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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-01-01

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, January 01, 1999


  • [01] Cyprus urges international community to keep pledges
  • [02] Clerides message calls for cautious strategy
  • [03] We'll sell you missiles, says Rome
  • [04] Matsakis calls for unilateral disarmament
  • [05] Talks have begun with Russia to alter missile contract
  • [06] It was a good year for homosexuals and Jehovah's witnesses
  • [07] Cyprus is 'fit to join' the EU
  • [08] 'Patriarch will decide on Iosif'
  • [09] Tsaousis sale sparks consumer frenzy and traffic chaos
  • [10] Tourist dies on steps of plane

  • [01] Cyprus urges international community to keep pledges

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS said yesterday it maintains the right to arm itself if promises by the international community to push forward a political settlement are not kept.

    Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides, commenting on President Glafcos Clerides' decision not to deploy the controversial Russian S-300 missiles on the island, said "no one was more saddened" than Clerides himself.

    On Tuesday Clerides announced his decision following strong pressure to do so from the international community.

    Opposition calls for his resignation were rejected yesterday by the government.

    "If you take a decision that's not popular it doesn't mean that decision is not in the best interests of the people, or that it means backing down," Cassoulides said.

    He said Clerides cannot be "enslaved" by this decision and must be able to change it if the situation deems it necessary.

    "Cyprus hasn't taken on any commitment to anyone to give up the right to choose whatever weapons it wants to buy," he said.

    The decision not to deploy the S-300s - although hailed abroad and mocked by Turkey as "comical" - has caused serious internal problems for the government, most notably the imminent departure of junior coalition partners, socialist Edek.

    Cassoulides said the President had acted in the best interests of Cyprus and its people as regards progress towards a political settlement and towards EU accession.

    But he made it clear that Cyprus expects promises to be kept.

    "We have not resigned from the right to take any decisions we consider necessary for our defence if we see that there are no developments in the future and that promises made are not kept," he said. "We now have the right to demand that obligations and promises are met," he added, referring to the passing of last week's UN resolution on the reduction of tension.

    "The Europeans also insisted that we take the decision and we are now waiting to see what their stance will be towards our EU accession course," Cassoulides said.

    Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said yesterday the Turkish side would not allow the S-300 cancellation to be used as a bargaining chip to force Turkey into reducing its forces on the island.

    "The cancellation of the missiles has avoided a crisis but it cannot be made into a bargaining issue for the reduction of Turkish soldiers," he said. "I hope this will be a lesson to them (Greek Cypriots)."

    The government on Wednesday appeared to believe that its preconditions for the cancellation of the missile deal had not been met after all. The two preconditions were: significant progress towards a settlement; and steps towards demilitarisation.

    But government spokesman Christos Stylianides repeated yesterday that the correct decision had been made.

    "This decision was made after a lot of soul-searching. It was not made lightly. It was a studied decision," he said. "It was right and correct and the best decision that could be made under the circumstances. Any other decision would have caused us extreme problems, perhaps even derailing the EU accession talks."

    But Democratic Renewal Party leader and presidential adviser Alexis Galanos said the decision means Cyprus may now have to back down on other issues relating to a Cyprus settlement and to EU accession.

    He called the decision an "historical defeat and a political loss", and said he feared other climb-downs might follow.

    Cassoulides said he disagreed with such views. "I do not accept that, because nobody has taken into account that the decision might be in the interests of the Cypriot people," he said.

    Galanos said if Greece had supported the joint defence dogma through to its conclusion the missiles would have been in Cyprus by now. But he advised that co-operation with Greece should continue.

    Referring to internal turmoil, Galanos said that in reality there had been no joint decision on the missiles - and that's where the problem lay.

    Galanos, Cassoulides and Stylianides all called on Edek to remain in the government. Edek is expected to announce its decision tomorrow.

    "Times are difficult and crucial and the country needs co-operation between political parties," Stylianides said.

    Friday, January 01, 1999

    [02] Clerides message calls for cautious strategy

    By Andrew Adamides

    THE CYPRUS struggle will only be won if the island makes the right assessment of prevailing conditions on all fronts, President Glafcos Clerides said in his traditional New Year message yesterday.

    In a statement which made veiled reference to his controversial cancellation of the S-300 missiles, without mentioning them specifically, Clerides said the new year renewed the Cypriot will to fight continued Turkish occupation.

    But he cautioned that victory would only come if local, regional and international factors were all worked into the equation in the correct manner.

    "I strongly believe that with the strategy we follow and the right tactics, implemented according to circumstance, and with responsibility and political prudence, we shall manage to achieve our targets," Clerides said.

    He assured the public that "the strategy we have adopted and are following has been and remains the only one that can persuade, encourage and help the international community exhaust all possibilities of effective involvement in the Cyprus problem."

    Clerides castigated the international community for not pressuring Turkey in the way that "international law and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations dictate". He called on the world to undertake more decisive action on Cyprus, adding that this would give "a new dimension" to the catalytic role that Cyprus' EU accession process would play in the search for a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    He referred to the advanced stage of the island's EU progress as one of the best examples of the co-operation between Cyprus and Greece, and described Greek support as "valuable and irreplaceable" for both "our security, in the framework of the Joint Defence Doctrine" and for achieving a Cyprus solution and EU accession.

    "Without the support of Greece, our future would be bleak," Clerides concluded.

    In their New Year messages, all the political parties said this was a critical time for the Cyprus problem. Disy said that the "painful memories" of the past must make Cyprus ever more determined and optimistic for a better future, with the emphasis on the efforts for EU accession and the strengthening of the joint defence pact.

    Akel, meanwhile, said that 1999 would be a "backward" year for the Cyprus problem, which was currently at a dead end. Clerides' policy, they added, had failed completely and a complete political overhaul was necessary.

    Centre-right Diko were also negative, saying that the old year had left Cypriots bitter and disappointed and that the hypocritical international community would continue with its two-faced attitude towards Cyprus for as long as Cyprus didn't fight back.

    Edek also called for a political overhaul, while the Democratic Renewal party of Alexis Galanos referred explicitly to the S-300s, saying the decision not to bring them to the island had torn apart Cyprus' united front and left its people "shattered", while also souring relations with Greece.

    Friday, January 01, 1999

    [03] We'll sell you missiles, says Rome

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS is likely to receive the green light from Rome if it wishes to go ahead with a deal to deploy the Aspide missile defence system, the Italian embassy in Nicosia said on Thursday.

    A spokesman at the embassy said the cancellation of the controversial Russian S-300 missiles by Cyprus opened the way for the stalled deal to proceed.

    Although a contract for the Aspide system has already been signed with Italian firm Alinea, the government in Rome has until now not given its permission to export the missiles to Cyprus, fearing the deployment would only fuel existing tensions.

    The Cyprus government insisted the delay was due to technical and commercial difficulties.

    The cancellation on Tuesday of the Russian deal has changed Italy' stance.

    "This very positive step creates the preconditions to go ahead, but no decision has been announced yet," an embassy spokesman said.

    "I know that we have been saying that if the obstacle which existed - the S- 300s - was removed, then we would go ahead".

    The spokesman made it clear, however, that the issue had not been raised since the cancellation of the S-300s was announced.

    Italy first provided Cyprus with Aspide missiles under a contract signed in 1991. Following up on the initial deal, Cyprus in October 1997 signed a second contract with the manufacturers to upgrade the system and increase the number of launchers and missiles.

    Cyprus had considered buying a batch of short-to medium-range Russian missiles if the deal for the similar Aspide system failed to materialise.

    The Russian-made SA-15, with a range of 12 km, and the Italian Aspides, with a range of 18km, were both suitable ground-to-air options to protect the S-300s.

    The new package from Russia would have cost $120 million, twice as much as it would have cost to boost the National Guard's existing stock of Aspides.

    Without the 150km-range S-300s the Aspide system is still a viable option for Cyprus, which does not have its own air defence system. A defence Ministry spokesman said on Thursday the government had not yet decided on whether to go ahead with the purchase of the Aspides.

    "We may even have to renegotiate with the Italians from the beginning," he said. "The issue is still on the table. Maybe the new (Defence) Minister will discuss it with the Italians."

    Edek Defence Minister Yiannakis Omirou will resign if his party's Central Committee decides today to pull out of the government in protest at the S- 300 cancellation. The decision is expected to be a formality.

    Edek has two ministers in government, Omirou and Education Minister Lycourgos Kappas.

    Friday, January 01, 1999

    [04] Matsakis calls for unilateral disarmament

    By Athena Karsera

    DIKO deputy Marios Matsakis is calling for unilateral disarmament and the abolition of the defence levy in the wake of President Clerides' missile climbdown.

    His call has found an echo among members of the public disillusioned by the missile decision and who no longer feel they should pay the levy.

    "My opinion is that there should be no more defence taxes," Matsakis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    He added that he now fully backed unilateral disarmament and that any money spent on defence would be a total waste.

    Matsakis has until now staunchly backed a strong defence policy, and was among the first to castigate Clerides for his climbdown on the S-300s.

    The outspoken deputy said the decision on the missiles had proved that Greece was not willing to uphold its end of the Joint Defence Dogma, and he felt there was therefore no point in any further defence spending or further payment of the levy.

    Disappointment at President Glafcos Clerides' decision not to bring the missiles to Cyprus has led a number of people to submit formal applications to their employers, requesting that the three per cent defence tax not be taken off their salaries.

    One man who submitted such a letter, and who did not want to be identified, said he was fully aware of the consequences and would be willing to take full responsibility.

    His employer has refused to accept the request, saying the company would be one to face consequences.

    Member of the House Finance Committee, Akel deputy Andreas Christou told the Cyprus Mail that if people did not want to pay it was their own affair, but warned: "the government has the right to take anyone who does not pay taxes to Court."

    Christou did not know whether the employee or the employer would be liable in such a case.

    Christou said he understood people's disappointment, but said he thought such reactions would be temporary and that more time would have to pass before the repercussions were known.

    Meanwhile, a Cyprus College Research Centre survey revealed that 50.5 per cent of the population feel Clerides should resign after his decision not to deploy the missiles in Cyprus.

    The study also showed that 55.7 per cent of the public disagreed with Clerides' position, while a higher number, 61.3 per cent, disagreed with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis' stance.

    When asked what they believed should happen next, 55.5 per cent of those asked said that Clerides should resign; 48 per cent of respondents thought the President should stay on.

    On the issue of whether Edek should withdraw from the government, the poll showed that 53.7 per cent believed they should.

    The survey asked the views of 200 men and 206 women above the age of 18 from all areas of Cyprus.

    Friday, January 01, 1999

    [05] Talks have begun with Russia to alter missile contract

    RUSSIA and Cyprus have already begun talks to alter the purchase contract for the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles so the weapons systems can be delivered to Crete, instead of Cyprus, Russia's Interfax News Agency said yesterday.

    The Russian Embassy in Nicosia was closed yesterday for the New Year's holiday weekend, so no local official comment on the report was possible.

    Interfax quoted Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin as saying "the Russian-Cypriot contract is a purely commercial one."

    "Any possible changes in its terms are a matter to be agreed between the client, the government of the Republic of Cyprus, and the supplier, the state (arms sales) company Rosvooruzheniye," he said.

    Rosvooruzheniye yesterday refused all comment on the Cyprus-Russia missile deal, claiming they were "not permitted to make public the terms of the contract on the S-300," and that they were "committed to the client... irrespective of which country the weapons are being supplied to."

    Cyprus Defence Ministry Spokesman Andreas Charides yesterday said he did not know if the government had paid Russia the full price for the S-300 missile system, which he insisted cost only $200 million instead of the £200 million - twice that amount - that other government sources have said they cost.

    With Defence Minister Yiannakis Omirou at a year-end social event and unavailable for comment, and the Defence Ministry in Nicosia closed for the holidays, it was impossible to reconcile the cost dissonance.

    Friday, January 01, 1999

    [06] It was a good year for homosexuals and Jehovah's witnesses

    By Charlie Charalambous

    IT'S easy to judge a government in retrospect, to gauge how its achievements have changed the way we live and think, but wincing back at the Clerides administration's 1998 report there seems to be little in the way of groundbreaking policies.

    Most commentators would agree that a year is an extremely long time in politics giving ample leverage for the government to get a few policy ideas on track.

    But almost six years with President Clerides in the driving seat and the policy achievement train has yet to disappear from full view of the platform.

    As a collective body, the Council of Ministers does not inspire public adulation or unrestrained applause for all the good deeds and tireless work it has done to improve our lot.

    Having said that, there were a few honourable men who stood out among the grey-suited crowd and suggested the office of minister was not one that became extinct with the dinosaur.

    While Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou barged his way into a minefield with his revenue-friendly tax package, Health Minister Christos Solomis dithered over disciplinary action against nurses, Education Minister Lycourgos Kappas managed falling standards, Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides was consulting his lawyers and Defence Minister Yiannakis Omirou became an eagle among hawks, some of their colleagues were getting down to business.

    Before accusing the government of possible incompetence, negligence or general procrastination, let us pause to acknowledge the few who distinguished themselves in the line of fire.

    Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis made a name for himself in September as an honest, no nonsense politician who went head-to-head with the Church over a dodgy £1.6 million land deal involving disgraced Limassol Bishop Chrysanthos.

    His determination exposed the unsuitability of the deal, which concerned the future site of the Electricity Authority's Limassol HQ, and therefore involved public money.

    The money was returned, except for £300,000 which was mysteriously transferred from the Church account. It was agreed that this outstanding amount be given back in the form of Church-owned land.

    Rolandis also campaigned for the EAC board to be sacked, but although he secured cabinet censure of the board, the Council of Ministers had no legal power to sack it.

    A special mention should also be given to Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous who - lumbered with the government's non-existent water conservation policy - came clean to the public and apologised for the desperate situation.

    Overnight, Themistocleous became that rare breed of minister who took responsibility, laid his cards on the table and didn't try to pass the buck.

    He may be criticised for doing too little too late in a three-year drought, but at least he has taken some concrete decisions - like the tentative operational dates for a second desalination plant and two mobile units.

    Obviously, even the best laid plans go haywire, as in this case, but Themistocleous can rest more easily when desalination crops up at dinner parties.

    Other loyal servants more interested in taking action than arranging sound bites are: Communications Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou (we can be proud of our roads), Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas, who avoided crippling strikes by his "soft" negotiation techniques, and Justice Minister Nicos Koshis, who must be applauded for putting some pride back into the police force.

    Although his propensity for declaring that underworld bosses are on the run only hours before mafia suspects are gunned down in Limassol is slightly worrying.

    Full marks to the police for quickly solving the Chinese double murder case but what about the unsolved assassination of clan member Andros Aeroporos and several other gangland suspects, whose murder files have remained open over the years.

    But if any grain of comfort is to be extracted from looking back at what can only be termed as Cyprus' rival to a Hollywood disaster movie, the government stuck to its guns on decriminalising homosexuality between consenting adults in private and, finally in May, took us out of the Dark Ages.

    Another uncharacteristic show of anti-populist sentiment was the cabinet's July decision to do away with punitive jail terms for conscientious observers.

    The age-old custom of throwing Jehovah's Witnesses into jail for their pacifist beliefs was replaced with a more humane approach, by offering them the alternative of a stint in civil defence no longer than National Guard conscripts serve.

    Devout Orthodox parents made a huff and a fuss over the decision, but for once common sense prevailed.

    Clerides was on more shaky ground when dealing with his controversial Interior Minister, in the face of bruising corruption allegations.

    Instead of ordering Michaelides to resign gracefully, he fully backed his minister, then a few months later refused his resignation after deciding some of the allegations were serious enough for further investigation.

    For several weeks, the country had no Interior Ministry to speak of as Michaelides took 'extended leave' in Athens, leaving Koshis in charge - we hope he has a hidden talent for running two ministries with equal effectiveness.

    Nevertheless, Clerides did ask his ministers and their wives to come clean on their earnings. The relevant bill for such honest deeds should be ready early next year, or maybe not.

    But among the rare triumphs for democracy and social cohesion there were inevitably many pioneering projects that either got away or stumbled on the rocks of complacency.

    Maybe the two most important policies on the government's shifting agenda, all-day schools and the National Health Scheme, are the ones being allowed to drift into obscurity.

    There seems to be little social justice when a government can find hundreds of millions to purchase Russian arms but is short of a piddling £20 or 30, 000 to introduce an effective pilot scheme for all-day elementary schools.

    The much vaunted National Health Scheme has proved even more elusive, with the Health Minister asking for more time to avoid the issue.

    Solomis was expected to deliver the goods for cabinet approval in late 1998, but seems to have missed that deadline along the way. Maybe it'll happen sometime never, which suits the vested interests.

    Missiles and homosexuality aside, 1998 will be remembered for being a quite unremarkable year in the annuls of government.

    Friday, January 01, 1999

    [07] Cyprus is 'fit to join' the EU

    By Jean Christou

    A RECENT poll showed that over half the population believes European Union (EU) accession will help to solve the island's political problem, but far fewer than that believe it will be of any benefit to the island's economy.

    For the EU, the situation is reversed. While the state of the economy poses no problems to membership, the political problem has become a major headache for the bloc, a fact which became evident throughout 1998 - a historic year for the island in its progress towards EU membership.

    The EU believed, and the Cyprus government never ceased insisting, that accession talks would act as a catalyst towards reaching a political settlement.

    But ironically, the negotiations have themselves proved to be one of the major stumbling blocks to progress on the political side, a situation which has dogged the Cyprus problem for the past 12 months.

    The trouble began in late 1997 when the EU's Luxembourg summit decided to include Cyprus in the current round of expansion, while snubbing Turkey entirely. But it was made clear in Luxembourg that accession should benefit both communities.

    However, the Turkish side believes Cyprus should only join the bloc at the same time as Turkey, and as soon as the Luxembourg decision was announced, it promptly cancelled all bi-communal contacts and declared political negotiations dead.

    Nor would the Turkish Cypriots join the EU negotiations unless recognised as representatives of a separate state.

    On March 12 in London last year President Clerides used a conference for EU applicants to table a proposal inviting Turkish Cypriots to participate on the Cyprus team.

    On March 31, the EU opened accession talks with Cyprus amid hopes they would contribute towards a settlement, but within hours the Turkish Cypriot side warned it would merge with Turkey if ever the Republic became an EU member.

    Just before substantive negotiations with Cyprus opened on November 10, four EU member states - France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands - expressed concern over the problems that could arise over the island's division. This in turn worried the other five candidate countries who feared problems with Cyprus' accession would delay their own.

    Greece repeated its stance that it would block enlargement if Cyprus was kept out.

    All of the EU member states expressed concern over the proposed deployment of the Russian S-300 missiles on the island, which has now been cancelled.

    Germany's representative warned the missile issue could "change the environment of the negotiations".

    Germany takes over the EU's rotating six-month presidency today.

    But despite the political problem, the conclusions of last month's European Commission's report on Cyprus' progress towards accession were positive.

    The report concluded that Cyprus had made significant progress in adopting the aquis communautaire, but that substantial efforts had yet to be undertaken in preparing for the internal market and in bringing into line the offshore and financial sectors, maritime transport and telecommunications. Justice and home affairs constitute other areas of particular concern, the report said.

    It added that even though the invitation of the Cyprus government to the Turkish Cypriot community had not been taken up, integration of the north into the EU after a possible solution should not prove to be a problem because of its size. Cyprus has set a target date for membership at January 1, 2003.

    Now that the missile deal has been cancelled, the outgoing Austrian EU presidency has declared Cyprus "fit to join" the bloc.

    Friday, January 01, 1999

    [08] 'Patriarch will decide on Iosif'

    By Jean Christou

    THE CASE involving a Greek monk found guilty of being a pervert by the Holy Synod is closed, Bishop Chrysostomos of Paphos said yesterday.

    The Bishop, who was the one to publicise the allegations against Elder Iosif from the Greek Monastery of Vatopedhi, also denied that there was a split between the Greek and Cypriot Churches over the issue.

    Following the Holy Synod's decision last week, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople issued a statement in support of Iosif.

    Bartholomew - first among equals in the Orthodox Church hierarchy - has ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Greek monastic republic of Mount Athos, where Vatopedhi lies.

    Speaking in Paphos yesterday, Chrysostomos said the case had been closed with last week's decision of the Holy Synod, which had carried out an investigation into the allegations.

    Iosif, now 80, was accused of molesting no less than seven nuns and infecting them with sexual diseases 17 years ago. The Synod found him guilty of "embracing" a girl who was 11 years old at the time, according to witness testimony and to a letter he wrote to a young nun, which implicated him in the alleged scandal.

    Chrysostomos, who believes he was vindicated by the Holy Synod's decision, said yesterday everyone now "needs to repent".

    "The Patriarchate is the head of the Church. It has its opinions," he said. "Our relations with them are excellent. They were never better than they are today and the Patriarch himself is a good friend and colleague."

    Commenting on the outrage from supporters of Iosif, Chrysostomos said: "Cyprus is a democracy and people can say whatever they want. This unfortunately is a negative aspect of democracy."

    Lawyers for Iosif and the Greek Monastery on Wednesday demanded that all of the documents relating to the case be handed over to them. The demand was made in a letter to Archbishop Chrysostomos.

    In the letter, lawyer Christos Clerides repeated that the Holy Synod procedure had been a sham.

    Clerides said the fact that Iosif's "accuser", the Bishop of Paphos, and the two members of the investigating committee were members of the Holy Synod and participated in the decision, made it ridiculous.

    The Synod had failed to invite Iosif to testify, in essence rendering the final decision meaningless, he said.

    The letter said the actions of the Cyprus Church were not appropriate to the dawn of the 21st century and would even have been out of place in Byzantium or in the Middle Ages.

    Legal action against the Bishop of Paphos has not yet been ruled out.

    It was the Bishop who publicised the allegations against Iosif, which emerged as he levelled accusations against a Greek Cypriot cleric, a former protégé of the Greek monk.

    The Synod threw out the Bishop's allegations of immorality against the cleric, Limassol Bishopric candidate Abbot Athanasios of Machairas, for his association with Iosif.

    Bishop Chrysostomos has consistently denied that his allegations against Athanasios have anything to do with his opposition to the Abbot's candidacy for Bishop of Limassol, elections for which will take place shortly.

    Friday, January 01, 1999

    [09] Tsaousis sale sparks consumer frenzy and traffic chaos

    By Andrew Adamides

    NICOSIA was swamped yesterday, as people went into a spending overdrive, converging on the capital for the massive half-price bonanza sale at the Tsaousis department store.

    Beginning at around 7am, a full two hours before the shop opened, hundreds waited on the doorsteps of Tsaousis' two central-Nicosia shops, hoping for the bargain of their choice in the half-price sale. Would-be shoppers had to wait outside for up to half an hour while the staff ushered shoppers in and out in order to make sure the shop wasn't overcrowded into oblivion. When the shop closed from 12 to 3pm, crowds built up outside, with one indignant lady shopper demanding "Why are they closed?" as she peered in through the doors.

    Largely thanks to the huge number of shoppers, traffic throughout the city was congested to such an extent that drivers making journeys normally taking just 10 to 15 minutes had to allow up to 50 minutes extra. Radio pleas went out to drivers not to enter the city centre in their cars, and taxi controllers alerted drivers to advise passengers to get out and walk as it would be quicker.

    The Cyprus Mail contacted Tsaousis yesterday afternoon, but a harassed shop assistant told us that the manager was too busy to talk, and that the sale was still going on with customers still flooding in.

    Friday, January 01, 1999

    [10] Tourist dies on steps of plane

    A TOURIST returning to London died on Wednesday night after collapsing on the steps of her plane home.

    At approximately 7.30 pm, Jean Wendy Bishop, 62, lost consciousness just before boarding the plane at Larnaca Airport. Bishop was rushed to Larnaca General Hospital, where she was declared dead.

    Larnaca police yesterday said the collapse had been due to a stroke and ruled out foul-play.

    Police added that her remains would be flown back to England after the holiday period.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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