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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-11-11

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>


Wednesday, November 11, 1998

CONTENTS

  • [01] Cyprus problem could threaten EU expansion
  • [02] Cyprus stands firm on spy crisis
  • [03] How Israel treated a Cypriot 'spy'
  • [04] Fiscal woes lower Cyprus credit worthiness
  • [05] Bourse U-turn on Shacolas companies
  • [06] Sri Lankan 'sent home after pay dispute'
  • [07] Parties slow to forward details on US arms
  • [08] Misery at the Limassol zoo
  • [09] Two killed in head-on motorway crash
  • [10] Carcinogenic partridges and toxic halloumi
  • [11] British sirens spark panic on bases
  • [12] 'Human treatment key to Cyprus prison policy'
  • [13] Rain at last

  • [01] Cyprus problem could threaten EU expansion

    THE CYPRUS problem threatened yesterday to derail negotiations with six front-running candidates, mainly in East Europe, for membership of the European Union.

    In opening detailed negotiations with Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Cyprus, Slovenia and Estonia, the 15-nation bloc was hoping to send a sign of encouragement to former communist bloc countries as they carry out painful preparations to join the wealthy Western club.

    But the negotiations remained marred by the concerns of four EU member countries about the problems which could result from the division in Cyprus.

    However British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told London Greek Radio yesterday that the island's accession should not be conditional.

    "We do not believe that accession of Cyprus should be made conditional on a solution to the division of the island," Cook said, adding that membership for Cyprus should be considered on its own merits.

    "The process of accession will help encourage a solution to the division," Cook said.

    But yesterday the concerns expressed on Monday by France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands were compounded by those of aspirant members who fear problems arising from the political situation in Cyprus could derail the EU's eastwards expansion entirely.

    "I hope that the Cyprus problem will not cause a blockage of the expansion, " Polish Foreign Minister Bromislaw Geremek told a news conference in Brussels.

    Greece has repeatedly said Athens would block the expansion completely if the island was kept out.

    It issued the warning to its EU partners again yesterday, a stance welcomed by the government in Nicosia.

    "The admission of other countries into the EU cannot proceed if the argument for not admitting Cyprus is the island's political problem," said Greek government spokesman Nikos Athanassakis yesterday.

    "There is no way Cyprus will become a hostage of Turkey. The EU cannot accept a Turkish veto on the admission of Cyprus."

    Greece's Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the Greek parliament would not permit Poland and the others to join if Cyprus was held back.

    The EU has embarked on detailed talks despite most members' apparent lack of enthusiasm for speeding up expansion, because of the scale of the exercise and the difficulty of reforming the EU's financing and institutions to prepare it for a membership of 20 or more.

    "Today we opened the actual negotiations. Nothing can stop the train," Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel told a news conference as EU foreign ministers held individual meetings with the six.

    "It's a very important day for Cyprus," Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides told a news conference in Brussels.

    But he played down Monday's warning from the four member states.

    "We agree with the fact there's a problem... The message should be addressed to the Turks. It should say that Turkey should not have a right of veto on Cyprus," Cassoulides said.

    Cassoulides made extensive reference to what the government has done to promote Turkish Cypriot participation in the island's EU negotiations and regretted the fact there has been no positive response. "The invitation is still open," he said.

    EU Commissioner Hans van den Broek also regretted the Turkish Cypriot side had not taken up the invitation, but he welcomed the progress achieved by Cyprus so far towards accession.

    While Cassoulides and Geremek said yesterday they believed their countries could enter the EU in 2003, EU members, not least the new German government, are increasingly talking in terms of a first expansion in 2005 or 2006.

    Wednesday, November 11, 1998

    [02] Cyprus stands firm on spy crisis

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE GOVERNMENT was sticking to its guns yesterday, insisting it would not bow to Israeli pressure to send home two Israelis being held on suspicion of spying against the National Guard.

    "They may be playing their tune, but we will continue with our own. We have laws here, and everyone has to obey them," Justice Minister Nicos Koshis stated.

    Government spokesman Christos Stylianides said Israel had made no official representation to the government concerning the spy suspects.

    In Israel, the Cyprus spying affair is being used in a political points scoring war between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Ezer Weizman, an Israeli daily suggested.

    On Saturday, Israeli nationals Ig'al Damari, 49, and Udi Argov, 37, were remanded in custody for eight days after a police raid of their holiday flat in Zygi uncovered "suspect" documents and scanner devices.

    Israeli paper Ha'aretz reported that Netanyahu had not been informed of a Weizman move to send his right-hand man, Arieh Shumer, to Nicosia on Monday with a message of "friendship" for President Clerides. The paper said Weizman was trying to secure the release of the two suspects in a bid to upstage Netanyahu. The Israeli Prime Minister has made no secret of his desire to see the two spy suspects back home. He got the Cyprus government's heckles up on Monday by stating Israel would "bring them home."

    The Government Spokesman confirmed Israel was in touch with the government on the matter and that Shumer's visit had not been "irrelevant" to the spying issue, but played down the tone of these contacts. "There may be contacts, because on a diplomatic level there are such contacts and there is interest from a country for its citizens."

    The content of the message Weizman's man had brought would not be made public, Stylianides said.

    He tried to dampen the media uproar over Netanyahu's statement by saying the Israeli Prime Minister "had a right to make representations concerning Israeli citizens."

    On a sterner note, Stylianides repeated the government line that there would be no cover up or let off for the Israeli spy suspects.

    "The government considers it must stress that as a government it has the duty and obligation to implement law and order and completely respect the law and constitutional provisions," he said.

    The arrest of Argov and Damari, three days after Weizman had ended an official visit to the island, is developing into a diplomatic incident putting a strain on rocky Cyprus-Israel relations.

    Defence Minister Yiannakis Omirou has expressed concern over the incident, saying it was "worrying", especially in the context of the Israel-Turkey military pact that provides for exchange of military intelligence.

    Local daily Philelephtheros yesterday suggested the scanner equipment police had found in the possession of the two suspects was third generation surveillance equipment, adding that this lent weight to claims the two men were Mossad agents.

    Tel Aviv has not denied that Argov and Damari are Mossad men.

    Stylianides yesterday said the government was monitoring foreign media reports suggesting the island was "awash" with spies.

    The government was doing everything possible to protect the secrecy of National Guard interests, the spokesman added.

    Wednesday, November 11, 1998

    [03] How Israel treated a Cypriot 'spy'

    By Martin Hellicar

    FRICTION between Cyprus and Israel over spying suspects is nothing new.

    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that he believes Cyprus should hand over two Israelis arrested in Zygi four days ago on suspicion of spying against the National Guard.

    But 20 years ago, Israel turned a deaf ear to pleas from the Cyprus government on behalf of a Cypriot journalist arrested in Israel on suspicion of spying for the Palestinians. The Cyprus government has given no indication it intends to treat Netanyahu's moves any differently now the shoe is on the other foot.

    Israelis Udi Hargov, 37, and Ig'al Damari, 49, have been remanded in police custody following a Saturday morning police raid on their Zygi holiday flat, which unearthed suspect documents and scanner equipment police believe was used for espionage purposes. In 1978, Cypriot photo-journalist Panayiotis Paschalis, who today works for local paper Haravghi, was found guilty on spying charges by an Israeli court on the basis of seemingly much flimsier evidence.

    "The only evidence the court found against me was a series of photographs depicting everyday life all over Israel which I had taken for a book I was working on," Paschalis, who has always maintained his complete innocence, told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    Paschalis served two-and-a-half years of a five-year sentence for "collecting information that could harm Israel."

    "I was arrested on 18 January 1978, the day of my birthday, on the second day of my fifth visit while working as a cameraman for an East German television channel."

    The journalist believes he was arrested and convicted on trumped-up spying charges because his footage of disturbances in Israel cast the country, and its treatment of the Palestinian minority, in a bad light abroad.

    Repeated representations from the Cyprus government and a series of demonstrations outside the Israeli embassy in Nicosia did nothing for Paschalis's case.

    "There was no chance of my getting released, they wanted to make an example of me to scare off other foreign journalists working in the country," Paschalis said.

    Paschalis, 38 at the time, spent the first six months of his sentence in solitary confinement in a minute cell in Tel Aviv's Petah-Tiqukea (The Gates of Hope) prison. "The prison director told me there might be a plot to kill me so I was being put in solitary for my own safety, supposedly," he said.

    "I was never beaten in jail but six months in solitary does a lot of damage to a person." The next two years of his sentence were spent imprisoned with Palestinians - whose cause he has always supported - in Ramble prison. "The inmates there made me very welcome."

    Paschalis feels bitter at the loss of "two-and-a-half of the best years of my life."

    "I went back to Israel on the 26th of last month at the invitation of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Many have asked me if there was any sort of apology from the Israelis, but there wasn't, they acted as if nothing had ever happened."

    Wednesday, November 11, 1998

    [04] Fiscal woes lower Cyprus credit worthiness

    By Hamza Hendawi

    CITING the growing fiscal and public debt deficits, Standard &amp; Poor's has downgraded three of four criteria applied for local and foreign currency ratings for Cyprus.

    The decision by Standard &amp; Poor's, one of the world's leading assessors of credit worthiness, is likely to deepen concern at home and in the European Union, which Cyprus hopes to join by 2003, about the island's fiscal woes at a time when structural reforms causing possible fiscal disruptions are mooted.

    The negative news from the rating agency also coincided with the start in Brussels yesterday of "substantive negotiations" on accession between Cyprus and the European Union. And it came only days after the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, stated its confidence in the ability of the island's economy to meet the challenges of EU membership.

    In practice, the downgrading by Standard &amp; Poor's lowers the island's credit worthiness and makes borrowing abroad more expensive, since a lower grading translates into higher premiums.

    Cyprus in the late 1980s made a policy decision to borrow mostly at home to reduce its foreign debt burden. This had cut the foreign debt burden to up to 12 per cent of GDP by 1996, when the government returned to borrowing abroad so as not to crowd out investors at home and create a credit crunch.

    The shift to foreign borrowing has increased the GDP percentage of foreign debt burden to about 20 per cent.

    In the absence of any additional sources of revenues, the Cyprus fiscal deficit is forecast to hit 6.3 of GDP in 1999, more than double the three per cent ceiling set by the Maastricht Treaty for economic and monetary union, according to Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodolou.

    The public debt, he says, is also forecast to shoot up next year beyond the 60 per cent Maastricht ceiling.

    The minister intends to ask the House before the year's end to raise VAT by four percentage points to 12 per cent as part of several tax hikes designed to boost revenues. He has already introduced measures to reduce expenditure in the public sector, including cuts in travel and entertainment allowances, restrictions on overtime pay and the use government vehicles.

    "Any significant delay in the government's policy response to reduce the current fiscal imbalance, and sustain fiscal consolidation over the medium term, would undermine credit worthiness and result in downward rating pressure," Standard &amp; Poor's said.

    It said it had lowered long-term local currency rating on Cyprus to double- A from double-A-plus and its long-term foreign currency rating to a single- A-plus from double-A-minus. It also lowered the short-term foreign currency rating to A-1 from A-1-plus, and reaffirmed short-term local currency rating to A-1-plus.

    Giving Cyprus a "stable" outlook labelling, the agency said its decision to downgrade the island's rating reflected "the absence of a timely and substantial fiscal correction".

    "Political considerations continue to override the need for a substantive and immediate fiscal correction... a fiscal stance incompatible with capital account liberalisation and the government's EU aspirations."

    The agency also cited what it called the uncertainties arising from strong credit growth in the local banking sector.

    "Against the background of the expected liberalisation of domestic financial markets, in particular the removal of the interest rate ceiling, rapid growth (70 per cent over the past five years) in domestic credit is likely to heighten asset quality concerns," it said.

    The agency, however, struck a positive note about the direction of policies on the island, saying that "based on the government's current intentions, fiscal and monetary policies are likely to reduce both internal and external imbalances to more sustainable levels in the coming year.

    "Over the medium term, a sustained period of fiscal austerity will be crucial to improving the government's flexibility to address promptly the uncertainties created by ongoing structural reform."

    Wednesday, November 11, 1998

    [05] Bourse U-turn on Shacolas companies

    By Hamza Hendawi

    IN A SUDDEN change of heart, the Cyprus Stock Exchange yesterday re- enlisted the titles of Paneuropean Insurance and its two affiliated companies.

    The move came only 24 hours after the bourse indefinitely suspended trading in Paneuropean, Interamerican Insurance and Philiki Insurance, saying the decision was made in response to what it called the unclear situation surrounding them, a reference to reports that the trio are the subject of secretive takeover negotiations.

    The Shacolas Group, owners of the three companies, reacted angrily to Monday's suspension, calling it wrong and urging an immediate review of the decision.

    But yesterday, it named for the first time Greece's Interamerican Group as among those interested in acquiring Paneuropean and its daughter companies.

    The reinstatement of the three titles yesterday, together with impressive results from the Bank of Cyprus for the first nine months of 1998, combined to lift the all-share index by 1.32 per cent to close at 90.14, snapping a spell of three negative closures in as many sessions.

    The bank, the island's biggest financial institution, said operating profits in the January-September period totalled 46.1 million compared to 37.1 million in the same period last year, an increase of 24.3 per cent.

    "As regards the whole of 1988, the increase in group profit is expected to be very satisfactory, but not of the same magnitude as that registered for the first nine months of the year," it said.

    The bank's share rose by five cents in yesterday's trade to close at 3.75 with trade in the stock accounting for 22.1 per cent of total volume.

    The appreciation of the Bank of Cyprus shares, together with those of its rivals the Cyprus Popular Bank and Hellenic Bank pushed the sector's sub- index up 1.47 per cent on 491,365 worth of trade.

    The insurance sector, meanwhile, returned to life with a volume of 643,516, but registered a 0.29 per cent decline in its sub-index, which closed on 68.21.

    Paneuropean, Interamerican and Philiki closed at 1.23, 1.06 and 1.03 respectively. Combined trade in the three titles totalled 28.2 per cent of the bourse's entire volume.

    Yesterday's about-turn by the bourse, according to some traders, appeared to suggest that its board might have come under some pressure from the well- connected Shacolas Group. It has also cast serious doubt on its judgement and management style, they said.

    "Don't quote me by name for this," began one trader who spoke to the Cyprus Mail yesterday. "But when you suspend trading in three titles one day and you enlist them the very next day, then it is obvious that someone is not doing his job properly."

    "The Stock Exchange has certainly lost face over this, while the extent of Shacolas' influence has become clear to those who might have doubted it."

    Another trader, who also did not wish to be named, put it differently.

    "I think it is fair to say that all of us in the stock market are at a learning stage," he said. "But one would have expected that the people who are running the stock exchange are wiser and know better."

    Shacolas' mention of Interamerican Greece as among the interested buyers of his Paneuropean group came in a letter sent yesterday to Dinos Papadopoulos, the bourse's chairman.

    "We inform you that serious interest from interested organisations continues to exist and negotiations continue," Shacolas said in the letter, made available to the media and traders.

    "The interest of those parties is to acquire a stake of over 50 per cent, while others are seeking the whole share capital," Shacolas said. "We ask you to appreciate that it is not possible for us to give further information at this stage without endangering the negotiations."

    It was not immediately clear whether the bourse's decision came before or after the Shacolas letter, but some traders said they suspected that the Cyprus-based tycoon might have helped the market's management save face by making it look to have obtained the information it had sought from his group on the takeover negotiations.

    "They must have come to some sort of agreement under which Shacolas would mention Interamerican Greece as among those interested parties in return for the lifting of the suspension," said another trader, who also wanted to remain anonymous. "Whether there is really more than one interested party is something that I cannot be sure of. But it does help when you are selling to tell one buyer that there are others who are interested."

    Market reports started from the middle of last week to mention Interamerican Greece as the leading potential buyer. Earlier reports spoke of Greece's Alpha Credit Bank and the National Bank of Greece (Cyprus).

    Wednesday, November 11, 1998

    [06] Sri Lankan 'sent home after pay dispute'

    By Martin Hellicar

    A SRI LANKAN hotel worker was bundled onto a plane home by his boss and his two "heavies" because he demanded his pay, the alleged victim's lawyer claimed yesterday.

    The hotel worker's wife has been left stranded in Cyprus without work, having fled her job in Paphos under the same boss after receiving no pay for months, a woman friend in whose home she had taken refuge yesterday told the Cyprus Mail.

    In a letter sent to the Paphos Labour office yesterday, a Nicosia lawyer describes how Thilak Dushantha, 37, was beaten by the hotel boss and two burly men before being taken to Larnaca airport and put on a flight home.

    The incident took place on Monday evening, the lawyer said.

    "He was abducted. He called our office at 8.30pm yesterday from the airport and we sent our expert in these matters down to get him off the plane. But the poor man was too scared that he would be beaten up or killed if he stayed, so he left. He had nothing on him," she said.

    The lawyer said Dushantha had returned to Paphos recently after the employer had agreed - after receiving a letter from the lawyer's office - to pay him his arrears. "The man gave his employee 1,400 but the cheques did not clear," the lawyer said. "It was just a ploy to get him back to Paphos so they could throw him out."

    The Paphos Labour office confirmed they had received a letter from Dushantha's lawyer yesterday but said the alleged abduction was a police matter.

    "We can only look into the contractual elements of the dispute, which we will investigate " an official said. "But we looked at this case before and it was sorted out when the employer agreed to pay up, so I don't know why I'm getting another letter now."

    Dushantha's 31-year-old wife Indrani and her friend were to lodge a complaint over Thilak's "abduction" with police yesterday.

    Indrani got a call from her husband from the airport on Saturday night but she had not heard from him since, her friend said.

    Indrani was at a loss yesterday. "She had given up the room where she was staying in Nicosia expecting to join her husband in Paphos, but now she cannot do that," her friend said.

    The Paphos hotel owner allegedly involved in the incident could not be found for comment yesterday.

    Wednesday, November 11, 1998

    [07] Parties slow to forward details on US arms

    By Anthony O. Miller

    Both the Republic and the Turkish Cypriot regime have been "slow" to tell US congressional investigators whether they have transferred US-made weapons to the divided island, the US embassy said yesterday.

    The issue is more relevant today than when the US probe began in June, after the arrest this week of two Israelis on suspicion of spying. One supposition is the pair were trying to learn for Turkey if the National Guard has any US-made weapons.

    "We're looking into the possibility that US-origin arms might have been transferred to either side of the island," Tom Young, acting US embassy spokesman, told The Cyprus Mail.

    The US Foreign Assistance Act forbids the transfer to Cyprus of US-made munitions, or any use of them that would "further the severance or the division of Cyprus," he noted.

    Young acknowledged "it's taken a little longer than we'd originally anticipated. In fact, both sides have been slow in responding to our requests for information and for co-operation on this" since the investigation opened nearly five months ago.

    "At this stage, we really haven't drawn any conclusions. Once we do, we'll submit our report to Congress, but there's nothing ready to submit now," he said.

    Young declined to say what the snag was, or whether one side was doing more foot-dragging than the other.

    "We're in a country that is not our country. We have to have the co- operation of (both communities). We have asked for that, and believe we're getting it, but it is slow in coming."

    He said there was no deadline for reporting the investigation's findings back to Congress, and did not know when the investigation might be wrapped up. "In large measure, it is up to the co-operation of the sides."

    Turkey, in breach of US law, used US-made jet fighters, tanks, guns and ships to invade Cyprus in 1974. As a Nato member, Turkey continues to arm itself with US-made equipment.

    Turkey's 35,000-40,000 occupation troops in northern Cyprus are equipped with US-made weapons, including tanks and armoured personnel carriers. Their transfer to the occupied north from mainland Turkey violated US law.

    Wednesday, November 11, 1998

    [08] Misery at the Limassol zoo

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE BELEAGUERED Limassol zoo offers scarce protection for some of the animals caged there, Municipal Counsellor Dr Pantelis Peponia indicated yesterday.

    Within the last year, the zoo's new-born leopard cubs were eaten by its bears, and baboons ate its newborn monkeys, Peponia, who is also a veterinarian, said yesterday.

    In addition, he said, the zoo's tiger miscarried on February 5, the same day that the zoo's 48-year-old elephant, Julie, was put down due to a degenerative bone disease.

    Peponia learned of these tragedies from zoo employees, and had no first- hand knowledge of them.

    Dr Lambros Lambrou, zoo director and veterinarian, declined to discuss Peponia's assertions, insisting he first had to draft a report on the zoo's conditions for Limassol Mayor Demetris Kontides and the Municipal Council's Health Committee. Zoo employees likewise refused to discuss the allegations.

    Dr Pavlos Economides, director of the Department of Veterinary Services, conceded that "conditions are terrible" at the Limassol zoo, and said his department was "not very pleased with the situation."

    He said the zoo was opened "on the basis of very old ideas - to keep the animals behind bars like in prison. Now we don't believe in that." Today, he said, "you have to care about their welfare, their habits, so they do not become neurotic. They need a place to hide."

    But for many of the zoo's animals, he said, it is too late: "The animals are neurotic" from confinement in tiny cages, on the one hand, and on the other, "they cannot be left in their natural environment... They cannot protect themselves, they cannot find food. They are completely ruined. They have become plastic."

    Dr Peponia found "many things not in good condition" in the zoo, including cramped cages. "In my opinion it's very bad. It's not the worst I've ever seen, but it's in very bad condition."

    He claimed the problems were partly due to the fact that zoo Director Lambrou was only a part-time director and veterinarian at the zoo.

    Moreover, the zoo needed more space, he said, as well as financial help from the Cyprus government. And it also needs to stop keeping large animals, and should keep only the smaller animals indigenous to Cyprus.

    Economides echoed this notion, mocking the fact that before the zoo's elephant, Julie, was put down, a facility as inadequate as the Limassol zoo actually kept so large an animal.

    He conceded that his department lacked the power to order changes at the zoo, but did have the clout to press for improvements, and had done this.

    This included offering the Limassol Municipality a large plot of land for a new zoo, Economides said. But the city lacked the money to operate such an expanded facility, with outdoors pens instead of cages for the animals, so it never moved.

    Wednesday, November 11, 1998

    [09] Two killed in head-on motorway crash

    TWO men have been killed in a motorway collision in which a car driving on the wrong side of the road apparently ploughed into an oncoming vehicle.

    Police say 19-year-old Christos Georgiou Tsangaras was driving on Monday night along the Larnaca to Dhekelia highway with his wife of four months Olga, aged 23.

    At about 10.30pm, a car driven by Christakis Charalambous, coming down the wrong side of the highway, collided with Tsangaras. Police say the accident occurred at a known black spot on the road, where cars have been known accidentally to join the wrong side of the motorway. The exact circumstances of the accident were, however, still unclear, police said.

    The cars met head-on and Tsangaras' car overturned. He was killed instantly and his wife was seriously injured.

    Critically injured Charalambous succumbed to his injuries at 5.30am at Larnaca General Hospital.

    Wednesday, November 11, 1998

    [10] Carcinogenic partridges and toxic halloumi

    REPORTS that partridges bred for release into the wild for the hunting season had a high concentration of an illegal carcinogenic chemical in their blood caused widespread concern yesterday.

    Speaking on national radio, the head of the Veterinary Service, Pavlos Economides, said that the partridges had been discovered a month ago during routine service testing.

    He said the birds had traces of Ronizatol in their system. Ronizatol is a medicine that is illegal in Cyprus and most other countries.

    Economides said the Game Service had been immediately notified and ordered not to release those partridges to be hunted. An investigation into the owner of the farm and where he got the substance from is also under way.

    Economides said the partridges had not be slaughtered as they would be fit for human consumption once the chemical had passed out of their system.

    Veterinary sources said that Ronizatol was given to partridges from when they hatched until they were 12 weeks old. It is supposed to prevent future illnesses but has proved to be dangerous.

    Meanwhile, four tons of halloumi were seized after Veterinary Service tests showed it to be infected with staphylococcus, it was announced yesterday.

    Staphylococcus is a microbe that produces poisonous toxins. The Veterinary Service stressed that none of the affected supplies had reached the market.

    Economides said the affected cheese would be destroyed in his presence or in that of other Service officials.

    Wednesday, November 11, 1998

    [11] British sirens spark panic on bases

    BRITISH forces at Akrotiri yesterday held an unannounced, but routine exercise, sparking panic among local residents who awoke to the wailing of sirens at 4.15am.

    But British Bases spokesman Rob Need told the Cyprus Mail that the exercise should not be cause for any concern.

    "The Bases have to achieve certain targets," he said, adding that a 'call- out exercise' was necessary to check how quickly military personal could reach their posts in an emergency.

    Need admitted that some local residents had been "naturally concerned", adding that no one had advance warning of this type of exercise.

    Sirens set off the exercise at 4.15am; it ended two and a half hours later.

    Wednesday, November 11, 1998

    [12] 'Human treatment key to Cyprus prison policy'

    THE HUMANE treatment of inmates is the key to Cyprus' prison policy, according to Justice Minister Nicos Koshis.

    Koshis was speaking at the opening of the Third European Conference for Co- ordinators and Directors of Prison Education in Nicosia yesterday.

    He said the humane treatment of inmates, their education and rehabilitation were linchpins of Cyprus' policy on prisons.

    Over 30 prison representatives from Europe and Israel are participating in the five-day conference. They will look at the general state of education in prisons, as well as examining special issues like the education of women prisoners, juveniles and foreign prisoners.

    In his welcoming speech, Koshis also said that Cyprus had fully harmonised with the EU acquis communautaire on prisons, and that Cypriot prisons "respect relative rules and instructions of the Council of Europe, both in terms of legislation and in terms of everyday practice".

    That the conference has been organised in Cyprus shows the island's "keep interest" in the issue of prison education, he added.

    As far as educating inmates was concerned, Education Minister Lycourgos Kappas described Cyprus as a "pioneer" in the field, with programmes in place that could serve as models for other countries.

    Cyprus has recently come under fire, both at home and abroad for its treatment of immigrants detained on the island.

    Riot police were last month caught on video brutally beating illegal immigrants detained at police holding cells in Larnaca, while the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been critical of the detention of child refugees at the Pefkos Hotel in Limassol, saying the restrictions on their movements and the lack of educational facilities were a violation of international law.

    Wednesday, November 11, 1998

    [13] Rain at last

    THE HEAVENS finally opened over Cyprus yesterday, bringing some much needed rain to the island.

    Limassol suffered traffic problems as cars stalled and power cuts put traffic lights out of action.

    Two women getting out of their car at Orphanides Supermarket had to be treated for shock when lightening struck metres away.

    Limassol's fire brigade reported 30 calls as streets and homes were flooded.

    Nicosia enjoyed the showers with no reported difficulties, while the rain in south-eastern areas was especially hard.

    Hail was also reported in some areas.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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