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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-11-21

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

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


Saturday, November 21, 1998

CONTENTS

  • [01] Clerides asks Michaelides to quit
  • [02] Two charged and kept in police custody
  • [03] Symillides pardoned and released
  • [04] Ex-deputy Prentzas dies after heart attack
  • [05] Government backs down on municipality funding
  • [06] Cypriot could face death penalty over wife's Dubai death
  • [07] Rolandis ultimatum to Hilton board
  • [08] Doctors step up strike action
  • [09] Amer ponders action over leaked S-300 poll
  • [10] More violations as Turks step up war games
  • [11] Clinton report 'rejects' confederation proposal
  • [12] Cyprus to switch currency peg to Euro on Jan 1
  • [13] Accountants protest appointment of 'unqualified' Auditor-general
  • [14] Drug dealer jailed for three years
  • [15] Insurance premiums not affected by new law

  • [01] Clerides asks Michaelides to quit

    By Jean Christou

    INTERIOR Minister Dinos Michaelides, dogged by allegations of corruption which won't go away, has been asked to resign by President Clerides, the Cyprus Mail has learned.

    Sigma TV reported late last night that Michaelides had submitted his resignation to Clerides during a meeting which lasted two and a half hours between minister and president earlier in the evening.

    The hush-hush meeting took place after an extraordinary sitting of the Council of Ministers which ended at around 6pm.

    The reported resignation of Michaelides was believed to have followed a ruling by Attorney-general Alecos Markides to appoint an independent criminal investigator to look into the allegations against the minister.

    But Presidential Palace sources told the Cyprus Mail that Clerides asked Michaelides earlier in the week to resign, even before Markides had completed his report. Markides' ruling is based on the Auditor-general's probe into the minister's financial affairs.

    It is believed the Markides report was handed over to the president yesterday afternoon, but no official confirmation was given by the government.

    According to reports, Markides' driver was seen pulling up to the Presidential Palace early in the afternoon, taking something inside and leaving a few minutes later.

    The extraordinary Council of Ministers meeting began at around 4pm but all cabinet members except Michaelides left the Palace around 6pm.

    Government spokesman Christos Stylianides categorically denied that Markides' ruling had been the topic of the extraordinary cabinet session or that any decision on Michaelides had been taken.

    He said the cabinet had met to discuss some urgent issues before President Clerides leaves for his trip to London and Athens tomorrow. However, Stylianides did not deny that the Markides ruling was in the hands of the palace.

    It is believed Clerides asked Michaelides to stay behind after the cabinet session to discuss the Attorney-general's ruling.

    Two and a half hours later the tete-a-tete finished with both president and minister declining to comment to the press.

    The Auditor-general's initial probe into Michaelides' affairs was prompted after 14 corruption allegations were levelled at him by Disy deputy Christos Pourgourides some months ago.

    They include accusations that the minister received luxury flats for political favours, owned property beyond his means on a minister's salary, issued nationality to foreigners for cash and changed planning zones to assist those with whom he had property dealings.

    Earlier this week at the House Watchdog Committee, Pourgourides launched a fresh attack charging the minister on 30 counts of deception in his attempts to shake off the corruption allegations.

    Michaelides denies all the accusations against him.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [02] Two charged and kept in police custody

    Judge rejects plea for spy suspects to go to Israeli embassy

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A LARNACA court yesterday refused Israel's request that two of its nationals charged with spying against Cyprus be released on bail and handed over to its embassy.

    "The Israeli Foreign Ministry gives such instructions when the government believes the suspects are innocent. And we are certain we can guarantee their appearance in court," said Israeli consul Michel Harel.

    "As a representative of the state of Israel, I'm responsible for them and will abide by the terms the court sets," Harel said in arguing for embassy custody of the accused. He added that the Israeli Foreign Ministry was ready to meet any level of bail set by the court.

    But Larnaca district court judge Tefkros Economou dismissed the request for Udi Argov, 37, and Ig'al Damari, 49, to be released on bail, saying there was no guarantee they would appear at the criminal court on December 8 to enter a plea, despite Israel's assurances.

    He said the question had to be raised as to what would happen if the accused refused to leave the embassy to return to court. "Once the accused are out of Cyprus Republic jurisdiction there is a danger because the diplomatic mission can't force the accused to attend (court)," Economou said. The accused were remanded in police custody pending trial on December 8.

    Back in 1991 a Nicosia court decided differently when it allowed the Israeli embassy custody of four Israelis who were arrested trying to bug the Iranian embassy. They were later charged with criminal trespass and fined 500 each.

    Yesterday's hearing was marked by unprecedented security measures and the presence of the crack Special Anti-terrorist Squad who patrolled the courthouse inside and out.

    Earlier yesterday, Argov and Damari were officially charged before the district court with spying against Cyprus, conspiracy to commit espionage and possessing banned listening devices.

    "The accused, between October 15 and November 6, collected information in Zygi with the aim of harming the security and or interests of the Cyprus Republic," police prosecutor Sotiris Kokkinos said, reading out the charges.

    He added: "The accused collected information on the defence of the republic and passed this on to a foreign country through a computer." Spying carries a maximum prison sentence of ten years.

    The second charge concerned the possession of three scanners without a permit from the Ministry of Communications and Works, and the third referred to conspiracy to commit a spying offence, at the same time and place as the first charge.

    Police have said the scanners were connected to army and police frequencies, while a lap-top computer, linked to the phone network, sent messages which were immediately erased. The court heard that police also found two mobile phones at the Zygi flat used by the two accused. One phone had a subscription card registered in Holland and the other in the UK.

    The high-tech equipment was found in the flat when police raided it on November 7. Zygi is the site of a planned naval base announced by President Clerides last month.

    Once the charges were read out the case file was handed to the judge who, after a short recess, agreed to a prosecution request to refer the case directly to a criminal court, which sits in Larnaca next month.

    "Examining all the material, there is strong evidence which warrants a trial without the need for a pre-hearing," Economou said.

    But lengthy legal arguments followed when the three Cypriot defence lawyers objected to a prosecution demand that the accused remain in Cyprus police custody until the next court appearance.

    State counsel George Papaioannou said the seriousness of the case, the strong possibility of a conviction and the length of sentence should be a good enough reason for the two not to turn up if released on bail.

    "There is a danger they will not appear for the trial," said Papaioannou during his request against bail being set.

    The prosecution lawyer then argued the strength of the evidence against the two Israelis, which he believed would lead to a conviction. "A map found in the flat of the accused had circles referring to military interests and we have an expert witness who will testify on this," said Papaioannou.

    Although the Israelis deny the surveillance equipment belonged to them, Papaioannou said the prosecution had a witness to verify that it had been in their possession.

    "These two described themselves as tourists. I wonder how a tourist can justify possession of electronic equipment of very high technology," said Papaioannou.

    Further backing the prosecution's bid to keep the two detained in police custody, he said: "The first accused (Argov) has refused to give his home address during questioning."

    Harel, the Israeli consul, was then called to the stand by the defence to appeal for the Israelis to be released on bail to the embassy in Nicosia.

    Asked what assurances he could give that the accused would not flee, Harel told the court: "I'm certain there will be nothing like that, because the state of Israel guarantees their appearance and there is no way they won't attend because relations between Cyprus and Israel would be affected."

    Defence lawyer Andis Triantafyllides said the prosecution's evidence was "flimsy" and he could see nothing that suggested the accused were spies. He also complained of media bias which had, he said, already "condemned" the accused and affected their chance of an objective trial.

    During yesterday's court proceedings, Israeli lawyer Reuven Bachar was present as an observer and was seen chatting to the accused.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [03] Symillides pardoned and released

    A LIMASSOL man jailed for nine years in 1997 for his part in the attempted murder of a Larnaca club owner was partying at home last night after being secretly released from prison yesterday.

    Tassos Symillides, 29, was granted a presidential pardon on Thursday and released under heavy police security yesterday.

    He had served less than 18 months of his sentence.

    Under the terms of his release Symillides, who confessed to police that he was the motorbike driver in the shooting of club owner Antonis Fanieros in May 1997, will leave Cyprus for an unnamed country for his own protection.

    Speaking from a mobile phone, Symillides last night told Antenna TV, which filmed his release from Nicosia Central Prisons, that he was thrilled to be free and thanked Justice Minister Nicos Koshis and CID chief Nathaniel Papageorgiou.

    "For security reasons I can't tell you what country I'm going to," Symillides told Antenna adding that he still feared for his life.

    Police spokesman Glafcos Xenos told the Cyprus Mail last night that Symillides was a "protected witness in the Aeorporos case".

    "He has a presidential pardon after the suggestion of the Attorney-general, " Xenos said but suggested he himself had not known about Symillides release until he had seen the Antenna 8.30pm news.

    In his confession to police Symillides had implicated the three notorious Aeroporos brothers from Kolossi in the drive-by shooting of Fanieros, 57, outside his club late in the evening of May 29, 1997.

    Symillides named Panicos Aeroporos, 25, as the shooter on the night of the incident. He also implicated brothers Hambis 35 and Andros 30 in the shooting. Andros himself was gunned down in August this year outside a Limassol cabaret in what is thought to be a continuous underworld battle for control of the island's lucrative gambling, prostitution and drugs rackets. His killers have not been found. Hambis too has been a target but survived an attempt on his life several years ago.

    All three brothers were brought to trial in the Fanieros case but were acquitted earlier this year prompting Attorney-general Alecos Markides to lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court.

    However Markides withdrew his appeal only this week under circumstances which have not been explained.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [04] Ex-deputy Prentzas dies after heart attack

    SOCIALIST Edek member and former deputy Renos Prentzas died suddenly of a heart attack late yesterday afternoon at the age of 53.

    Prentzas, who made his last public appearance at the

    a conference of Edek's union wing Deok, was rushed to Nicosia's Apollonia clinic at 6.30pm where he was pronounced dead on arrival. State TV said he suffered the heart attack at 6.20pm.

    Originally from Larnaca, Prentzas served in different posts within Edek and was elected a deputy in 1991, serving in parliament until 1996.

    Edek leader Vassos Lyssarides was last night said to be too upset to speak about Prentzas' death. The party has suspended all its activities for the weekend.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [05] Government backs down on municipality funding

    By Jean Christou

    THE GOVERNMENT has backed down in its standoff with cash-strapped municipalities, agreeing to an immediate 2 million injection of capital as the first step in a longer-term emergency package to bail out local authorities.

    In addition to the cash to cover immediate shortfalls, the government also approved a series of financial measures to help the 26 municipalities in 1999, until a new deal for calculating their share of state funds can be drawn up.

    The announcement was made yesterday after a meeting between representatives of the Union of Municipalities and President Clerides. Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou, Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides and Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades also attended.

    Nicosia Mayor Lellos Demetriades, who is chairman of the Union, had threatened the government with open warfare unless the funding procedures were changed.

    Christodoulou had for his part insisted that no extra cash was available for local government.

    "It seems the government went back and considered what we said," Demetriades told the Cyprus Mail after yesterday's meeting.

    Under the agreement reached, the municipalities will in 1999 receive the entire amount collected in property tax, instead of the current half of the amount.

    "Now, it will be more realistic and fairer... The government is moving towards the right direction," Demetriades said.

    In addition to extra revenue from property taxes, the municipalities will in 1999 also receive a portion of the government's revenue from road taxes, while discussions begin on the possibility of changing the formula used to calculate the total share of state funds earmarked for local government.

    The figure currently stands at 0.4 per cent, after being increased in 1996 from 0.3 per cent.

    The municipalities hope the figure can at least be doubled to one per cent. This would still be only around one quarter of the EU average, and less than half the proportion currently received by Greek municipalities - the lowest subsidised in the 15-member European Union.

    Demetriades said the Mayors were satisfied with the deal, but that it was neither more nor less than expected.

    "The important things are that there was an emergency payout. This is good, " Demetriades said.

    But he was bitter at the way the municipalities had been treated: "The government is not taking us into serious consideration, and the argument put forward in government newspapers to create ill-feeling by saying there will be more taxes (to fund higher municipal subsidies) has now gone overboard."

    "We said no more taxes. (What we want) is a fairer administration and distribution of the money the government collects from the people."

    Earlier in the week, Demetriades had called on the government to live up to its financial obligations towards municipalities or resign.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [06] Cypriot could face death penalty over wife's Dubai death

    By Anthony O. Miller

    ZAHARIAS Kolokasi, 40, of Ayios Dometios was arrested yesterday in Dubai on suspicion of murdering his wife, Dina, 44, who was the subject of an international missing-person search, Cyprus police said yesterday.

    If convicted of the charge of murder, Kolokasi could face the death penalty in the Gulf emirate, Cyprus Police Spokesman Glafcos Xenos said.

    Xenos said that, according to Dubai police, Kolokasi confessed yesterday during interrogation to having fatally struck his wife on the head with a rock during an argument.

    The suspect was arrested after ignoring a request to appear at police headquarters on Thursday for questioning about his wife's whereabouts. Instead, he tried to flee Dubai on a flight back to Cyprus with the couple's three children, Xenos said.

    Dubai police found Dina Kolokasi's body on Wednesday on the grounds of the Cyprus construction company for which Zaharias worked in the emirate, Xenos said. After connecting the discovery with an Interpol query about her disappearance, they ordered her husband in for questioning.

    Dina Kolokasi went missing on November 1. The concern of her brother, Tasos Papatheoharous, and sister, Androulla Demetriou, about her whereabouts led them to seek police help on November 10, Xenos said.

    The siblings became suspicious of foul play after learning that Zaharias had told friends differing stories about her absence, including that she had died suddenly of kidney cancer and was buried in the family's London cemetery plot; that she died of a brain haemorrhage; and that she had left him, Police CID Deputy Division Commander Charalambos Argyrou said.

    After Interpol in London determined the London death-and-burial story was false, Xenos said, the investigation shifted to Dubai.

    Cyprus Police said they had notified the dead woman's brother and sister, and the suspect's mother, of his arrest, and that all three had expressed concern about the couple's three children.

    According to Cornelius Corneliou, director of the office of the Foreign Ministry's director-general, Cyprus had sought help from the British High Commission with Dubai authorities, as the Republic has no embassy or consulate in that Gulf emirate.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [07] Rolandis ultimatum to Hilton board

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE NICOSIA Hilton's board of directors has one week to decide whether to accept the Cabinet's choice for chairman of the board, Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis said yesterday.

    The board got the ultimatum yesterday in a meeting with President Glafcos Clerides and Rolandis, who said they also discussed the board's reaction to an investigation into millions of pounds in questionable spending at the government-owned hotel.

    The board's decision on its new chairman "must reach us within a week, so that at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers we shall decide finally about the matter," Rolandis said.

    "In other words," he said, "the ministers on the second of December will take into account the report of the man I appointed (to investigate the spending), the various replies given (by those investigated), and the reply of the board regarding the chairman. Then we shall have a final decision on the second of December."

    Rolandis declined to say what the Council of Ministers might do if the hotel board insisted on keeping the chairman it recently elected, Marios Pelides, instead of accepting the Council's choice, Byron Kranidiotis.

    However, a source familiar with the issues, who requested anonymity, said the hotel board's charter allowed the majority stockholder - the government - to call an extraordinary general meeting at any time, and replace the entire board if it wishes.

    The government owns 82 per cent of the shares in the Cyprus Tour Development Company (CTDC), which owns the Nicosia Hilton. The hotel is operated by Hilton International, which is owned British gambling giant Ladbrokes.

    Rolandis said the Council of Ministers "could not file a report" on whether 9 million in public funds were overspent in a 16-million construction project at the luxury hotel.

    This is "because we (in the Commerce Ministry) do not have the competent staff to decide on that... This would have to be done by the Ministry of Communications and Works," he said.

    The meeting yesterday also "looked into all other allegations" about misuse of public funds at the hotel. "Quite a few were unsubstantiated," Rolandis said, without elaborating.

    A report stemming from his ministry's investigation of the allegations, and leaked to the press, noted that companies owned by former CTDC chairman Andreas Kaisis had bid on at least three hotel contracts, worth over 500, 000, while Kaisis was chairman.

    Kaisis companies - despite not being the lowest bidders - won two of the tenders, worth over 400,000, for television sets and renovation of the hotel's kitchen, the report noted.

    The report also found that under Kaisis' chairmanship, the CTDC board had spent 25,000 to prepare an agreement regarding building a casino alongside the Hilton Hotel, even before the government had passed legislation permitting casinos in Cyprus.

    A source who declined to be identified said a member of a company's board should not allow businesses he owns to bid on contracts with that board's company.

    While noting that Kaisis was not present when the CTDC board awarded the contracts for the Hilton's new television sets and kitchen renovations, the source declared: "this again does not make much difference."

    As to the CTDC board's claim in the report that it relied on the advice of technical consultants in awarding contracts to tendering companies, the source noted consultants could tailor the requirements of a tender to "suit one person's supply position."

    The 16 million construction project added a new wing with 84 rooms and renovated the remaining older section of the Hilton Hotel. But it deepened the hotel's debt, while other hotels in Nicosia - notably the Holiday Inn and the Forum Intercontinental - were grabbing up a major share of the luxury hotel market.

    The extra rooms are believed to have been built for the high-rollers expected to flock to the Hilton with the Casino that Kaisis said he hoped to build on land adjacent to the hotel.

    However, three years since the new wing's opening, the Nicosia Hilton is some 12 million in debt, has no casino but lots of empty rooms, and faces stiff competition from other five-star hotels, or four-star offering five- star service. Some say it has priced itself out of the market.

    The Council of Ministers has provisionally approved allowing casinos in Cyprus, but no legislation has yet been submitted to the House of Representatives.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [08] Doctors step up strike action

    By Martin Hellicar

    HOSPITALS and rural health centres ground to a virtual halt yesterday as government doctors came out on a 24-hour strike demanding more money and recognition of their breakaway union.

    There were no reports of patients going untreated, with back-up medical teams seeing the few people that did turn up at hospitals.

    The prospect of further disruption loomed large however, as Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou dug his heels in and again insisted he would not talk with the striking doctors' union, Pasyki, because it did not, by law, represent the doctors.

    Pasyki, formed in June after all but a handful of government doctors abandoned civil servants' union Pasydy, is threatening indefinite strike action from December 1 if the government does not accept to talk.

    Pasyki secretary Chrysoulis Christofi said the union executive committee would be meeting today to decide on further strike action.

    "We will certainly call an indefinite strike at some time, but even before that there may be further measures," he said.

    Doctors were mindful of the disruption caused by strikes, but the government had left them with no other choice, Christofi said, sticking to the Pasyki line of blaming the authorities for the strike.

    "We are aware of the consequences (of strike action), but what surprises us is how thick-skinned the relevant authority is being by not wanting to admit the realities and come to the negotiating table."

    Christodoulou stuck to his guns, repeating that as Pasyki members had not officially resigned from Pasydy, the civil servants' union remained the recognised interlocutor.

    "The law states that, to form a union, its members must have resigned from the other union three months beforehand. This has not taken place. I cannot break the law (by talking to Pasyki)," he said.

    Christodoulou said he had a ruling from the Attorney-general backing up his position.

    Pasyki chairman Stavros Stavrou said he had a ruling from the Attorney- general's office stating the government was obliged to talk to any union representing the majority of a body of workers.

    Ninety-eight percent of state doctors have joined Pasyki.

    Stavrou maintains the doctors are only still registered with Pasydy to enable Pasyki to take legal action to gain their share of Pasydy assets.

    The strikers want higher wages, bigger pensions, increases in overtime pay and improvements in the way the Health Service is run.

    Christodoulou said he did not believe the public would want the government to "back down" in the face of strike threats from civil servants.

    House President Spyros Kyprianou, who on Thursday vowed to try to get both sides to the negotiating table, appeared to be taking a step back from the dispute yesterday.

    "The issues are delicate, we may have some movement by Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday but I don't want to give anyone the impression that I am trying to compromise any minister's chance of intervening," he said.

    Widespread media coverage of the doctors' strike and a four-hour warning strike on Thursday meant few patients went to hospitals yesterday.

    "There were no particular problems, people knew there was a strike and were not going to first aid in large numbers," medical services director Constantinos Malis said.

    Those patients going to hospital were seen by back-up teams and referred to private doctors as necessary, with the state footing the bill for those entitled to free health care.

    Christofi said a small number of patients were admitted to hospital and provision was also made to ensure care for in-patients.

    "No patient has been put in danger," the union man said.

    The Movement for Patient Rights issued a statement yesterday evening condemning both the doctors for striking and the government for refusing to negotiate with Pasyki.

    "A doctors' strike amounts to a suspension of the Hippocratic oath," the movement protested. "But neither can the government refuse dialogue with an organised unit by citing legalistic reasons," the statement added.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [09] Amer ponders action over leaked S-300 poll

    By Martin Hellicar

    AMER WANTS to put the Simerini newspaper in the dock for publishing the results of a confidential survey the research company carried out for governing Disy.

    In a front-page story earlier this week, the daily revealed that a nationwide poll conducted last month had indicated that almost half the population felt President Clerides should resign if the S-300 missiles are not deployed in Cyprus.

    Simerini failed to credit Amer for conducting the survey.

    "We have lodged a complaint with police over the publication, because the survey was our intellectual property and the paper's action was illegal and amounted to theft," Haris Papageorgiou, of Amer, told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    Papageorgiou said the company were also considering suing the paper for leaking the survey's findings.

    "This was a confidential survey for a specific customer," he said, though he shied away from revealing who the poll had been conducted for.

    The Cyprus Mail has established that the survey was conducted for Disy and its findings handed only to two top officials within the party.

    Papageorgiou did not wish to speculate on how Simerini might have got hold of the poll.

    The paper declined to comment on their publication of the survey yesterday, while police said they were investigating Amer's complaint.

    The broadsheet newspaper devoted a whole inside page to the findings of the survey in addition to space on its front page.

    According to the Simerini report, 48.4 per cent of the 1,001 people polled by Amer said Clerides should step down if the controversial S-300 missiles did not arrive on the island.

    The survey showed 39.8 per cent of the population felt Clerides should stay on even if the missiles did not come, while 11.9 per cent of those polled did not express an opinion on the matter. The poll also showed that three quarters of the population wanted the S-300s to be deployed.

    The government has been put under increasing pressure not to bring the Russian ground-to-air missiles by the US and EU in recent months. Turkey has threatened a military strike to take out the missiles should they ever be deployed, and the Americans and Europeans have expressed fears the arrival of the missiles could completely derail the Cyprus peace process.

    Delivery of the missiles has already been put off for at least three months.

    Clerides is to discuss the S-300s with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in Athens on November 27 amid rumours that the missiles might be deployed in Crete as a compromise solution.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [10] More violations as Turks step up war games

    TURKISH fighter jets again violated Cyprus air space yesterday as Turkish naval vessels hit mock targets during military exercises in the north.

    On Thursday, six Turkish F-16 jets landed at the military air base at occupied Lefkoniko as part of the six-day joint military exercises with Turkey codenamed "Taurus" and "Determination".

    In a letter to the UN Secretary-general, Cyprus' representative to the UN, Sotos Zacheos, yesterday protested the continued violation of the island's air space by Turkey.

    Defence sources said several violations took place yesterday while 16 F-16 jets and two F-4s carried out raids on mock 'enemy' targets in the area of occupied Morphou.

    Four navy frigates which docked at occupied Kyrenia on Wednesday fired off eight rounds at land targets on Cape Kormakitis yesterday, while another three observed from their position off the coast.

    The joint exercises between Ankara and the breakaway Turkish Cypriot regime are in response to the recent joint manoeuvres between Cyprus and Greece.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [11] Clinton report 'rejects' confederation proposal

    By Jean Christou

    THE GOVERNMENT is interpreting President Clinton's latest report on Cyprus as a snub to the Turkish Cypriot side's demand for confederation talks.

    Government spokesman Christos Stylianides yesterday said the American President's reference to a bizonal, bicommunal federation constituted a reply to the Turkish side.

    "It is obvious that the US administration continues to support a solution based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation and relevant UN resolutions," Stylianides said.

    In his bi-monthly report on Cyprus, Bill Clinton said his administration's efforts to bring about a solution based on these principles "remained steadfast".

    "United States officials encouraged the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leadership to focus on the core issues of the Cyprus dispute and encouraged all parties to prepare for eventual comprehensive negotiations," Clinton's report said.

    Stylianides said the Cyprus government was more than willing to enter talks on the substance of the Cyprus issue for an overall settlement.

    "Under no circumstances would the government refuse such a procedure, which it pursues in every way, especially if it is based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation and relevant resolutions," Stylianides said.

    "The Clinton report constitutes a reply to the Turkish proposal for confederation. It seems no one can accept the Turkish proposal for confederation as a framework for discussion of the Cyprus problem." Stylianides added that this was a positive sign.

    The government spokesman also said yesterday that President Clerides would be meeting in London next week with British and EU special envoy for Cyprus, Sir David Hannay.

    Asked if the purpose of the visit was linked to Sir David's current visit to Ankara, he said: "It is a meeting which was requested by Sir David."

    Stylianides said it was already known from Sir David's statements that he would discuss issues concerning the substance of the Cyprus problem in Ankara, especially the constitutional aspect.

    Sir David arrived in Ankara on Thursday and held a series of meetings yesterday with Turkish officials.

    President Clerides leaves for London on Sunday. On Thursday, he will fly to Athens where he will meet Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [12] Cyprus to switch currency peg to Euro on Jan 1

    THE pegging of the Cyprus pound with the European ECU is to be transferred to the Euro when the single currency goes into operation on January 1 next year, the government announced yesterday.

    The Council of Ministers has decided that the current implied parity of 1.7086 ECUs to the Cyprus pound will remain the same when the changeover occurs. The floatation margins of the Euro will temporarily range 2.25 per cent either way.

    The outgoing Ecu was based on a basket of currencies, while the Euro is a single currency unit.

    A Central bank source said yesterday that some consequences would arise from the changeover, "but the details are intricate."

    Cyprus is currently engaged in EU accession negotiations, and hopes to join the Euro zone upon accession.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [13] Accountants protest appointment of 'unqualified' Auditor-general

    THE Association of Cyprus Chartered Accountants yesterday protested the appointment of Stella Yiorkadji as the new Auditor-general.

    In a written statement, the Association said it was surprised and embittered by the President's decision to appoint a person "who does not have specialised qualifications or the relevant experience as an accountant".

    "This decision undermines the position of the accountancy profession," the statement said.

    Yiorkadji was appointed by President Clerides on Wednesday as part of his pledge to appoint more women to top jobs. But he made it clear that he was not appointing women in order to "make up numbers", but because "they are women who have the qualifications and can do the job".

    Yiorkadji's previous position was at the Companies Registration Office.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [14] Drug dealer jailed for three years

    LARNACA Assizes Court yesterday sentenced 22-year-old Panayiotis Christodoulou to three years in prison on drugs charges.

    Christodoulou was found guilty of possessing 791 grams of cannabis resin with intent to supply between December 1997 and January 1998.

    Passing sentence, the court noted the importance of deterrent sentences for drug-related crimes, and that personal circumstances were not a factor. The court also took into account the fact that the defendant had prior convictions for theft and actual bodily harm.

    Christodoulou, from a Larnaca refugee estate, is married with one daughter. His lawyer, Andreas Mathikolonis, complained that there were mitigating circumstances in the case that had not been taken into account.

    Most notably, he said, there had been others involved in the crime, but due to police incompetence, they had been allowed to flee the country before being caught.

    He also cited a Welfare Department report on Christodoulou, which said that he had been a drug user since age of 17, had been abused as a child, and had been so mentally scarred by drugs that he had been excused from military service. The report also said he had attempted suicide several times.

    Saturday, November 21, 1998

    [15] Insurance premiums not affected by new law

    CAR INSURANCE premiums will not be rising, in spite of a new law transferring hospital costs for accident victims from the state to insurance firms.

    Under a law passed on November 5, insurance companies are now liable for outpatient fees of 100 per day, as opposed to the previous subsidised fee of 5, which had been charged to patients; inpatient fees rise to up to 1, 000 a day, payable by the insurance companies, up from the previous ceiling of 50.

    But an insurance company representative yesterday insisted that, in spite of the increased costs, premiums would remain at current levels for the foreseeable future.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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