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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-11-15

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

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


November 15, 1998

CONTENTS

  • [01] Looking for Alba
  • [02] Prepare for a dazzling shower of stars
  • [03] Don't test our patience, warns Turkish general
  • [04] 'Greek Cypriots in Israeli spy network'
  • [05] These men are Mossad: the evidence
  • [06] Tourists unfazed by rising tension

  • [01] Looking for Alba

    By Anthony O. Miller

    CARRIE HUTTON is trying to jettison some baggage. And she's looking for a good maid, too. In the wreckage of Honduras.

    It was 1990 when Carrie went in hock. Callow and content in her Latin idyll, she did not know it was happening. She'd been married for two years and life was still hopeful, divorce not yet on the cards.

    Amid the palms and powdered-sugar sands, the warm sea and wet Honduran heat, "my day was the same, day in, day out," she recalled. Their maid, Alba Umanzon, minded life's daily cares.

    Carrie and Phil woke and ate breakfast together, parting only until noon. She went to the gym. He went off to pay for it all at his high-powered job with a tobacco giant.

    She swam in the sea and lay in the sun until he came home for lunch. With him back at work, she watched TV and took a Spanish class. They ate dinner out and socialised. Tanned, blonde and trim today, it's clear she loved the beach life back then.

    "I certainly was aware of my privileged life over there," Carrie said. But paradise also had "cockroaches, tarantulas, rats" and industrial San Pedro Sula was hot and hellishly humid.

    "I was there for two years... and I moaned and I bitched," not least because "it was too hot, too humid to play tennis," she recalled across the black oak conference table of Ashburton Cyprus Ltd in Nicosia. At 31, she's the marketing manager there.

    "I wasn't sorry to leave... (this) very sad, very poor, and very, very humid country," Carrie said. "I saw people poorer than I've ever seen in my life." One was a woman, 27, who lived with three children in a cardboard box.

    While not indifferent to the country's poor, Carrie was not Mother Teresa either: "I didn't make any huge contribution" to Honduras she admits, self- mockingly stressing the word 'huge'. But then she seldom saw much poverty in her very middle-class British upbringing.

    But two weeks ago, Hurricane Mitch clawed Central America to rubble, killing thousands and leaving millions homeless and hungry. The TV footage horrified Carrie: "I've seen it poor; I've not seen it dying, as it is now."

    The footage also tapped memories of her life there, some conscious, others formed without her knowing it. And they spurred this woman, who is kinetic energy incarnate, to new directions.

    She began trawling Internet websites for Honduras. A real estate developer in Dallas, Texas, she swapped electronic yarns with asked if she wanted to go back. She said yes, and Dan Ashton bought her a plane ticket. She leaves on November 27.

    "I didn't have to go back; I want to go back," she said, "because I did nothing while I was there... nothing for the country except look after my housemaid."

    She admits she feels "responsible for these people because I didn't do more when I was there. I was a much more self-centred, selfish person than I am now. So I think I've grown up through the years."

    When Carrie arrives in Honduras, she hopes to be carrying trunks full of medical supplies, kids' clothing and blankets she is trying to collect in Cyprus. British Airways has agreed not to charge her for this extra relief baggage.

    She said she is dragging the supplies with her because "I telephoned the (Cyprus) Red Cross, and I was very disappointed. I asked them 'What are you doing?' and they said 'Nothing'."

    Carrie and local lawyer Stelios Triantafyllides are trying to organise a method to allow Cypriots and expatriates alike to make financial contributions to the international aid effort helping Central America recover from Hurricane Mitch.

    What will this businesswoman, after six years of comfort in Cyprus, do when she ends her 8,000-mile flight into Hell, and finds herself again in the same hot, humid jungle she fled? "I couldn't answer that," she said, "not until I get there."

    "I'm not a nurse, not a surgeon, not a master builder, not a dietician. I haven't got a particular skill" that rebuilds a wrecked country. "I have a great desire to help, (and) very, very sound Spanish, and know the culture and the people."

    So Carrie said she does not care if, during her six days in Honduras - it was all the time she could get off from work - all she does is boil water to make it potable, or "change nappies".

    "They had next to nothing. Now they have nothing at all. They need all the basic stuff that you wouldn't even contemplate not having," she said, such as, "all the things in one's bathroom medicine cabinet that you or I take for granted".

    As for her ex-maid, Alba Umanzon: "I can't find her," Carrie said, "but she's my first target when I get there. I've asked people out there to try to track her down. I don't think she's dead," she said hopefully, adding as if to reassure herself: Alba is "too poor for a phone".

    Asked what's in her Honduran quest for her, Carrie was uncharacteristically thrown for a moment: "Actually I hadn't thought about... what it's going to do for me. I don't care what it does for me. That's not why I'm doing it. I'm not doing it for me."

    That is surely true, in terms of who does the giving and who does the getting in the wreckage of storm-torn Honduras. But chances are that Carrie Hutton will return to Cyprus with a lot less baggage than she left with.

    November 15, 1998

    [02] Prepare for a dazzling shower of stars

    By Anthony O. Miller

    A SPECTACULAR shower of shooting stars, among the century's most brilliant, will have Cypriots staring skyward on Tuesday night as the Earth enters "a river of stones" from the Tempel-Tuttle comet.

    Millions of people in the northern hemisphere will be craning their necks as thousands of meteors stream from the constellation Leo to flash and flame-out like doomed fireflies as they pass through the Earth's atmosphere.

    As earth fully enters the comet's ribbon of rocks, the silent light from millions of burning space specks will start streaking across Cyprus at around 9.30pm on Tuesday and could last until well after 2am on Wednesday morning.

    The "radiant", the point in the sky from which the shooting stars appear to be coming, will be in the northeast, over the Pentadactylos mountains, according to Ioannis Fakas, honourary president of the Cyprus Astronomical Association.

    The best viewing will be in the countryside, away from city lights. Some star gazers say peak viewing will be between 1 and 2am early on Wednesday morning, November 18, when the constellation Leo is above the horizon and climbing high in the eastern sky.

    The space stones from Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle stretch in a ribbon hundreds of millions of kilometres long, and 35,000 km thick at its narrowest, densest point.

    Because of their enormous speed (71 kilometres, or 44 miles, per second), the dying meteorites glow brilliantly. They may leave luminous blue- or green-tinged vapour trails hanging in the upper air for more than five minutes.

    Humans have nothing to fear from the extra-terrestrial visitors. But governments and businesses are not so lucky and will be holding their collective breaths, as the meteor shower could cost them plenty.

    A chunk of the comet, racing many times faster than a bullet, can destroy a spy- or communications satellite in a collision. The magnetic fields the speeding stones generate can also throw off the satellites' delicate electronics, rendering them useless.

    Either scenario could cause chaos with telephone and television systems, the Internet, and phone pagers, all of which depend on satellites. "All that is possible," Lt-Colonel Don Jewel, deputy chief scientist with the US Space Command, told the Times in London.

    Nasa has grounded America's Space Shuttles, and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California has turned the Hubble Space Telescope away from the direction of possible impacts from the speeding projectiles.

    The Americans have tried to minimise the dangers, and the fears, terming the risk of a collision "elevated, but not serious." However, in 1993, impact with a meteorite did destroy the European Space Agency's Olympus satellite.

    Fakas said he planned to dip his telescope into the comet's "river of stones" from a Paralimni rooftop, where his view of the fireworks will not be blocked by the Kyrenia Range.

    People in China and Southeast Asia will have the best views. Astronomers from the US Air Force and from Canada will be watching from respective camps in Mongolia's Gobi Desert and Australia's Outback.

    Using radar and an optical telescope, the US skywatchers will send real- time data to a US Air Force website to help satellite operators take extra precautions if the meteor shower becomes a fully-fledged storm.

    The Tempel-Tuttle Comet has pelted the Earth with space rocks every year since at least the 10th century. The barrage only becomes a storm every 33 years or so, when the Earth crosses the comet's path just before or after the comet has passed.

    The comet's last big meteor storm occurred in 1966, when a mind-boggling 150,000 shooting stars per hour blazed into the atmosphere. However, as this total was spread over the entire earth, individuals are unlikely to have seen more than about 40 shooting stars per hour, a little less than one per minute.

    Back in 1966, there were very few satellites in orbit and commerce did not depend on them. Today, more than 500 satellites circle the Earth, and a great deal of the planet's communications depends on them.

    Not only are satellites menaced by hundreds of thousands of visible space rocks, an even larger number of invisible particles from the comet are believed to be capable of doing great damage.

    These are made of carbon-based materials, which neither burn up on entering the atmosphere nor are detectable to radar. And some space scientists theorise these undetectable space stones threaten to be an obstacle to mankind's exploitation of space.

    People taking to the countryside's darkness to watch the show should wear warm clothing. And they might take a reclining lawn chair to allow lying back comfortably while watching.

    Those who miss this year's extravaganza will have other chances in 1999 and 2000. Then it's another 33 years until the next one.

    November 15, 1998

    [03] Don't test our patience, warns Turkish general

    TURKEY yesterday issued a stern warning to Cyprus not to test its patience over the tension-raising S-300 missile deal.

    "All weapons that will be brought to south Cyprus will cease to exist when a clash breaks out," Turkey's deputy Chief of Staff, General Hilmi Ozkok, said yesterday.

    He was in the occupied north to mark today's 15th anniversary of the self- declared 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'.

    The general said that Turkey would not hesitate to strike the missiles if they were deployed on the island.

    "I advise Greece and the Greek Cypriots to cease testing Turkey's determinations on this issue," he said.

    Meanwhile, the government is not ruling out the possibility that the controversial Russian S-300 missiles may be stationed in Crete rather than Cyprus.

    Although the government insists that the National Council decision postponing the arrival of the missiles until later this year has not changed, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides suggested yesterday that other options are being weighed.

    Asked during a Radio Proto interview about reports linking the missiles to Crete as a face-saving option in the light of EU and American pressure to have the deal scrapped, Cassoulides said: "It is not completely groundless or exactly accurate. The truth is somewhere in the middle."

    Cassoulides made his comments about the missiles before the Turkish general's latest threats.

    Local media have speculated all week on the final destination of the missiles amid growing suspicion that the Greek government will be left with the responsibility of what to do with them because Nicosia has misjudged international reaction to the $227 million deal.

    One alternative being touted is for the surface-to-air missiles to go to Crete and Greece providing medium range missiles for Cyprus to bolster its air defences instead.

    President Clerides' meeting with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in Athens on November 27 is when the final decision is expected to be made.

    Clerides has tried to play down the importance of his meeting with Simitis, saying it is a matter of routine rather than specifically about the missiles.

    But Cassoulides confirmed yesterday that the S-300s would be on the agenda for the Clerides-Simitis talks in Athens.

    November 15, 1998

    [04] 'Greek Cypriots in Israeli spy network'

    By Charlie Charalambous

    GREEK Cypriots reportedly belonged to an espionage network which fed information to the two Israeli nationals arrested as spy suspects.

    According to a story in yesterday's Machi newspaper, billed as an exclusive, the security forces were told by the Israeli suspects that they had been helped by Greek Cypriots.

    The paper claims that two Cypriots fed information about National Guard weapons systems and installations in Limassol and Larnaca not only to Mossad but also to Britain's MI6.

    Machi said intelligence sources have confirmed the allegation that a Greek Cypriot businessman was involved in a spy network, and added that the matter is under investigation.

    Israelis Udi Argov, 37, and Ig'al Damari, 49, were remanded for eight days last Saturday by a Larnaca district court, suspected of espionage. They are expected in court again today when police will request a further remand order.

    When their Zygi apartment was raided last Saturday morning, high-tech surveillance equipment (including scanners, discs, and a lap-top computer) was found tuned into police and army radio frequencies.

    Police believe the Israelis were spying against the National Guard.

    One scenario being investigated is that the suspects were trying to ascertain whether any parts of the S-300 missile system had arrived in Cyprus, especially the radar which would have the capability to monitor Israeli military movements.

    The fact that Russian technicians could man S-300 missile radar sites in Cyprus is also of concern to Israel, whose air force co-operates with Turkey under the military alliance between the two countries.

    But before any espionage charges can be brought against the two, the completed case file must be sent to Attorney-general Alecos Markides to decide if there is enough evidence to make such charges stick.

    Police hope to complete their investigation by the end of next week, but before then an expert from Greece will try to crack encoded material contained on discs found in the raid on the flat.

    Earlier this week Justice Minister Nicos Koshis confirmed that the surveillance equipment found was highly sophisticated.

    Media reports this week from Israel - based on intelligence sources - claiming the two suspects were acting as 'electronic look-outs' for a Mossad meeting in Zygi have not been commented on officially, but the Cyprus authorities are known to be sceptical of this explanation as to why they were there.

    November 15, 1998

    [05] These men are Mossad: the evidence

    MANY tell-tale signs suggest the two Israelis arrested in Zygi last weekend are members of Mossad, and not the teachers on holiday they profess to be.

    1. The suspects' previous visit before their arrest on November 7 was between October 15 and 22, coinciding exactly with the Nikiforos manoeuvres.

    2. It has been reported that the two visited Cyprus six times in the past two years, and on different passports which were most probably fake.

    3. Last Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to bring the Israeli nationals home. A strange pledge to make unless the people concerned were either hostages or Mossad agents.

    4. The Israeli government has failed to deny that Argov and Damari belong to Mossad.

    5. Israeli President Ezer Weizman sent his right-hand man Arieh Shumer with a "message of friendship" to President Clerides on Monday. Its contents were not made public, but their meeting certainly focused on the 'spying' incident. Such a meeting would not have been necessary if the suspects were not Mossad agents. After all, Weizman had just paid a state visit to the island.

    6. When asked by an influential Israeli paper why such a fuss was being made over two Israeli nationals, Shumer said he was on a "humanitarian mission" on behalf of the families. When asked if the families had actually contacted the president's office for help, he said "no".

    7. The duo were represented by a single Cypriot lawyer at the first remand hearing in Larnaca. Now they have three Cypriot lawyers and a top Israeli lawyer on the case. If the Israeli government is not paying for them, then they must have very wealthy families.

    8. Israeli lawyer Reuven Bachar, who was in Cyprus for two days this week, works for the top Tel Aviv law firm Horowitz which is headed by Amnon Goldenberg, who has acted as the government's 'Mr Fix-It' in secret service affairs.

    9. Equipment found by police in the suspects' Zygi flat is described as highly sophisticated and of a type used in surveillance or espionage. It is said that only three countries - Israel, the US and Britain - actually have such equipment.

    10. Police said the two were monitoring army, police and shipping frequencies. This means they presumably also speak Greek.

    11. It is also understood that the Israeli suspects had knowledge of weapons site locations that only the upper echelons of the National Guard are privy to.

    12. Neighbours in Zygi said the two hardly ever left their flat to see the sights or go sunbathing. They were also spotted monitoring army movements and loitering near National Guard camps.

    13. They returned to Zygi in November only days after Weizman had left and only weeks after the government had said it would build a naval base there.

    14. The Israeli foreign ministry on Wednesday only clarified that they were not spying against Cyprus or on behalf of Turkey.

    15. Information about the two suspects released to the Israeli press has been sparse. If they were common criminals this would not have been the case.

    16. Cyprus police have boosted security around all sensitive military installations following the incident.

    November 15, 1998

    [06] Tourists unfazed by rising tension

    By Andrew Adamides

    DESPITE increased tension in the region, Cypriots are still travelling to Israel, local tourism representatives said yesterday.

    On Thursday, more than 600 British tourists cut short their holiday in Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat on the advice of the Foreign Office in London. Britain, the US and Canada have all issued travel warnings in case Iraq retaliates if it comes under attack.

    Cyprus Airways spokesman Tassos Angelis said yesterday the airline's special one-day breaks to Israel are still running and that there are no plans to drop them. Everything was continuing "as usual", he said.

    Louis Tours, which offers popular weekend cruises to Israel, also said everything was running as normal. They were not issuing warnings, they said, and the cruise line's ships are still departing for Israel every Saturday.

    The Cyprus News Agency (CNA) quoted a Ministry of Defence spokesman in London on Friday as saying the bases in Cyprus are already "on a very high state of alert".

    This was in case they were required to act as staging posts for moving supplies in case the situation with Iraq worsens. But bases spokesman Rob Need told The Sunday Mail yesterday that although the bases did not confirm or deny such statements on principle, "nothing has changed" at the bases, and they were "neither more nor less prepared".

    Baghdad announced on October 31 that it was suspending all co-operation with United Nations weapons inspectors and would it only reconsider if the UN lifted sanctions imposed after the Gulf War of 1991 and removed Richard Butler from his position as chief of the UN commission overseeing the destruction of Iraq's prohibited arms.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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