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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-02-02

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Tuesday, February 02, 1999


  • [01] Guilty plea: Israelis jailed three years
  • [02] Decision on missiles `strengthens EU ties'
  • [03] Israeli joint venture clinches £20 million desalination deal
  • [04] Shares climb to all-time high
  • [05] National Guard agrees to lend firing range to British
  • [06] Two held in Limassol over car bomb
  • [07] Athanasios secures overwhelming mandate
  • [08] Galanos calls Clerides to seek consensus on liberalisation plans
  • [09] Port workers go on strike
  • [10] Unions plan sympathy strikes over hotel redundancies
  • [11] Turks hold second Greek Cypriot
  • [12] Cynika plans no further action, for now
  • [13] A week of crashes and speeding fines

  • [01] Guilty plea: Israelis jailed three years

    By Charlie Charalambous

    TWO ISRAELIS were yesterday jailed for three years after pleading guilty to approaching a prohibited military area near Zygi.

    The smartly-dressed duo, Udi Hargov, 37, and Igal Damary, 49, showed no signs of emotion and made no comment after the Assize court in Larnaca delivered its judgement yesterday.

    Michalis Kleoppas, one of three Cypriot defence lawyers, said the two Israelis had expected to go to jail and took the decision on the chin.

    "They were expecting up to four years in prison so they are taking it quite well," said Kleoppas as his two clients had their hands cuffed behind their backs in preparation for the 40km trip to Nicosia's Central Prison.

    Since being arrested at their holiday flat in Zygi on November 7, Hargov and Damary have spent nearly three months on remand, but this does not seem to have been taken into account in the three-year jail term which started yesterday.

    The maximum sentence for approaching a prohibited area is six years. They also received three months for possession of illegal scanners. The sentences will run concurrently.

    Defence lawyer Andis Triantafyllides said his team would now study the judgement to consider whether to file appeal proceedings. "We have ten days to file an appeal against the sentence and it's under consideration," said Triantafyllides.

    Another option for the lawyers would be to request a presidential pardon which can be done at any time, though the two procedures cannot be carried out simultaneously.

    Lawyers could cite the "public interest" in having the Israelis sent home rather than kept in a prison where Arab inmates account for a third of its population.

    Damary and Hargov are the only Israeli inmates serving time at the prison. Under similar circumstances, three Israeli citizens were pardoned in January 1997 after being sentenced to four years' jail just two months previously for trying to escape police custody.

    Yesterday's court decision is unlikely to ease Cyprus' already strained relations with Israel as the Nethanyahu government still insists the two be "sent home immediately". Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon issued a statement regretting the "severity" of the sentence, "especially when it is clear and already known that the two did not engage in espionage against Cyprus".

    In Nicosia, Matty Cohen, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy said: "We are satisfied that they were not accused of spying or conspiracy. We are also satisfied that the two Israelis did not harm the safety or security of Cyprus. We hope that the friendly relations between our two countries will continue."

    Senior figures who have bargained for the duo's release include Israeli Attorney-general Elyakim Rubenstein, who visited the island twice under a cloud of secrecy, US senators, Israeli president Ezer Weisman, Mossad chiefs and former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

    Relations between the two countries have been under intense pressure since the two - allegedly senior Mossad agents - were arrested. Ironically, the arrests came only days after Weizman's bridge-building visit to reassure Cyprus about his country's military ties with Turkey.

    Yesterday's three-year term was imposed after the prosecution dropped more serious charges of spying and conspiracy to commit espionage, in exchange for the Israelis pleading guilty to possessing illegal scanners and approaching a prohibited area.

    In mitigation, Triantafyllides said the two Israelis had come to Cyprus as part of a crack anti-terrorist unit to prevent an act of terror against Israel.

    This claim was dismissed by Assize court judge George Arestis.

    "Even if we accept this version of events, we cannot accept it as a mitigating factor because no explanation was given as to why they went to a prohibited area without permission from the Interior Ministry," the judge said in passing sentence yesterday.

    Last November 6, Hargov and Damary were spotted loitering in an area where a secret shipment of army equipment was being unloaded - a shipment about which only the National Guard hierarchy knew.

    Judge Arestis said that, during a time of Turkish occupation, security offences in Cyprus took on a more serious character. "Under the circumstances, Cyprus does not have the luxury to tolerate this type of activity," he said.

    However, the court did consider the fact that Hargov and Damary (not thought to be their real names) had clean criminal records and were respected family men.

    Last week's plea-bargain deal came in for a torrent of criticism from the media and opposition parties, who claimed the government had caved in to outside political pressure, as it did over the controversial S-300 missile deal last December.

    Prosecutor George Papaioannou said Attorney-general Alecos Markides' decision to drop the spying charges was vindicated by yesterday's outcome. "The Attorney-general was heavily criticised, and people said we gave in like we did over the S-300s, but today we've silenced the critics."

    The government has denied it bowed to pressure or threats in dropping the spying charges, but spokesman Christos Stylianides yesterday said: "That there were certain pressures on this matter is known. However these pressures were not passed on, nor did they have any influence on the Attorney-general's decision."

    Tuesday, February 02, 1999

    [02] Decision on missiles `strengthens EU ties'

    PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides' decision not to deploy the S-300 missiles was courageous and important, EU external relations commissioner Hans Van Den Broek said yesterday.

    Speaking after a meeting in Brussels with Cypriot Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides, the commissioner said the decision will strengthen Cyprus-EU ties and boost the continuation of the island's accession talks.

    Expressing EU "appreciation" for the move, he added that the deployment of the missiles would have disturbed "the EU process".

    Van Den Broek said that so far, Cyprus' progress had been good and gave assurances that the EU would "do everything on our side to see to it that this is maintained".

    Referring to Turkish-EU relations, he said that efforts for their improvement should continue, but that Ankara had to understand that it couldn't do anything to harm efforts for a Cyprus solution.

    On his part, Cassoulides said his talks with the EU commissioner had been useful and productive. He repeated calls for the Turkish Cypriots to join in the accession talks, saying: "It is time for the Turkish Cypriots to accept the proposal to participate in the negotiations with their representatives, so that we can all join the EU."

    Tuesday, February 02, 1999

    [03] Israeli joint venture clinches £20 million desalination deal

    By Anthony O. Miller

    TWO ISRAELI joint-venture companies won the bid to build the island's second permanent desalination plant under a contract that will cost the Republic 22 per cent less per cubic metre than the Dhekelia desalting plant charges, officials said yesterday.

    Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous announced the bid award yesterday, but the Tender Board actually made the award last week to IDE (Israeli Desalination Engineering) and Oceana, both of Tel Aviv.

    "It's a very big tender... a very, very important thing... for Cyprus and Cypriots, first of all," Matty Cohen, Israeli Embassy commercial attaché, told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    "We are very happy" that Israeli companies won the bid, "and that Israeli high-technology will be used to solve the grave problem of water shortage faced by Cyprus," he explained.

    Both Israeli companies have long experience building desalination plants, Abraham Koren, IDE project manager, said yesterday by telephone from Tel Aviv. IDE alone has built 300 such plants worldwide in its 30 years in business, he added.

    After the contract is signed, an environmental assessment will be done and reviewed before building begins, said Nicos Tsiourtis, Water Development Department (WDD) senior water engineer.

    It will take "two months to carry out the (assessment) and two months to evaluate it," Tsiourtis said. "So we'll start work (actually building) in the fifth month - by May or June."

    The joint-venture has "80 weeks - about 18 months" to complete work, Tsiourtis said. This means that if work starts in May, the new plant's first water would not start flowing before December 2000, unless the new plant is finished earlier.

    The government, claiming a second desalination plant was "urgently" needed in a "crash-programme" to compensate for disappearing dam reserves, originally sought tenders for the second permanent desalination plant in November 1997, and pushed forward the deadline for submission several times.

    The new plant, to be sited outside Larnaca, will be a "BOOT" plant, just like the Dhekelia desalination plant. This means the Israeli joint-venture will Build, Own and Operate the plant for a 10-year period, and then transfer title of the plant to the government, free of charge.

    During that 10-year period, the government will pay the joint-venture 42.2 cents per cubic meter of desalted water. From this, the joint-venture has to recoup not only its day-to-day cost of desalinating seawater, but the £20 million it will cost to build the plant.

    The Israeli joint-venture's 42.2 cents for a cubic metre of water is 22 per cent cheaper than the 54 cents per cubic metre the government is being charged at Dhekelia by the joint-venture of Caramondani Desalination Plants Ltd and Cadagua S.A. of Spain.

    Meanwhile, the government hopes to award two tenders next week for two 'mobile' desalination plants to help Cyprus - in its fourth year of drought and strict rationing - get through the coming summer.

    Their bids require them to be on-line 22 weeks after being awarded, and Tsiourtis said he hoped these would be adding to the island's water reserves by "sometime between June and July."

    Cyprus gets 80 per cent of its water from aquifers. All of them are dangerously overpumped. Many are bone-dry or too sea-salty for use. It also draws 40 million litres of water daily from the Dhekelia desalination plant at peak output. Scant reservoir reserves provide the rest.

    With 21 billion litres of rain inflow in the last three months, reservoirs yesterday held 32.7 million cubic metres of water (they were 87.8 per cent empty) - nearly up to the 33.1 million metres they held on February 1, 1998, WDD figures showed.

    Yesterday's storage was up 8.5 million cubic metres over the December 31, 1998, total of 24.2 million cubic metres (9 per cent of capacity), and a full 18.8 million cubic metres more than the 13.9 million cubic metres they held last November 30, when they were 95 per cent empty.

    "Until the end of 2000, we shall depend on the rainfall," for the island's water, Tsiourtis said. "Thereafter, we shall get the water from the desalination plants, only."

    "If we have enough rainfall, we shall lift the rationing; if we don't have enough, we shall have to continue to impose the restrictions," he said.

    But "by October 2000," with the two 'mobile' plants operating, and the Israeli joint-venture just about to finish the second permanent desalination plant, "we shall be able to lift all the (water rationing) restrictions, irrespective of the rainfall," an optimistic Tsiourtis said.

    Meanwhile the Nicosia Water Board met yesterday with Themistocleous to demand one-third of all the water produced by the WDD.

    They argued it was not acceptable for Nicosia residents to continue to put up with the strict rationing they have endured over recent years of drought.

    Currently, water is pumped to Nicosia homes and businesses - except for the old city, where there is no rationing - on only three days per week, for a total of 15 to 18 hours per week.

    Tuesday, February 02, 1999

    [04] Shares climb to all-time high

    By Hamza Hendawi

    SHARE prices yesterday soared to shatter the 33-month-old record high, climbing up by 1.48 per cent to set a new all-time record of 102.99.

    The old feat, reached on April 4, 1996 - barely days after the inauguration of the official market - had stood at 102.79.

    The new height was courtesy of an across-the-board rise in the market's seven sectors, led by the blue-chips of the banks and tourism companies. Both trading and manufacturing also rallied, but none had the depth of the banks shares' seemingly unstoppable rise.

    Of a total trade value of £3.63 million, trade in the banks' blue-chips totalled £1.18 million.

    Market leader Bank of Cyprus rose by seven cents to close at £4.47 apiece, while Popular Bank, the island's second largest, added six cents to close at £4.26. Hellenic Bank's shares, which have recently shown unusual stamina to party with its bigger brothers, finished up three cents to close at £2.97 apiece.

    "Fresh money is flowing into the market and buying is healthy in all sectors," said Neofytos Neofytou of Nicosia brokerage AAA United.

    "Prices will continue to climb for sometime still," he said.

    Speaking of yesterday's rally, Stavros Agrotis of CISCO said prices may have gone up partly because demand exceeded supply.

    "People are not willing to sell even at the currently high prices. They believe the shares still have more value in them," said Agrotis.

    The market has been living out some golden days since the government of President Glafcos Clerides decided in late December not to bring the Russian anti-aircraft missiles to Cyprus, thus avoiding heightened tension and averting a possible Turkish military strike which could have had disastrous effects on the economy.

    Clerides' climbdown was followed by a January 11 announcement that the Popular Bank was buying Nicos Shacolas' insurance business in a £47-million that gave it an enviable 30 per cent of the local insurance market.

    The good news continued with the Bank of Cyprus announcing on January 22 that it would reward the faith of shareholders and the labour of employees by issuing a generous package of bonus shares, a new rights issue and warrants spread over 1999.

    Tuesday, February 02, 1999

    [05] National Guard agrees to lend firing range to British

    By Andrew Adamides

    THE NATIONAL Guard said yesterday it would happy to agree a compromise solution to the problem of staging British Bases exercises in the Akamas by allowing them to be held at its Kalochorio firing range - as long as certain conditions are observed.

    Defence Minister Yiannakis Chrysostomis said the National Guard would be passing on its proposals to the Foreign Ministry, either late yesterday or today.

    There were, he went on, no objections to the British army using the Kalochorio firing range, a move already approved by the cabinet.

    But he did say that the use would have to be subject to the conditions that British troops would not stay overnight at the firing range, that there would be a National Guard observer on hand at all times and that the bases could use the range only for limited periods.

    Bases spokesman Rob Need told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that, as the proposals had not yet officially been submitted to the bases, it was too early for him to comment. But he did say he would be delighted with any progress.

    The bases have said that, provided the firing range meets their requirements, they wold be happy to move the exercises away from the environmentally-sensitive Akamas.

    But George Perdikis of the Greens yesterday said his party still opposed the move, believing that British exercises in Cyprus should stop completely.

    The British right to hold exercises on the territory of the Republic is enshrined in the 1960 Treaty of Establishment.

    Tuesday, February 02, 1999

    [06] Two held in Limassol over car bomb

    By Martin Hellicar

    POLICE arrested two Limassol men yesterday in connection with a car-bomb attack in the town in the early hours.

    The blast occurred just before 1am yesterday, destroying a Mercedes belonging to cabaret owner Melios Yiannakas, police said.

    The car was parked under a block of flats on Ayias Zonis street in Limassol at the time. Another vehicle parked next to the Mercedes was also damaged in the blast.

    Acting on information given to them by Yiannakas, police arrested Michalis Georgiou Roulis, 21, unemployed, and cabaret owner Michalis Achniotis, 36, at around midday. Police said they also had a warrant for the arrest of a third suspect.

    Professional rivalries are believed to be behind the bomb attack.

    Justice Minister Nicos Koshis said the incidence of car-bomb attacks was "worrying" and said police were focusing their efforts on finding the bomb- makers.

    Police were yesterday also investigating four suspected arson attacks which took place in Larnaca, Nicosia and Liopetri village between 12.40am and 8pm on Sunday. No one was hurt.

    The first fire broke out in a vacant lot behind a block of flats on Makarios III Avenue in Larnaca at 12.40am on Sunday, police said. A car belonging to Larnaca resident Andreas Christofi went up in flames. Police later found a gas bottle under the burnt-out vehicle's front seat, suggesting the fire had been started deliberately.

    Thirty-five minutes later, the Larnaca fire brigade was called out to another blaze, this time in a plot of land on Stratigou Timagia Avenue. Three abandoned cars belonging to Georgios Papettides were engulfed in flames. Police said they were looking into how the blaze had started.

    At around 3.30am on Sunday, in the Famagusta district village of Liopetri, an Isuzu truck belonging to local resident Charalambos Kyriacou was completely gutted in another fire. The vehicle was parked in Kyriacou's garage at the time.

    At about 8pm on Sunday, a fire broke out in the car-wash of an Agip petrol station in Strovolos, Nicosia. Police later found evidence to suggest the blaze, which caused £600 worth of damage, had been started deliberately.

    Tuesday, February 02, 1999

    [07] Athanasios secures overwhelming mandate

    ABBOT Athanasios of Machairas monastery won a landslide victory in Sunday's second phase of Church elections, all but securing his appointment as next Bishop for Limassol.

    The abbot was already odds-on favourite despite the sordid attacks directed his way by the Paphos Bishop, his supporters having secured 150 of the 200 special elector positions in last month's first round of polling. On Sunday, the 200 special electors voted for 50 among their number who will, on February 11, along with 23 church-appointed electors, elect the new Bishop.

    Athanasios's supporters won all 50 of these general elector positions.

    The new Bishop, to succeed disgraced former Bishop Chrysanthos, will be enthroned on February 14.

    Bishop Chrysostomos of Paphos has alleged that Athanasios' mentor, 80-year- old elder Iosif of the Mount Athos monastery of Vatopedhi, was a pervert who molested nuns and young girls during his stay in Paphos 17 years ago. A Holy Synod investigation found Chrysostomos' claims against Iosif justified. Vatopedhi monastery has threatened to sue Chrysostomos for libel.

    But the lurid saga has not affected Athanasios' credentials.

    The elections to the vacant bishopric were announced in November last year after Chrysanthos was suspended from his duties following the launch of a police investigation into his alleged involvement in over 30 financial scams in Cyprus and abroad.

    Tuesday, February 02, 1999

    [08] Galanos calls Clerides to seek consensus on liberalisation plans

    PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides should soon meet with party leaders to discuss pressing financial measures, Alexis Galanos, the president of the House Finance Committee, said yesterday.

    Speaking after a meeting with Clerides, Galanos said that, in his opinion, the president would soon meet the parties to discuss planned measures regarding the sale of the government's stake in certain organisations, privatisation and the liberalisation of interest rates.

    He underlined the importance of coming to an agreement on all these measures for the good of the island's EU accession process, which is currently demanding that Cyprus push ahead with liberalisation of the economy.

    Yesterday's meeting came in the wake of widespread opposition and trade union criticism of government plans to move towards the privatisation of the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (Cyta) and to remove the ceiling on interest rates - both measures essential for EU harmonisation.

    Galanos said he had briefed Clerides on the latest financial developments, and given the president more details on a proposal by opposition Akel and Diko, which want to block at least some of the sales of government shares. He also said he had told Clerides that the people needed more information on what was involved in the EU harmonisation process, as many thought it was all plain sailing with no downside.

    He said he had suggested to Clerides that he call the political party heads to a meeting within the next few days. Good will was needed on all sides, he warned: the government must be willing to listen to all opinions and the opposition must also be willing to see things from others' perspective.

    The opposition, he added, should not use transitional proposals to create problems with the EU accession course, just because they wanted to oppose the government standpoint.

    Tuesday, February 02, 1999

    [09] Port workers go on strike

    By Athena Karsera

    LARNACA port workers yesterday began an indefinite strike in protest at their uncertain future.

    The workers have the backing of unions Sek, Peo and Deok as well as of the Larnaca Harbour Porters Association.

    The unions are demanding the implementation of a Development Committee decision to modernise the harbour, which would guarantee workers and porters another two to four years of employment. They also want more working hours.

    Peo's Larnaca harbour representative Costas Christodoulou yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that the unions had been threatening to strike since November 9 last year if they received no government word on their demands by the end of January.

    The decision to begin the strike yesterday was taken last Friday. Christodoulou said the government had not yet responded to the strike. He added that the 24-hour walk-out would continue indefinitely and that, depending on developments, more measures would be taken.

    Christodoulou said further action may include demonstrations outside the House of Representatives and the Presidential Palace in Nicosia.

    Sek representative Panicos Lambritis told the Cyprus Mail the unions had heard nothing from the Cabinet-appointed committee assigned to the problems at the harbour since their last meeting four months ago.

    Lambritis confirmed that the unions had received no government reaction by late yesterday.

    Deok's secretary-general Diomides Diomides said that what the workers wanted was an immediate answer from the government.

    No decision has been announced on whether the harbour will remain industrial or will focus on passenger traffic instead.

    The workers are concerned over possible redundancies and the conditions that will apply to those that keep their jobs.

    Larnaca port has seen its traffic dwindle dramatically over the last few years.

    Tuesday, February 02, 1999

    [10] Unions plan sympathy strikes over hotel redundancies

    By Athena Karsera

    STRIKE action at two Larnaca hotels is set to continue today, with unions threatening sympathy strikes at other hotels. Management, meanwhile, insists their hotels are operating as usual.

    Workers at the luxury five and four star Lordos Beach and Golden Bay began strike action on Saturday following redundancies at both hotels.

    Peo union's representative on hotels, Andreas Trahanas, yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that strike measures would continue today.

    Trahanas was speaking from a meeting to drum up strikes at other hotels in sympathy for the redundant workers at the two hotels.

    He continued that the sympathy strikes, "involving dozens of workers," should begin on Thursday.

    Trahanas said strikes at the two hotels had lasted all day yesterday, "from 5am to late at night," and involved staff at all levels.

    Meanwhile, management at both hotels say that their guests have not been affected by the strike.

    The chief of the front desk at the Lordos Beach, Stefanos Stefanou, yesterday told the Mail "we even have an international conference here and the hotel is operating as normal."

    A spokesman representing the management at the two hotels, both belonging to the Lordos group, confirmed that the majority of staff was not striking. "We are not concerned," he added.

    At the start of the strike unions Sek and Peo said that the redundancies were "in contravention of collective agreements, against the law and unprecedented."

    Tuesday, February 02, 1999

    [11] Turks hold second Greek Cypriot

    By Martin Hellicar

    A SECOND Greek Cypriot was being held in the occupied areas yesterday, Unficyp spokesperson Sarah Russell confirmed.

    Dinos Anastasiou was apprehended in the Morphou buffer zone area on Sunday and appeared before a 'court' in the north yesterday, Russell said. Georgios Ioannou, held after crossing into occupied Nicosia on Wednesday, is expected to reappear before a similar 'court' today.

    Kakopetria villager Anastasiou, 50, disappeared around midday on Sunday while out collecting wild asparagus in the Morphou buffer zone area near Koutrafas village.

    Russell said Anastasiou's car had been found by the UN in the buffer zone near Petra village, not far from Koutrafas; Unficyp had returned it to Cyprus police.

    Russell said Unficyp had not yet managed to arrange to see Anastasiou.

    "He is being held in Morphou and appeared before a Nicosia 'court' this morning," the spokesperson said.

    She said the UN had not been informed of the 'court' decision but it was likely Anastasiou had been held for "illegal entry into a military area."

    Russell said Unficyp had been told that Anastasiou had contacted his family in Kakopetria by phone since his arrest.

    Ioannou, 47, appeared before a 'court' in occupied Nicosia on Thursday, the day after his arrest. He was charged with "illegal entry" and held over till today, Russell said.

    The Engomi resident has been held in the north since Wednesday night, when he crossed the green line in Nicosia, apparently by accident.

    "We saw Ioannou on Friday and he was okay," Russell said.

    CyBC radio reported yesterday that Ioannou had been drunk when he crossed to the north on Wednesday.

    Tuesday, February 02, 1999

    [12] Cynika plans no further action, for now

    CYNIKA head Costas Demetriou said yesterday his union was not planning any further strike action in the immediate future, in the hope of fostering a good environment for talks with the government.

    Speaking after a Cynika meeting to co-ordinate strategy, Demetirou told the Cyprus Mail that, for the next few days, Cynika would be letting things run as normal. He said the next developments could be expected on Thursday or Friday.

    "We are hoping for light on the horizon." he said.

    Cynika, Cyprus Airways' (CY) largest union, is demanding rises in pay and benefits for its members, in line with other semi-government employees.

    Cynika held a four-hour warning strike last Thursday, disrupting all CY flights between 7 and 11am.

    Tuesday, February 02, 1999

    [13] A week of crashes and speeding fines

    THE NEW year looks to be little different from the last on Cyprus' roads, as police yesterday announced that, in the week ending January 24 alone, there had been 117 car crashes.

    In a press release yesterday, police said there one fatality as a result of the accidents, along with 14 seriously injured and 45 slightly injured.

    During the same period, 2,687 breaches of traffic laws were reported, with 607 cases taken to the courts. Forty people lost their licences, and fines amounting to £31,365 were handed out.

    There were 1,540 cases of breaking the speed limit reported, 245 of travelling without wearing a seatbelt and one of driving a vehicle churning out a higher level of pollution than legally acceptable.

    Nine motorbike riders were caught not wearing a helmet, and 15 drivers out of 312 breathalysed were found to be driving under the influence of alcohol.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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