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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-01-26

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Tuesday, January 26, 1999


  • [01] Share prices soar, with banks leading the way
  • [02] Government warns airline union not to strike
  • [03] Britain undeterred by Hannay incident
  • [04] Confederation is Denktash's condition for EU membership
  • [05] Exhumations from unmarked graves to begin in Spring
  • [06] House faces May deadline on new mergers law
  • [07] Legislation red tape needs to be cut, says Vassiliou
  • [08] Soldier 'ran out of oxygen on Zenobia dive'
  • [09] Baby girl dies in car tragedy
  • [10] 'Legal first' as 10 sue Britain
  • [11] Japan has captured the used car market
  • [12] Sarcophagus dug up in church gardens
  • [13] Y2K bugged? Don't expect your insurance to cover it
  • [14] Probe into why CyBC pulled the plug

  • [01] Share prices soar, with banks leading the way

    By Hamza Hendawi

    SHARE prices on the Cyprus Stock Exchange soared to new heights yesterday, with bourse supremos Bank of Cyprus and Popular Bank leading a fresh charge on the record books.

    The official all-share index rose 2.2 per cent to close at 99.90, just off the 100-point mark which ushered in the stock exchange's formal life in March 1996 after years of operating under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce.

    The value of trade stood at an all-time high of 6.35 million, thanks to heavy dealings in the shares of the two banks. "It was crazy on the floor today," said Neofytos Neofytou of AAA United Stockbrokers Ltd. "It was the busiest day ever on the Cyprus Stock Exchange."

    All seven of the bourse's sub-indices finished in positive territory, with tourism companies recording the highest rise, 3.94 per cent, followed by manufacturing, 2.52 per cent.

    Banks came third with a rise of 2.42 per cent in their sub-index, but the sector's stocks accounted for an impressive 42 per cent of volume with a value of 2.66 million, of which 1.61 million belonged to the Bank of Cyprus, almost twice the value of trade in Popular Bank stocks.

    Shares of the Bank of Cyprus and the Popular Bank rose by an identical 11 cents to close at 4.33 and 4.14 respectively. Between them, the two titles accounted for 39.1 per cent of yesterday's trade.

    Both shares, traditionally the dominant force in the bourse, have been steadily gaining in strength this month. Popular Bank's acquisition of Nicos Shacolas' insurance business in a 47 million deal announced earlier this month gave the bank more than a 30 per cent share of the island's insurance market.

    The Bank of Cyprus on Friday announced a package to shareholders which included bonus shares at the ratio of 1 to 10, a new rights issue in September of 1.6 million shares at 2.5 each and new warrants with an exercise price of 3 in 2003. The package marked the bank's centenary and went beyond market expectations.

    The Hellenic Bank, something of a poor relative of the two heavyweights, had a slow day in comparison. Its stock ended unchanged at 2.74, with trade accounting for just 2.6 per cent of dealings.

    Tuesday, January 26, 1999

    [02] Government warns airline union not to strike

    THE GOVERNMENT has warned Cyprus Airways' largest union not to go ahead with a planned four-hour strike on Thursday.

    Communications and Works Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou said yesterday he would strongly advise "against choosing to strike", as the government will not bow to the airline unions' demands.

    He also said that contrary to earlier reports, there were no plans for government mediation in the pay dispute.

    The strike is planned by the union Cynika, which is demanding pay increases and other benefit boosts in line with the employees of other semi- governmental organisations.

    Cyprus Airways spokesman Tassos Angelis said yesterday that the company and the union were "heading for confrontation", as no meetings have been held to discuss the dispute.

    If the strike goes ahead, he said, no flights will take off between 7 and 11am on Thursday, but that all scheduled flights would leave with delays. All passengers have been informed and the airline hopes for a minimum of disruption.

    Cyprus Airways Chairman Takis Kyriakides said yesterday

    the pay demands were not justified, given the company's financial state.

    He dismissed claims by the staff that they were treated like "second-class citizens", saying they were treated far better than staff working for other airlines.

    Tuesday, January 26, 1999

    [03] Britain undeterred by Hannay incident

    By Athena Karsera

    BRITAIN says it will not be deterred from promoting the UN peace process in Cyprus, despite last week's sharp exchange of letters over statements by British envoy Sir David Hannay.

    "We regret what happened," said a spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London yesterday. "It was a step back and a missed opportunity for the promotion of the UN process."

    The official was referring to President Glafcos Clerides' reaction to comments by Sir David on his arrival on Thursday, and his subsequent letter to British High Commissioner David Madden bowing out of a dinner engagement on Friday night.

    Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), the spokesman said: "It will not dampen our enthusiasm to do what we can for further progress in that process," and noted that Sir David's comments had been misunderstood.

    President Clerides complained to Madden that he had taken offence at Sir David's apparent insinuation that Clerides had used a letter to UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan about a freeze on weapons purchases as a bargaining manoeuvre.

    The President insisted that the decision had been made in compliance with UN resolutions calling for the reduction of tension and progress towards a negotiated settlement.

    Clerides also said Sir David had "advised us to follow the Swiss model", but Madden's letter of reply said the British envoy had not done so.

    Sir David made no comment as he left on Sunday after his four-day visit.

    Tuesday, January 26, 1999

    [04] Confederation is Denktash's condition for EU membership

    TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has said his self-declared state is willing to join the European Union - but only if the divided island is reunited in a confederation of Turkish and Greek Cypriots, a Turkish newspaper said yesterday.

    EU officials want the Turkish Cypriots to join the Cyprus negotiating team, which Denktash has refused to do. His reported remarks seemed to indicate a slight change of position.

    He had previously objected to Cyprus' membership and refused to join the accession talks which began last year, claiming the move would amount to the island's integration with EU-member Greece.

    "We are prepared to negotiate EU membership on condition that we enter in a confederation and (the EU) negotiates with us on an equal status with the Greek Cypriots," Denktash told Milliyet newspaper.

    He had previously insisted that Turkish Cypriots would consider joining the EU only once Turkey itself was admitted, a development which is not likely any time soon because Brussels has expressed strong reservations about Ankara's human rights record.

    "We have softened that condition," Denktash told Milliyet.

    Denktash proposed a two-state confederation on the island as a way to restart UN-sponsored unification talks last year. But the offer was rejected by government and Greek leaders as a ploy to legitimise the island's partition.

    Tuesday, January 26, 1999

    [05] Exhumations from unmarked graves to begin in Spring

    By Jean Christou

    THE exhumation of remains in unmarked graves will begin in the Spring to establish whether any of those buried there are on the list of missing persons.

    The work will be led by a team of experts, according to Nicos Theodosiou, chairman of the Pancyprian Committee for the Relatives of the Missing.

    He was speaking after a meeting yesterday with House President Spyros Kyprianou. "We are happy that the first practical step by the government is being taken," Theodosiou said.

    The Foreign Ministry later confirmed the move. A statement said that three experts had carried out on-site examinations at military cemeteries.

    They also met Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Takis Christopoulos, Attorney-general Alecos Markides and Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides.

    "This is something that the relatives of the missing through this association have been waiting for for years. We hope that it carries on with the momentum which has begun so we can reach some convincing evidence for some of the families of the missing."

    The exhumation experts were to arrive on the island late last year to help establish the fate both of Turkish Cypriot missing persons and Greek Cypriots buried in unmarked graves in the free areas.

    Last year two Greek Cypriot women began digging up graves at a Nicosia cemetery, convinced their husbands were buried there.

    The two men were on the catalogue of 1,619 missing persons even though they were confirmed as dead.

    Files on the whereabouts of some 400 Greek Cypriots and 200 of the 803 Turkish Cypriots missing were exchanged between the two sides at a meeting in January 1998 in line with an agreement between the two leaders which had been reached the previous July.

    But though the agreement collapsed within the wider framework of a stalemate in the Cyprus problem, the Greek Cypriot side has said it is ready to proceed with the exhumation of the bodies.

    After the remains are exhumed they will be DNA tested at the Institute of Neurology and Genetics which has been gathering data from relatives of the missing for its DNA bank for over a year.

    After yesterday's meeting, Kyprianou referred to the differences between the two committees for the relatives of the missing and the deadlock in negotiations for their proposed merger.

    He said he would make one final effort to try to unite the two feuding committees. If their efforts fail to achieve progress, Kyprianou said he would have "no choice but to tell the Cypriot public why the two committees can't unite".

    "Everyone has to get down to it and work for the missing issue because we don't have the luxury to waste time arguing," he said.

    Tuesday, January 26, 1999

    [06] House faces May deadline on new mergers law

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE House of Representatives must act quickly - before a European Union deadline of May 31 - to pass crucial new legislation that both lets the government regulate mergers in Cyprus, and harmonises with EU law, Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis said yesterday.

    "Time is running out," Rolandis said after meeting with the House. "I have the feeling they realise the importance of this legislation," which has lain - EU-compliant - in limbo in the House for two years.

    House Deputies think they have the whole year to pass the mergers law, when in reality they have only until May 31. "And if we want to harmonise on thousands of items, they have to take this into consideration" and act quickly, he said.

    He said the bill's passage has all the more urgency about it following several mergers - one in Cyprus, and two outside - that will have a great impact on the island's economy.

    The local one was Popular Bank's recent 40-million purchase of a controlling stake in the PanEuropean Insurance Group, giving it minimally a 30 per cent market share.

    Under the new law, a merger would be a "concentration of business activities by two or more entities," each with a turnover of at least 2 million, whose combination "will control 15% or more of the market," Rolandis said.

    The new law would let an independent consumer protection committee in the Commerce Ministry - similar to Britain's Monopolies Commission or the US Securities and Exchange Commission - review the proposed merger with an eye to whether it is against public interest or the consumer, he said.

    But the law would not be retroactive, and would have no affect on the Popular Bank-PanEuropean deal.

    One of the two outside mergers involved Rothmans, which has 67 per cent of the local cigarette market, and British-American Tobacco which has 20 per cent. Together this creates an 87 per cent Cyprus cigarette monopoly.

    The other was the proposed merger of US oil giants Exxon and Mobil, which latter has a marketing deal with BP. As Exxon and Mobil control 60 per cent of Cyprus' refined oil products market, and BP is in bed with Mobil, "the three of them... come under one (marketing) umbrella," he said.

    Rolandis said he cautioned the House that, even once it passes the new law, while it would let government regulate local mergers, "when two corporations merge outside Cyprus, in reality we cannot utilise this legislation" to regulate such mergers.

    Rothmans and BAT could merge elsewhere, but be kept independent in Cyprus under the proposed law, he said. But "since they report to the same parent company elsewhere... in reality this is a monopoly here, even if they operate separately here."

    "In other words... there is nothing we can do," even under the new law, to control such mergers. In fact, he said, the Republic already has its only two 'remedies' to outside mergers: "You can encourage imports... or have a fixed price."

    While lowering tariffs may encourage import competition to local monopolistic mergers, Cyprus will lose the tariff tool when, if not before, it gets an EU seat, Rolandis noted. (It has already lost some 300 million in annual public revenues as a result of the Cyprus-EU Customs Union agreement.)

    As for fixing prices: "The free movement of goods from outside - which is Gospel with the EU - should not be interfered with," he said. Otherwise, anybody with an interest, after Cyprus is an EU member, can claim "price- fixing in Cyprus interferes with the free movement of goods. And then the (European) Commission can stop the price-fixing."

    Tuesday, January 26, 1999

    [07] Legislation red tape needs to be cut, says Vassiliou

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE introduction of new legislation needs to be fast-tracked if we are to maintain momentum towards EU harmonisation, the head of Cyprus's EU accession talks team, George Vassiliou, warned yesterday.

    Vassiliou said red tape meant that it took, on average, two to five years for new legislation to get from the drawing board to the cabinet to the House for approval.

    "We cannot continue at this rate," he said after a morning meeting with President Clerides.

    The job could be done in much less than a year, he said.

    Vassiliou said the President had agreed with him an action plan to speed up procedures for the introduction of new laws and legal amendments.

    "The House has already decided to change its procedures and has broadened the remit of the foreign affairs committee to cover foreign affairs and European Union matters. The new committee will have sub-committees to examine various aspects, and I want to believe that now this system is being implemented we can move at much faster rates - for everyone's good," the United Democrats leader said.

    He added that it had been agreed the various ministries and government services should work together when drawing up bills, rather that independently as tended to happen now.

    "We will keep an eye on what each ministry has to do and we will ask that the legal services and ministries work together rather than waiting for each other to do it, as in the past."

    "In this way, work that would have taken two to three years will take two, three or six months, depending on the case," Vassiliou said.

    The time period for getting a prepared bill through the cabinet and tabled before the House could also be reduced from the current norm of six months to 15 days or a month, Vassiliou said.

    Tuesday, January 26, 1999

    [08] Soldier 'ran out of oxygen on Zenobia dive'

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A BRITISH soldier who died on Sunday during a diving expedition on the Zenobia shipwreck off Larnaca suffocated while looking for his lost flipper, according to findings yesterday.

    A post mortem carried out by state pathologist Panicos Stavrianos concluded that John Rann, 38, suffocated, after running out of oxygen during a dive with nine other colleagues.

    Police believe the soldier ran out of oxygen following a desperate attempt to recover a lost flipper which had come loose during his ascent.

    "The delay resulted in his air tanks running out and caused death by suffocation," police said yesterday following the post mortem report.

    The Epsikopi-based Rann, 38, of the First Battalion Light Infantry, lost consciousness during his ascent from the shipwreck at around 11am, police said.

    Although his companions tried to revive him after pulling him from the water, Rann was pronounced dead on arrival at Larnaca General hospital at 11.25am.

    He was described as an experienced diver who had gone diving before on the wreck of the Zenobia.

    The senior NCO, with 20 years' army service, leaves a wife and three children back in his home town of Keynsham, near Bristol. He had been stationed at Episkopi since the beginning of January.

    The dive was organised by the Akrotiri Sub-Aqua Club which, although based at RAF Akrotiri, is privately funded by its military and civilian members.

    "It's a sport which carries an element of risk. This risk is minimised by having strict supervision," said bases spokesman Rob Need yesterday.

    He said it was now a matter for the accident investigation team.

    Since it sank one nautical mile off the Larnaca coast 19 years ago, the Swedish vessel carrying a cargo of Volvos has become a tourist attraction for pleasure divers. Several local diving schools specialise in expeditions to the wreck.

    Rann is the second person to die while diving on the Zenobia in the past five years. A Spanish diver was killed in September 1994 after getting trapped in the wreck.

    Tuesday, January 26, 1999

    [09] Baby girl dies in car tragedy

    AN 11-month-old girl choked to death while travelling in her parents' car late on Sunday afternoon.

    Alexandra Alexandrou had been lying on the back seat of the car when she apparently inhaled her own vomit and suffocated.

    Realising that their daughter had stopped breathing, Alexandrou's parents rushed her to Nicosia General Hospital. She was pronounced dead on arrival at around 6.25pm.

    State coroner Sophocles Sophocleous and police examined Alexandrou's body, but found no signs of foul play.

    At the time of her death, her parents were driving home to Kaimakli from Larnaca. Her seven-year-old brother and four-year-old sister were with her on the back seat.

    Investigations into the exact cause of her death are continuing.

    Tuesday, January 26, 1999

    [10] 'Legal first' as 10 sue Britain

    TEN Cypriots formerly employed by the British East Mediterranean Relay Station are attempting to sue the British government for unlawful dismissal.

    The civil suit has been filed in Larnaca and is described by lawyers involved in the case as a first of its kind.

    Lawyer Neophytos Pirrilides, representing the plaintiffs, claims it is the first time a Cyprus court will judge a case against a foreign state.

    The ten Cypriots are claiming compensation for what they allege was the unlawful termination of their contract (in August 1997) at the station at Zygi.

    "They are claiming amounts they are not entitled to," said Cypriot lawyer Xanthos Clerides, who is acting for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

    He told the Cyprus Mail that the other side had filed a state of claim but now needs to file a writ of summons explaining how they are entitled to the money and how much.

    "The action is against the British government as the relay station belongs to the FCO," Clerides said yesterday.

    At first he objected to the claim, citing immunity of a foreign state from prosecution, but then withdrew the objection after conceding that a Cyprus court does have jurisdiction in a "commercial dispute" of this nature.

    But Clerides said there was a long way to go before the case will be heard. "We need at least one year before we complete the preliminary procedures," he said.

    Tuesday, January 26, 1999

    [11] Japan has captured the used car market

    USED Japanese cars are still hogging much of the car market, according to 1998 figures released by the Department of Statistics and Research yesterday.

    The department's report, 'Registration of Motor Vehicles in 1998', states that out of 23,403 private saloon cars registered, 17,035 or 72.8 per cent were used, while just 6,368 were brand new.

    Japan was top of the league of vehicle suppliers, sending Cyprus 67.4 per cent of the vehicles registered. Europe came next, supplying 22.6 per cent of vehicles registered last year.

    The statistics also show that Cypriot roads are becoming ever more crowded as overall registrations increased to 38,798 over 1997's 31,857 - an rise of 21.8 per cent. Private saloon car registrations went up by 22.1 per cent over 1997, rising to 23,403 from 19,164.

    The number of goods vehicles registered rose 18.1 per cent to 7,422 from 6, 284, while a jump in the registration of motorbikes was also recorded. Last year, 5,795 were registered, a 27.3 increase over 1997's 4,552.

    Tuesday, January 26, 1999

    [12] Sarcophagus dug up in church gardens

    A SARCOPHAGUS was accidentally uncovered in the gardens of Saint Lazarus Church in Larnaca yesterday morning.

    The find was made by workers digging up the garden in preparation for the laying of flagstones around the 1,100-year-old Byzantine period church.

    The Antiquities Department said it was too early yesterday to say when the stone sarcophagus dated from, as it had not yet been lifted out of the ground. But the Saint Lazarus parish priest, Archimandrite Lazaros Georgiou, suggested the sarcophagus dated from the 18th century.

    He added that this was not the first time tombs had been discovered at the church. In 1972, workers restoring the church following a fire stumbled upon a grave thought to be the last resting place of Saint Lazarus, who was the first Bishop of the Larnaca diocese of Kition.

    The Antiquities Department said more finds were anticipated as the area round the church being dug up was an old cemetery.

    Tuesday, January 26, 1999

    [13] Y2K bugged? Don't expect your insurance to cover it

    By Andrew Adamides

    PEOPLE whose computers are affected by the millennium bug next year had better not expect their insurance companies to replace conked-out machines - because the 'Y2K' problem is classed as a foreseeable danger, and as such won't be covered by insurance.

    Although policies don't cover the millennium bug as written, companies island-wide are issuing endorsements clarifying their position.

    Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, Philios Zachariades, General manager of the Cyprus branch of Royal Insurance Holdings, confirmed the situation and warned that computers are not the only bug-affected devices which are not covered by insurance.

    He said that in addition, videos, televisions, microwaves and all other household devices which could be affected will not be replaced under the terms of household contents policies, as this is all classed as foreseeable, and can be prevented.

    He also said that cars which stop running because of date chips in the engine management computers will not be covered for repairs. This will be classed as normal mechanical breakdown, however expensive it is to rectify.

    But Zachariades added that if the millennium bug caused a device to malfunction, and as a result it caught fire and the fire caused damage, that damage would be covered by a policy which insures against fire.

    The millennium bug is expected to cause chaos as 1999 turns to 2000. Many electronic items containing embedded systems or microchips recognise the year as just two digits, eg 98 or 99, and will be unable to recognise the 00 of 2000, resetting themselves to 1900.

    The insurance companies are advising that anyone worried about items they may own not being millennium-compatible should contact the item's manufacturers or suppliers. Alternately, millennium bug advice is available from the Department of Information at the Finance Ministry on 02-806386 and on the internet at

    Tuesday, January 26, 1999

    [14] Probe into why CyBC pulled the plug

    By Andrew Adamides

    CYBC IS currently probing the decision to stop showing the film Body Language on Friday because of sexy scenes.

    A CyBC source said yesterday that the 1995 American made-for-cable film had been seen by a CyBC previewer, and that the previewer had not thought the scenes to be excessively explicit. As a result, it had been passed as OK for the Friday 9pm slot, and its was transmitted out at that time - resulting in a flood of irate phone calls from viewers.

    So great was the number of calls that the Presentation Officer on duty then decided to replace the film with a Greek comedy scheduled for 9pm on CyBC2, but which had been pre-empted by the House Budget debate.

    The channel is now looking into whether the previewer properly examined the film, and whether the decision to stop showing it half way through was correct.

    The film, which starred Tom Berenger as a lawyer involved with a stripper and her blackmailing criminal husband, has never been shown in Cyprus before. It ran for just over an hour before being replaced, during which time viewers were treated to scenes of Berenger's screen wife Nancy Travis cavorting topless, Berenger and actress Heidi Seinz simulating sex in a packed department store, and Seinz doing a striptease from a sailor suit down to skimpy underwear, into which Berenger then stuffed money.

    American made-for-cable movies do not have to comply with the same strict censorship rules that are applied to films made for terrestrial TV, and as a result they are often raunchier.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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