should the need arise.

    An American official said the US fact-sheet on Cyprus was last updated in January this year. It does not mention any threat of war on the island.

    "There are no plans to update it further at the moment," the official said.

    [02] US court awards $17.5mn to family of slain Cypriot

    By Jean Christou

    THE FAMILY of a Greek Cypriot doctor shot and killed by New York police officers in 1993 has been awarded $17.5 million in damages after a five- year legal battle.

    A US court made the huge award after ruling the New York police department liable for the shooting of Lenas Kakkouras, 29, by plain-clothes officers on February 26, 1993.

    The hospital to which he was taken, which left him lying handcuffed in its emergency room for two hours without treatment even though he had gunshot wounds, was also found liable.

    Kakkouras was shot by the two plain-clothes police officers in the Mount Vernon area of New York when he failed to stop at a road block.

    The road block had been set up by police after a bomb explosion earlier in the day at the World Trade Centre.

    Kakkouras was on his way to a friend's house when he took a wrong turn.

    According to police reports, officers spotted a grey car near the road block "acting in a suspicious manner".

    They claimed they identified themselves and that Kakkouras then struck one of them with his car and attempted to run over the second.

    The second police officer then fired his weapon four times, hitting Kakkouras twice. The Cypriot was then taken to New York hospital where he died of his wounds after a five-hour operation.

    It emerged later that Kakkouras had been mugged a month before by two men disguised as police officers.

    The police officers who shot him were initially cleared by a local court but later found guilty by a state court after an appeal by Kakkouras's family.

    Kakkouras, a refugee, went to the US in the summer of 1990 and specialised in paediatric neurology at the New York Medical College.

    Yesterday, his two brothers spoke of their lasting sadness at his brutal death. "Lenas will always be alive in our memories as he was full of life and love," George Kakkouras told journalists. "The money changes nothing for us."

    Iacovos Kakkouras said: "The pain and suffering he went through in the two hours before he died cannot be compensated for by any amount of money."

    [03] Vassiliou, Christodoulou all out to reassure offshore community

    By Hamza Hendawi

    GEORGE VASSILIOU, Cyprus' chief EU accession negotiator, yesterday sought to allay the fears of the offshore sector over its future on the island, saying its maintenance would serve the island and the European Union equally.

    Offshore businessmen have in recent months repeatedly voiced their concern that the sector could fold with the island's accession to the EU, and have urged the government to heed their views as it formulates its argument in talks with Brussels in defence of the offshore business.

    The government has repeatedly assured them that it would do its utmost to keep offshore businesses after accession, but yesterday's remarks by Vassiliou were particularly emphatic and by far the most reassuring.

    A former president and a millionaire-businessman, Vassiliou, addressing a business conference organised by the Popular Bank, said: "I say that these worries are understandable but not justified because in my opinion we should be able to secure the future of the offshore sector.

    "Because, as I said, Cyprus and the offshore sector cannot be split apart and for that reason I believe that yes, there is a future for the offshore sector in Cyprus, not outside the EU, but in the EU."

    Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou, addressing the same conference, also sought to reassure the offshore business community, saying the regime did not significantly distort conditions of competition within the Union as most of its dealings was in fact with parties outside the EU.

    Other arguments to be used by Cyprus in defence of its offshore sector, according to Christodoulou, included its importance to the island's economy, and the fact that similar regimes already existed within the EU, such as Madeira in Portugal, Dublin in Ireland, and Trieste in Italy.

    "We will spare no effort to make sure that the offshore sector will continue its growth pattern for decades to come," the minister said.

    Cyprus and five other eastern and central European countries began accession talks with the EU late in March. The island is not expected to become a member before the year 2002. Vassiliou was named head of the island's delegation to the accession talks in reward for his support of President Glafcos Clerides in the February elections and in recognition of his credentials as a respected negotiator and economist.

    "The offshore sector is indispensable to Cyprus," declared Vassiliou yesterday. "It is not just useful, it is not just a good addition to our income, it is just part of our life which you cannot take away."

    Cyprus, in a bid to rebuild an economy devastated by Turkey's 1974 invasion and the loss of resources in the northern third of the island, first introduced laws to attract offshore businesses in the mid-1970s.

    More than 20 years on, there are more than 30,000 offshore companies registered on the island, of which more than a 1,000 have fully-fledged offices offering employment to thousands of Cypriots. The sector contributes about 4 per cent of GDP and 11 per cent of invisible receipts.

    "If Cyprus has a future, it is a future as a world services centre," declared Vassiliou who, perhaps exaggerating to make a point, noted that the sun and fair weather were about all the resources available to the island.

    "The offshore sector in Cyprus is useful for the people involved, but it is also extremely useful for the development of the EU because it provides a useful window to the outside world and an important service sector in the most strategic position in the world between Europe and the East."

    [04] Waiter convicted on Aids charge

    By Charlie Charalambous

    WAITER Andreas Michael was yesterday found guilty by Larnaca district court of exposing two Cypriot women to the deadly Aids virus.

    The hearing was again held behind closed doors, and the judge's decision was relayed by the court clerk.

    Judge Tefkros Economou will sentence Michael, 28, on Tuesday.

    Michael has been found guilty of negligently transmitting the virus, in the full knowledge of how it could be contracted, by having unprotected sex and not informing his partners of his condition.

    He faces a maximum two-year prison sentence or a £1,500 fine or both. He was charged under a 50-year-old law that aims to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

    He is the third HIV-positive Cypriot to be convicted of spreading the disease in less than a year.

    The previous two, fisherman Pavlos Georgiou, 40, and British-born Cypriot Chrysavgi Zarzour, 27, were both jailed.

    Georgiou was sentenced to 15 months in July 1997 and released after a Presidential pardon on New Year's Eve; Zarzour was sentenced to seven months in April.

    Legal sources believe it unlikely Michael will walk free on Tuesday, given the precedents.

    He was remanded in custody until sentencing.

    [05] EU hopes for Turkish change of heart

    By Andrew Adamides

    THE EUROPEAN Union hopes the Turkish Cypriots will have a change of heart about their participation in Cyprus' negotiations, but will negotiate only with official states, Nikolaus Van Der Pas, Director General of the European Commission's Task Force for the accession negotiations, said yesterday.

    Speaking after he and EU Task Force Negotiator for Cyprus Leopold Maurer met with President Glafcos Clerides, Van Der Pas said there was nothing to be added to Clerides' proposal for Turkish Cypriot participation and that the offer remained on the table.

    Cyprus' accession should, he added, benefit both communities and contribute to a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    He assured that the EU would prepare all negotiations in such a way as to contribute positively to the situation, but warned there were "very strict limits to what we can do".

    Van Der Pas added that interference in settlement talks at this stage would be "counter-productive", as "so many eminent people are trying to find a solution."

    Later, the two met with House president Spyros Kyprianou and then with George Vassiliou, head of the Cyprus negotiating team.

    After the meting with Vassiliou, Van Der Pas said Cyprus' negotiations would soon move on to the difficult issue of the free movement of goods.

    This area would, he said, pose some difficulties for all the applicant countries, and not just Cyprus. But the EU official added that he had "the impression that Cyprus is determined to make quick progress".

    He went on to say that other difficult issues to be discussed included agriculture and the environment.

    For his part, Vassiliou said the meeting had provided a good opportunity to look at some of the practical issues concerning Cyprus' EU accession.

    [06] Picking up the pieces from the helicopter débâcle

    By Charlie Charalambous

    BUNGLING government spy catchers have received a stern telling off from President Clerides over the recent helicopter débâcle.

    It started out as a minor episode of Brit-bashing when newspaper reports surfaced last week claiming flares had been fired at two British helicopters allegedly snapping photos of a National Guard installation.

    This could have been brushed aside as an exercise in light mischief-making, but the speculation was given credence when Defence Minister Yiannakis Omirou insisted that "an incident" between the British and the National Guard had taken place.

    Though there was still some confusion over the actual time of the event -- with conflicting sources plumping for either Saturday, Sunday, or maybe even Wednesday -- never mind whose helicopters were involved.

    Never mind, spy-helicopters circling over sensitive and strategic targets needed to be dealt with seriously and swiftly.

    Last Thursday, officials from the British High Commission were summoned to the Foreign Ministry and had their knuckles rapped over the alleged incident.

    The British, however, had a foolproof alibi: they had no helicopters airborne at the time in question (Sunday, it had finally been decided), but the Americans did.

    After the government had been forced to retract its protests to London, it was then the turn of the American embassy in Nicosia to face the music.

    The Defence and Foreign Ministries wanted to know why US Blackhawks were hovering suspiciously over a National Guard position in Zygi.

    They read the riot act to the Americans, but failed to consult with Air Traffic Control (ATC) in Larnaca first.

    Had officials done so, they would have learnt from ATC that the US helicopters had in fact been instructed to hover over the area at the given time.

    Two Blackhawks, on a routine flight from Akrotiri to supply the US embassy in Beirut via Larnaca, were told to hold their positions in order to accommodate a civilian aircraft landing at the airport.

    Traffic control had instructed them to circle around a position near the village of Zygi, Limassol.

    The helicopters were allegedly bombarded with flares for their trouble.

    President Clerides is understood to be "seething with rage" over the lack of co-ordination between his ministers, and the fact that representations were made before facts had been crossed-checked.

    Security chiefs, meanwhile, are none too happy that Air Traffic Control is giving permission for alien craft to circle over classified sites within flight restriction zones.

    With the government's spy-monitoring reputation in tatters, British and American helicopters are expecting a much smoother ride this weekend.

    [07] Ombudsman slams the public sector

    By Andrea Sophocleous

    SERIOUS operational weaknesses in many government departments and the violation of the basic human rights of a large number of citizens were the core problems identified by Ombudsman Nicos Charalambous in his 1997 report.

    In his seventh annual report, released yesterday, Charalambous named a number of civil service departments that had not responded to his recommendations. The primary culprits were the Health, Immigration and Lands and Survey departments.

    He said 14 per cent of complaints against government services, made by members of the public to the ombudsman's office, were not acted upon due to serious functional weaknesses on the part of the government services concerned.

    The Ombudsman underlined that he would confront this problem through the use of special reports, which are presented to the cabinet and have equal status as a legal decision. He noted that each time he submitted a special report to the government, action was taken.

    "I will in future be making greater use of this right," he warned.

    Speaking at a press conference where he presented his report's findings, Charalambous stressed the need to attribute more importance to the Ombudsman's office and appealed for more active support from the House Watchdog committees as well as to the media to give more coverage to his reports.

    The Ombudsman's office dealt with a record of 1,225 complaints about the civil service last year, a 32.5 per cent increase on the previous year.

    Charalambous said there was evidence of anachronistic perceptions on the part of some government services, as concerned the relationship between the state and its citizens, something he believes can be improved with the introduction of a Citizen's Charter.

    A Citizen's Charter would set out behaviour and service guidelines, transparency mechanisms, means for information sharing, and investigative procedures. The guidelines would establish a code of behaviour to be followed by the civil services.

    Another suggestion made by the Ombudsman was the setting up of internal checking systems to deal with complaints within each government department.

    "The need for the introduction of such a system is considered of particular importance in the case of semi-governmental organisations," Charalambous argued.

    Being World Environment Day yesterday, the Ombudsman also referred to a number of environmental problems which he had reported several times in the past, but on which the government had failed to act. He pointed to Limassol's old port and the Ayia Marina garbage dump as areas of particular concern and noted that there was "a lack of minimal respect for the environment."

    As in previous years, Charalambous remarked that his office was inadequately staffed and faced difficulty in dealing with the increased number of complaints.

    Since the creation of the Ombudsman's office in 1993, complaints have risen from 378 in the first year to 1,225 in 1997.

    [08] Airline union says pay rise still top priority

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS Airways (CY) cabin crew and management will meet on June 16 to work out an agenda to resolve differences, but pay claims remain the priority, the Cynika union warned yesterday.

    The two sides in the dispute, which came within a whisker of an all-out strike by cabin staff yesterday, began an open dialogue late on Thursday after the intervention of a ministerial committee.

    Communications and Works Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou listened to the views of both sides and put forward some proposals.

    "It has been agreed that the two sides will meet on June 16 to work out a programme to resolve the differences," a Cynika source said.

    But he added that while the union was willing to discuss longer term problems, they would insist that their pay demands be given priority.

    Cynika wants a 4.5 per cent in wages and other benefits for its members; the union agreed to call off the strike on Thursday after the meeting with the ministerial committee.

    Union sources denied reports yesterday that they had backed off under threat that the government would liberalise air transport on the island. This would open the way to cheaper fares and the possible ruin of the national carrier.

    "There were no threats made to us," the Cynika source said. "Rather it was a matter of convincing us. The minister (Ierodiaconou) was constructive, and we agreed to call off the measures."

    A company source also denied that the union had been threatened, but said Cynika had been pushed against the wall.

    "They understood that they were going too far and that everyone was against them," the company source said.

    Cynika says it now wants to see the drawing up of two different time frames to resolve the disputes.

    "The pay rise is the first issue, and it is separate," the union source said.

    "Discussions on the other issues should run in parallel."

    The union demands compliance with an agreement signed with the company in 1995, entitling their members to the same pay rises as those agreed in the semi-government sector.

    Pilots are also on the verge of strike action following failure to agree on the renewal of the collective agreement.

    They will meet next Wednesday to take a decision.

    [09] Second-hand car importers warn tax plan would kill them

    By Andrew Adamides

    THE PANCYPRIAN second-hand Car Dealers Association yesterday lashed out at government tax plans for the sector, saying their effect on the market would be catastrophic.

    Imported second-hand cars were among a series of sectors targeted in a surprise package of tax measures presented to the House last week by Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou. Deputies voted down the package.

    The defeated bill proposed to change the basis on which duty for the vehicles was assessed, calculating it on the basis of local market value, rather than value in the country of origin.

    At a press conference yesterday, the association accused the government of pandering to new car dealers, and said the bill would raise the cost of imported Japanese second-hand cars to almost that of a new vehicle.

    Were this to happen, it said, the second-hand market would "cease to exist", leaving dealers with thousands of virtually unsellable vehicles.

    The association said that car import duty was already high, standing at between 90 and 140 per cent, not including luxury tax, VAT, registration fees, road tax and taxes on accessories.

    These accessories include catalytic converters, in spite of government pledges to work for the good of the environment, air conditioning and, shockingly, second mirrors and airbags.

    According to the association's figures, 70 per cent of cars sold are second hand, and there are 300 companies in the sector employing 2,000 people. Nine hundred second hand Japanese cars are arrive on the island every month.

    The association said no-one could doubt the benefits of the imported cars, which offered formerly-luxury extras like power steering and air conditioning, and had forced car prices down to half what they were ten years ago, as well as compelling new car dealers to offer higher levels of equipment and better prices in order to compete.

    Since they appeared in Cyprus, the Japanese imports have seized a huge chunk of the market as buyers are attracted by the idea of an almost new car at a knock-down price.

    In the first three months of this year alone, registration of second-hand vehicles soared by 51.2 per cent, while sales of new cars dropped by 29 per cent.

    [10] Larnaca to shut down in protest

    LARNACA will shut down on Monday June 15 in protest over the government's reluctance to invest in the fading seaside resort.

    The local action committee, headed by Larnaca mayor George Lykourgos, decided to a fire a broadside at the government by closing shop for a few hours on June 15.

    Larnaca deputies and businessmen want to make the public aware of the development projects they say the town so badly needs but the government is ignoring.

    Other measures being considered include closing major roads leading to the airport, the oil refinery and Dhekelia power station.

    Action committee members say the home of ancient Kition, already losing out in the tourists stakes, needs a major revamp to breathe new life into it.

    [11] Bethlehem exhibit marred by protocol 'blunder'

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE OPENING in Nicosia of a travelling exhibition launching the Palestine Authority's 'Bethlehem 2000' project was marred by a diplomatic "blunder" on the part of organisers.

    A representative for the Palestinian Liberation organisation (PLO) told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that while the Israeli ambassador, Shemi Tzur, was invited to the dinner after the official inauguration last week, his Arab counterparts were not.

    He put the faux pas down to a "misunderstanding", but said the whole situation was "embarrassing".

    The situation was made worse by the fact that organisers apparently failed to allow a slot for the Palestinian Minister of state responsible for the 'Bethlehem 2000' project, Dr Nabil Kassis, to speak at the opening.

    In the end, Dr Kassis was allowed to say his bit after Education Minister Lykourgos Kappas, the last of the scheduled speakers, had finished.

    Dr Kassis -- representing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the function - - was to attend the dinner, but caught the next flight out instead.

    "I don't know if he (Kassis) was annoyed," the PLO representative said. "He had some urgent business to attend to and he had to go."

    The PLO man said he was told the Cyprus University had been responsible for sending out invites for the function.

    The photographic exhibition, mounted by Unesco, was co-sponsored by the university, the Nicosia municipality and the Foreign Ministry.

    The university Dean, Miltiades Haholiades, played down the "blunder" yesterday.

    "There was no problem, some people were slightly abrupt, but there was no problem," he said.

    "We had invited everyone but they did not show up," he said when asked why no Arab ambassadors attended the dinner.

    Concerning the "snub" to Dr Kassis, Haholiades said the Palestinian minister had at first not wanted to speak at the opening but later changed his mind. "So we let him speak, even giving him the slot after the Minister, who should, by protocol, have been the last speaker," Haholiades said.

    The exhibition, on at the Melina Mercouri hall till June 11, is part of a project to raise money for the Palestinian Authority's celebrations for the new millennium in Bethlehem. The 'Bethlehem 2000' project is seen as the Palestinian answer to the grand millennium celebrations that Israel plans to stage in Jerusalem.

    Bethlehem is controlled by the Palestinian Authority and is surrounded by Israeli-occupied territory.

    The exhibition -- which has already toured Paris, Brussels and Athens and goes to Cologne next -- includes photographs of the Church of the Nativity, the Mosque of Omar and of the town's stone-built 19th century houses.

    [12] Police step up road safety appeals

    A 15-YEAR-OLD boy was hit by a car in Limassol yesterday, on the day the police launched a new driver safety campaign.

    Charalambos Yeorgiou Prokopiou was seriously injured on his way to school yesterday morning when he was hit by a car as he crossed Makarios Avenue in Limassol.

    Due to the seriousness of his injuries, the boy was transferred to Nicosia General Hospital, where he remains in a critical condition, hooked up to a ventilator.

    The accident happened just hours before police launched a renewed road safety campaign with a publicity stunt on the Nicosia to Limassol motorway.

    As has been reported, tougher penalties will come into force on Monday, with the primary focus on violations regarding speeding, drink driving, wearing of seat belts and crash helmets, careless driving, and driving by underage people.

    Yesterday's event, organised by the Communication and Works Ministry in co- operation with the police and the Road Safety Initiative Group, revolved around a speech delivered by traffic police chief Yiorgos Voutnos, launching the campaign.

    All traffic at the starting point of the Nicosia to Limassol motorway was stopped for approximately 15 minutes as a small group of police and other officials listened to the speech.

    Voutnos repeated police figures showing that since the beginning of the year, there had been 41 fatal car accidents resulting in 46 deaths. In the same period last year, there were 30 fatal crashes resulting in 36 deaths.

    "A large proportion of these accidents have occurred on motorways," according to Voutnos. "Unfortunately, despite existing measures and numerous attempts by the police to limit the number of traffic accidents, particularly fatal crashes, nothing has been achieved because serious traffic violations continue and are too easily explained as human error."

    The traffic chief stressed that as a deterrent for some traffic violations, there would be a doubling of the fine for motorists caught not wearing seat belts, bikers not wearing crash helmets and owners of cars that produce too much pollution. As of Monday they can expect to pay £30 instead of £15.

    The Nicosia event was also publicised as a paraplegics' march, but only one paraplegic attended. She appealed to drivers to take the task of driving seriously.

    Communication and Works Department representative Dimitris Papadopoulos said the ministry's policy was to study the cause of specific accidents; if the fault was found to lie with the road's construction, then the department would undertake the improvement of that particular road.

    [13] Tourist suspected of dealing drugs

    A BRITISH tourist was remanded in custody yesterday as a suspected drug dealer.

    Mark Krenzler, 22, from Middlesborough, was arrested on Thursday by drug officers in Ayia Napa following information that he was selling cannabis in the village square.

    Police told a Larnaca court yesterday that a small quantity of drugs were found on the tourist when he was arrested; a subsequent search of his room uncovered eight grammes of cannabis hidden inside a radio.

    The court agreed that the suspect be remanded in custody for five days to help police with their inquiries.

    [14] Heart patients anger at drug price hike

    HEART patients were up in arms yesterday over a government decision to increase the price of a prescription heart drug by over 80 per cent.

    An announcement by the Heart Patients Association condemned a recent Health Ministry decision to hike the price of Zocor, a drug used to reduce blood cholesterol levels, from £3 to £5.50.

    The association noted that government ombudsman Nicos Charalambous had declared the ministry practice of charging for medicines dispensed at state pharmacies "illegal".

    The announcement quoted from an ombudsman's report which concluded that such drugs should be provided free of charge to those entitled to free medical care and for a nominal 50 cents to those entitled to state aid.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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