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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-02-05

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

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


Friday, February 05, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Clerides eyes reshuffle as poll rating wanes
  • [02] CY unions agree to talk
  • [03] Key meeting today could decide fate of Akamas war games
  • [04] Medical Association backs health service plans
  • [05] Government denies it called for Nato force
  • [06] Shuttle talks resume after Denktash health break
  • [07] Market takes a breather after record highs
  • [08] Strikers stand firm at harbour and hotels
  • [09] Government seeks to allay desalination noise concern
  • [10] Government at a loss on how to return Hilton into profit
  • [11] Pig farmers kick up stink over buffer zone bar
  • [12] Law passed for Y2K compliance
  • [13] Shark caught off Larnaca
  • [14] Students strike for subsidy
  • [15] Deputies discuss amendments to divorce law
  • [16] Church loses legal battle for icons
  • [17] Police free man in gangland case
  • [18] All motorcyclists must wear helmets

  • [01] Clerides eyes reshuffle as poll rating wanes

    By Charlie Charalambous

    WITH ONE eye on negative opinion polls, President Clerides is ready to give his unpopular ministers the chop in a major reshuffle this month.

    Around six ministerial portfolios will be affected in the imminent reshuffle, according to informed sources quoted by Sigma TV and Simerini.

    Since coming to power for a second term last February, the Clerides administration has been dogged by the controversial S-300 missile deal, labour disputes and a string of image-tarnishing sleaze scandals.

    Ministries which look set for a new boss are: Defence, Communications, Interior, Health, Finance and Labour.

    It is reported that among the coming and goings, at least three ministers will be axed.

    Clerides, who has previously ignored calls to change the cabinet, was reportedly forced to consider a reshuffle after a recent poll indicated his government was unpopular and ineffective.

    Apparently, on the basis of the poll, Clerides decided that at least half of his present cabinet must go.

    Those whose positions are thought to be secure are: Justice Minister Nicos Koshis, Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides and Government spokesman Christos Stylianides.

    Stylianides, who yesterday did not deny the reshuffle speculation, accepted the government's public image left a lot to be desired.

    The position of Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides is not thought to be under pressure as he was newly appointed when socialist Edek left the government last month over the December 29 decision to divert the S-300 missiles to Greece.

    Koshis, who is seen as tough on crime, despite the recent spate of gangster- related murders, is the most popular member of the cabinet, according to a recent opinion poll.

    Those ministers who were bottom of the popularity pile - Dinos Michaelides (Interior), Christos Solomis (Health) and Andreas Moushiouttas (Labour) - look almost certain to go.

    Both Michaelides and Moushiouttas broke ranks with centre-right Diko to back Clerides in the 1998 February elections, but it seems the pay-back for their loyalty has run its course.

    Michaelides, although eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, was embroiled in a series of damaging corruption scandals, which seem to have stuck in the public eye.

    Solomis is seen as an unsympathetic figure and ineffectual when handling nurses disputes or paving the way for the much delayed National Health Scheme.

    Another disliked cabinet member - for his tough austerity and tax measures - Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou is tipped to lose his portfolio but remain in government as Interior Minister.

    Communications Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou - now burdened with trying to solve the Cyprus Airways dispute - is allegedly being groomed for the prestigious finance ministry.

    Two names being touted for a ministerial post are United Democrats vice president Michalis Papapetrou, and the vice president of pro-European Renewal party of Alexis Galanos, Antonis Paschalides.

    The Centre-left United Democrats are already represented in the cabinet by Themistocleous; party boss George Vassiliou, a former president, is the island's EU negotiator.

    Galanos was a former Clerides advisor, but has ruled himself out for a cabinet position.

    Despite new faces coming in from other political groups the government is expected to remain right-wing Disy dominated.

    Moves by Clerides to form a government of wider representation in the reshuffle were foiled this week when communist Akel leader Demetris Christofias refused to participate.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [02] CY unions agree to talk

    By Charlie Charalambous

    CYPRUS Airways (CY) unions yesterday agreed to enter into negotiations with management after the government warned more any strikes would bankrupt the airline.

    Cynika, CY's largest union, said yesterday it backed the government's call for talks and had unanimously voted to kickstart a dialogue.

    It was Cynika which called last week's strike action over pay, which grounded CY's planes for four hours - costing an estimated £200,000 and disrupting flights for thousands of passengers.

    Last Thursday's stoppage and its consequences have been partly blamed for the government's inability to sell ten of its 80 per cent share in CY.

    In a strongly worded statement on Wednesday, the Cabinet warned that the national carrier would go bust if strike action continued and the company failed to halt rising labour costs.

    With the government losing patience with militant CY unions and public sympathy in short supply, Cynika appeared to have no choice but to grasp the olive branch and get round the negotiating table.

    "After examining the Cabinet statement, we have unanimously decided to respond to the initiative and carry on a dialogue where we left off last July," Cynika chief Costas Demetriou said yesterday.

    Demetriou's statements suggested that employees were more interested in thrashing out a new collective agreement over pay and conditions, than getting to work on tougher issues about voluntary redundancies and a wage freeze, which are integral to the strategic plan drawn up to ensure the airline's survival.

    But CY chairman Takis Kyriakides insisted that all issues had to be on the table, not just whichever ones suited the unions.

    "It's a historic moment for the state airline, because we will be getting round the table to discuss all problems linked to the company's survival, not just specific ones...

    "It's clear that issues cannot be discussed in isolation and both the collective agreement and the strategic plan are interlinked," Kyriakides said.

    CY announced profits of £5 million for 1998, following two years of successive losses, but this is mainly down to the success of charter wing Eurocypria and Duty Free sales.

    Communications Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou has the unenviable task of getting both sides to approve painful but essential cost-cutting decisions.

    A wage freeze, a voluntary redundancy scheme, management streamlining, a staff share-option plan and disbanding unprofitable routes are all issues that must be quickly resolved.

    Although management says it is willing to take pay demands on board, the company would be reluctant to bloat a wage bill, which already accounts for 35 per cent of total expenditure - way higher than in most other airlines.

    Delays in the restructuring of the company, urgently needed to make it more competitive at all levels, are considered a more pressing issue.

    And the much-trumpeted strategic plan, floated for over a year, has yet to be formally discussed by management and unions.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [03] Key meeting today could decide fate of Akamas war games

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE FOREIGN Ministry and the British High Commission are to meet today to try to arrange for British forces to use a National Guard firing range, instead of the environmentally sensitive Akamas peninsula, for military exercises, sources said yesterday.

    "We are going to meet the British (today), and we will try to find a solution," Cornelius Corneliou, director of the Foreign Ministry's Director General's office, said yesterday.

    The fact the British war games are to start on Tuesday has added urgency to the talks, Corneliou said, adding: "That's why we are going to meet this week, and try to solve the problem."

    Besides the British, "we are still having consultations with... the Minister of Defence," he said, "because we are not the only appropriate ministry in the government" involved in the talks.

    Asked if he expected an agreement today, Corneliou replied: "I think so," adding an announcement could be expected later in the day.

    Reports in the press have quoted Cyprus officials as saying the National Guard would let British forces use its Kalochorio firing range for military exercises, as a compromise to using the environmentally sensitive Akamas Peninsula.

    But neither the British High Commission nor the British Sovereign Bases Area (SBA) has received any invitation from the government to use the National Guard range, spokesman for both said on Wednesday. Without an invitation, no use of Kalochorio is possible, they said.

    SBA Spokesman Rob Need said yesterday he was aware the of the Cyprus- British meeting today, but added: "At this present moment, we are planning to train on the Akamas next week, bullet-free."

    "We haven't had any hint," Need said, of how today's meeting will play out. "All along, we have said if the alternative site is suitable," British troops would use that site, instead of the Akamas, he said.

    But "we would have to assess its suitability," before agreeing to cease using the Akamas for live-fire or dry-fire drills, he said. Under the Treaty of Establishment that ended Cyprus' British colonial status, Britain is entitled to use territory in the Republic several times a year for war games.

    Environmentalists in Cyprus and elsewhere bitterly oppose the use of the environmentally fragile Akamas for military exercises, many of them involving the firing of live ammunition.

    "We can understand their concerns and wish them well in their campaign," Need said, "but we will continue to train in the Akamas until an alternative site is found."

    George Perdikis, leader of the Green Party yesterday said he was aware of today's Cyprus-Britain meeting over the Akamas, but put little stock in it.

    "We are planning to go on Saturday into the (Akamas) area and plant some trees there. After we take out the signs (warning of a firing range), we are going to plant trees on the firing range" he said.

    The Ecological Movement of Paphos, part of the island's environmental movement, is spearheading the planting, Perdikis said. He added the movement planned a mass demonstration on Monday in the Paphos area, "if, after the meeting (today), there will still be exercises after all in the Akamas."

    Perdikis said the environmental movement wanted to get the British army out of the Akamas and to create a national park there. "We want to make clear to the British army that we will never tolerate military activities in this area; and to the Cyprus government, that we will never accept anything in the area but a national park," Perdikis said.

    He said two Green Party "executive committee" members were now in London, talking with their British counterparts, and with some Cypriots there, in order to "to prepare (for street) action" in London in defence of Xylophagou Forest, Akrotiri salt lake, and the Akamas," all of which, he said, are damaged by British military activity. "So the story does not end with the Akamas," he said.

    Protests by environmentalists in early January, forced the SBA to cut from three days to one the non-live-fire war games in the Akamas, and to cut from 300 to 100 the number of troops involved in the drills.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [04] Medical Association backs health service plans

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE GOVERNMENT'S controversial plans to forge ahead with a radical revamp of the country's health care system received a welcome boost from the Medical Association yesterday.

    However, civil servants' union Pasydy again made clear its opposition to the new national health care plan.

    The new system, first proposed by the Vassiliou government more than six years ago, would provide free health care for all, at both state hospitals and private practices. At the moment, free health care is available only at hospitals and only for emergency cases and low-income patients. Half of the cost for the new system would be paid by the state and the other half by mandatory contributions from employers and workers.

    Medical Association chairman Dr Antonis Vassiliou said yesterday the new system would upgrade health provision on the island and give patients the right to choose where and by whom they were treated.

    Under the new system, patients would first visit a general practitioner (GP) who would then refer them to a specialist as necessary.

    "The Cypriot citizen will be given the right to choose his doctor or health centre - in either the private or the public sector - and will enjoy full 24-hour medical cover without having to pay on the spot - a part will simply be taken from the pay of every citizen," Vassiliou said at a morning press conference.

    He said the existing national health care system was neither up-to-date nor financially viable.

    The only amendment to the proposed new system the association wanted was that patients be allowed to bypass the visit to a GP when their ailment was "obviously" a job for a specialist, Vassiliou said.

    Health Minister Christos Solomis is determined to push the long-delayed new health care system through parliament, despite the misgivings of unions. A relevant bill is to go to the House this month.

    Pasydy general secretary Glafcos Hadjipetrou yesterday said his union did not believe the time was right for introducing the new system.

    He said the government was misleading the public by claiming everything was "rosy" with the new health care system and that Pasydy were the sole objectors.

    The new system would be expensive and would make hospitals obsolete, Hadjipetrou said.

    Pasydy and other unions argue that their members would not benefit from the new system as they already subscribe to union health care plans and would have to pay higher contributions under the new system.

    In response, Health Ministry officer Andreas Polynikis said the new health care system would fully protect the rights of civil servants. He added that negotiations with Pasydy and other unions concerning the new plan were ongoing and would be completed before the relevant bill was passed.

    The initial cost of implementing the new health care system is put at £187 million, or nine per cent of the gross national wage bill.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [05] Government denies it called for Nato force

    THE GOVERNMENT was at pains yesterday to deny that Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides had proposed a Nato force be deployed in Cyprus in the event of demilitarisation.

    President Clerides, Government spokesman Christos Stylianides and Cassoulides himself all insisted comments the latter was reported to have made during his visit to Brussels earlier this week had been misconstrued.

    The Foreign Minister's reported comments were given wide coverage by the local media yesterday, with Cassoulides quoted as saying a Nato force could be deployed on the island even before a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    The Nato proposal was slammed by opposition parties yesterday.

    Clerides responded that any multinational force that might be deployed to keep the peace in Cyprus should have both its mandate and composition decided by the UN.

    "I would like to see an international force with a mandate from the UN Security Council, which will decide on its composition," the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) reported Clerides as saying.

    Stylianides said the government was "open to discussion" on the issue of a multinational force but insisted the force's role and composition should be approved by the Security Council.

    Upon return from his Brussels and Athens trip yesterday afternoon, Cassoulides also denied the reports, stating that his comments had been misinterpreted.

    He said what the government wanted, in the event of a demilitarisation deal, was for a multinational force that could "include" Nato troops, to be stationed on the island.

    Cassoulides also said he believed Cyprus EU accession negotiations were proceeding as scheduled. He said his meeting in Brussels with EU external affairs commissioner Hans van den Broek had been "good and productive".

    Referring to his meeting in Athens with Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, Cassoulides said talks had focused on laying down short-term objectives and reiterated earlier statements that the two had decided what tactics to apply on the Cyprus question in the immediate future.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [06] Shuttle talks resume after Denktash health break

    UNITED Nations resident representative Dame Ann Hercus continued her shuttle talks yesterday, meting with President Glafcos Clerides in the morning.

    She was then whisked north to the occupied areas for a meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    Speaking after the meeting with Clerides, Dame Ann explained that there had been a slight hiatus in her talks because Denktash had been unavailable due to illness.

    "We are now assuming, given his return to good health, that the shuttle talks will proceed," she added.

    Dame Ann said her next meeting with Denktash had been scheduled for next week.

    There were no statements from either of the two leaders after the meetings, in line with the media blackout under which the talks are being held.

    Speaking to the British Residents Society in Kyrenia on Wednesday, and to the Rotary Club yesterday at the Hilton, Dame Ann said that she believed the decision by Kofi Annan to hold the shuttle talks under a media blackout was a wise one. "Many, many people" agreed with her, she said, including journalists, and so the talks would continue in the same vein.

    Quoting her grandmother, Hercus said "the greater good sometimes requires small sacrifices."

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [07] Market takes a breather after record highs

    SHARE prices took a breather yesterday after rising by as much as 5.13 per cent over just four sessions. The all-share index of the Cyprus Stock Exchange closed at 106.10, down 0.32 per cent on Wednesday's close.

    The value of trade was an impressive £6.72 million, of which £2.34 were spent on the blue chips of bank titles.

    Of the four bank stocks listed on the market, only the Bank of Cyprus finished in positive territory yesterday. The share danced a solo to a close of £4.66, three cents up on Wednesday's close. Rival Popular Bank shed five cents to close at £4.36, while Hellenic Bank slimmed by three cents to finish at £3.04.

    Trade in the Bank of Cyprus shares, boosted by a centenary package of a new rights issue and warrants announced last month, accounted for 21.5 per cent of the market's entire volume, more than double Popular Bank's 9.1 per cent share.

    Beside the centenary package, expectations that the bank will be listed on the Athens Stock Exchange in the near future have made the share even more attractive.

    Traders say legislation that would allow the listing of the bank in Athens is scheduled to come up for a vote in the Greek parliament later this month, paving the way for the first Cypriot title to be listed outside the island.

    Only investment and trading companies finished in positive territory yesterday. The bourse's remaining five sectors finished lower, with tourism the heaviest loser. The sector's sub-index closed 1.77 per cent lower at 81.41.

    Traders had expected the market's bull run to come to a temporary halt this week with profit-taking putting a lid on their rise. They argue that prices could not continue to rise indefinitely, but see the market picking up its upward trend virtually after every pause for consolidation.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [08] Strikers stand firm at harbour and hotels

    LARNACA remained the focus of strike action yesterday, with its harbour paralysed by dockers and workers picketing two of its major hotels.

    The fourth day of striking at the harbour took a macabre turn when workers and stevedores placed a coffin at the harbour entrance, enacting the port's funeral. An 'epitaph' on the coffin read "Larnaca Harbour, aged 25".

    Demonstrating against their uncertain future, the harbour workers once again blocked the entrance the port with loading machinery.

    Representatives of the unions supporting the 150 strikers, Sek, Peo and the Larnaca Harbour Stevedore Association, yesterday said the first they had heard of a government response to their demands was through the media.

    They were referring to comments by Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas that the strike would be the main topic of discussion at a forthcoming joint ministerial committee between the Labour and Communications Ministries.

    Union representatives said the strike would continue until specific action on the future of the harbour was taken.

    The site was visited yesterday by Larnaca mayor George Lycourgos and other Larnaca officials in a show of support for the dockers' demands.

    Workers and stevedores are protesting over the lack of work at the harbour and against a delay in voluntary redundancy packages for those willing to leave their posts.

    They also want the implementation of a Development Committee decision to modernise the harbour. This would guarantee both the workers and stevedores another two to four years of employment.

    Meanwhile, demonstrators continued to picket the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotels yesterday in protest at the dismissal of 73 of their colleagues.

    Management dismissed the 73 in an effort to reduce bloated labour costs, farming out their work to outside contractors instead.

    On the sixth day of strike action, employees from the two hotels were joined by hotel workers from other parts of the island.

    The demonstrators blocked the Dhekelia to Larnaca road, where the two hotels lie, three times for 10 minutes each.

    Union representatives from Sek and Peo Nicos Epistathiou and Yiannakis Phillipou yesterday addressed the demonstrators.

    In his address, Epistathiou stressed that the unions had tried to help the industry but warned: "This is the first hit. If it is successful you can rest assured there will be a lot more."

    A petition was then given to the Constantinos Lordos, the president of Lordos Holdings, which owns the two hotels; copies were later sent to Moushiouttas and Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis.

    On receiving the petition, Lordos said he wanted dialogue with the unions and did not rule out the possibility of the dismissed staff being reinstated. He stressed, however, that both he and the company as a whole felt the dismissals ought to stand.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [09] Government seeks to allay desalination noise concern

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE GOVERNMENT is planning a field trip today for Ayios Theodoros residents to let them hear just how much noise the Dhekelia desalination plant makes, Nicos Tsiourtis, Water Development Department senior water engineer, said yesterday.

    The trip was arranged yesterday in a meeting with Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous, Tsiourtis and other water officials, over villagers' concerns that a 'mobile' desalination plant to be sited near their village, would produce excessive noise and exhaust pollution.

    Their meeting followed appearances by the mukhtars of Zakaki and Ayois Theodoros before the House Environment Committee, where they voiced their fears that the two planned desalination units would harm the local environment by discharging concentrated salt-brine into the sea and by noise and exhaust pollution from the units' diesel generators.

    The problems stem from the fact that the two mobile units for which the government has sought will run on power from a diesel generator, instead of voltage from Electricity Authority power lines, Tsiourtis said.

    "There are no wires" leading to the site of the desalination unit near Ayios Theodoros. "We are in a hurry. We have to supply water in June or July, so we do not have the time to construct a power supply from the electricity authority," he said.

    With nothing in the vicinity, it may take two or three years to run electrical wires to the site, he said. "We are planning with the EAC (Electricity Authority of Cyprus) so that power can ultimately be supplied. In the meantime, we will be forced to operate with generators," he said.

    "The main concern of the people is the noise pollution," Tsiourtis said. "Of course, we have in our specifications that the noise level, the decibels, should be according to the Cyprus noise level specifications. Their concern is whether the contractor will be able to meet those specifications.

    "We have said we shall look at this, so we can avoid problems with either of the (two mobile desalination) plants," he said.

    Builders have not been picked for either mobile desalination plant, as the 73 tenders received for them are still with the Main Tender Board. Tsiourtis said he expected the builder(s) to be selected next week, and the two plants to be online in June or July.

    When the WDD in September first sought the mobile de-salting unit tenders, it said it would spend up to £330,000 to install one at Ayios Theodoros near Larnaca, for connection to the WDD's pipeline network serving Nicosia. It said it would also spend up to £300,000 to install a second mobile de- salting plant at Lady's Mile at Zakaki near Limassol, for connection to Limassol's water system.

    At no time in the tendering process was the issue of the absence of nearby adequate electrical wiring raised.

    Tsiourtis said the generators were "going to be insulated and pre-packaged in containers, so we expect the noise levels to be very low - in the vicinity of 50 decibels. The contract states that it is going to be according to Cyprus standards."

    "But when we say Cyprus standards, people worry about the Cyprus standards. They ask us to enforce EU standards. Who knows what they are? If we cannot trust our laws, whose laws can we trust?" Tsiourtis asked.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [10] Government at a loss on how to return Hilton into profit

    By Anthony O. Miller

    Another £1 million in annual losses at the government-owned Hilton Hotel vexed both the House of Representatives and Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis yesterday, as neither knew how to stem the losses and return the hotel into the black.

    Diko Deputy Tassos Papadopoulos suggested pulling down the Hilton logo and letting local businessmen run the hotel under a new name - something Rolandis strenuously opposed, lest the loss of the famous name's cachet cost the hotel even greater losses.

    Besides the Hilton's yearly losses of £1 million, the government faces Stock Exchange rules that are forcing it to reduce from 82 per cent to 70 per cent its stock holdings in the company that owns the Nicosia Hilton, the Cyprus Tour Development Company (CTDC).

    Even if the government holds a Hilton stock sale, "the question is whether we shall find anybody to underwrite this issue under the circumstances, because of the losses made by the company over the last two or three years, " Rolandis said.

    "The (divestiture) deadline theoretically is the 23rd of March, I think," Rolandis said. But "certain procedures" of the exchange "may take us up until September... before expulsion. So we have some time," and in that time, "we shall have a meeting of the ministerial committee to see what we shall do."

    One solution is "selling our whole share" in the CTDC, Rolandis said. "The question is: who will be the investor, if (besides the losses) one takes into account that the hotel is committed until the end of the year 2024 with Hilton International?"

    The Hilton's losses have two roots, Rolandis said: the £17 million spent in the early 1990s to add extra rooms and refurbish existing ones; and timing that construction to the very moment two other luxury hotels, the Forum International and the Holiday Inn, opened their doors, drawing off Nicosia's tiny hotel market.

    Before the investment, the CTDC had income of about "£1.4 million per year... (and) a profit of £1 million," after interest and depreciation, Rolandis said. "After the £17 million investment, the picture was reversed."

    With much higher interest and depreciation, and a huge fall-off in occupancies, "the profit of £1 million was reversed to a loss of £1 million per year," Rolandis said. "At the moment there is no magic way to change things. We are looking at it from all aspects, and we shall see what we can do."

    Hilton International, which is owned by British gambling giant Ladbrokes, is making some money on the hotel, Rolandis said, "because they give us some £900,000 to £1 million by way of rental" yearly.

    "In our case, this evaporates, because of the high depreciation and interest that we pay. Interest alone is more than £1 million... In their case, whatever they retain - which is 25 per cent of gross operating profits - now it must be in the region of £300,000 - is a profit for them," he said.

    While Papadopoulos "shares some of these views," Rolandis said, the deputy wants the Hilton logo removed, and a local logo erected in its place on what would be a local hotel, he said.

    "Names like Hilton or other international names are helpful for a country like Cyprus, because it goes onto the Hilton Map internationally," he said. "After all, if you look at all the major cities in Europe - they all have Hilton Hotels or all the other international names," he said.

    "These hotels have the network, know-how, connections. Their clientèle move from one Hilton to another."

    "It adds to a country; it does not subtract," Rolandis said, "so on this, we do not agree with Mr. Papadopoulos."

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [11] Pig farmers kick up stink over buffer zone bar

    By Martin Hellicar and Charlie Charalambous

    PIG FARMERS have kicked up a stink over what they claim are heavy handed UN measures preventing them from bringing home the bacon.

    Things began to go sour yesterday morning when UN peacekeepers manning a checkpoint leading into the Kokkinotrimithia buffer zone area, West of Nicosia, refused entry to farmers employed at a pig-farm in the demilitarised zone.

    Angry farmers claimed the peacekeepers were refusing access to all Greek Cypriot farmers owning land within the buffer-zone.

    The irate farmers' claims were reported by CyBC radio.

    But Unficyp flatly denied they had denied access to all farmers.

    Only workers at a certain buffer-zone pig-farm had been turned back, and only because they did not have the required permits, Unficyp spokesperson Sarah Russell told the Cyprus Mail.

    The dispute was commented on by Government Spokesman Christos Stylianides, who said the Foreign Ministry was looking into the matter.

    "The developing situation at Kokkinotrimithia is being handled by the Foreign Ministry and hopefully will be resolved as soon as possible... so that residents in the area can have access to their land," he said.

    Later in the day, the UN issued a press release explaining the conditions under which Greek Cypriots were allowed access to the buffer zone and why the pig-farm employees had been denied entry.

    "A number of commercial enterprises operate in the buffer zone. Unficyp gives passes to these enterprises for their workers and clients. From time to time, the UN asks employers to provide updated lists of workers and clients," the statement read.

    The pig-farmer in question had failed to provide such an updated list after being asked to do so last August, the UN stated.

    "From time to time, Unficyp carries out routine checks on workers entering the buffer zone, to ensure that their passes are valid. Those whose names have not been included in updated lists and who are not carrying valid passes are not allowed to enter the buffer zone," the statement added.

    Russell said the pig-farmer's employees failed to produce valid permits at the checkpoint yesterday and were therefore not allowed to pass.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [12] Law passed for Y2K compliance

    THE MINISTRY of Commerce, Industry and Tourism announced yesterday that, from today, all goods which could succumb to the millennium bug should be prominently marked as such.

    The law, published in today's official gazette, covers all electrical goods, computers, and other devices with date-based systems.

    Anyone breaking the law will be subject to a fine and/or imprisonment.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [13] Shark caught off Larnaca

    A SHARK was caught off Larnaca yesterday.

    The shark was caught along with four others in a net cast by fisherman Christakis Spyrou, 25 miles off the Kiti lighthouse.

    Spyrou cast the net at around midnight on Wednesday and brought it up at 10am. The three-metre shark was alive when caught, but died on Spyrou's boat. The other sharks got away.

    The dead shark weighed 150 kilos, Spyrou said.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [14] Students strike for subsidy

    STUDENTS at the Cyprus University went on strike yesterday, demanding the same financial benefits given to students studying overseas.

    The students boycotted classes for three hours in the morning. Students studying overseas are given £1,000 a year by the government to help offset the massive costs of fees and living expenses.

    The students studying in Cyprus say that their rent and books are also expensive and that they too should receive the subsidy.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [15] Deputies discuss amendments to divorce law

    THE HOUSE Legal Affairs and Ethics Committees yesterday held a joint meeting to decide on whether to change the law on the required grounds for divorce.

    A proposal brought forward by several deputies called for a couple not living together for at least five years to have grounds for divorce.

    Under current law, separation alone does not constitute grounds for divorce.

    The main argument for a change in the law was that in Greece and England divorce can be sought after a separation of four and five years respectively.

    During yesterday's discussion, which will continue at a later date, Diko deputy Tassos Papadopoulos said that issues of compensation after a divorce should also be considered.

    Other deputies felt that this issue should be addressed separately.

    The main reason for a delay in the decision was to give the Committees the chance to study a report on the proposal prepared by the secretary of the Legal Affairs Committee, Maria Nicolaou, and by Akel deputy Aristophanis Georgiou.

    Another point of contention was whether a constitutional amendment would necessary for the proposal to go into effect.

    The issue was brought before the Committee by Georgiou, Disy's Christos Pourgourides, Diko's Katerina Pantelidou, Edek's Demetris Iliades and the United Democrats' Androulla Vassiliou.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [16] Church loses legal battle for icons

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE CYPRUS Church has lost a legal battle in Holland to secure the return of four icons taken from the occupied church of Antifonitis and seized in Rotterdam in 1995.

    The Archbishopric in Nicosia announced yesterday that the Rotterdam District court had ruled the icons, depicting apostles, should remain the property of an elderly Dutch couple who bought them from an Armenian collector soon after the 1974 invasion.

    The court ruled that the icons were indeed from the Antifonitis church near Ayios Ambrosios village in the Kyrenia district, the Archbishopric announced. But it also decided that they could not be returned to the Cyprus Church because Holland had not enacted the 1954 Hague convention on the return of artifacts taken during war, the Church announcement said.

    The court ruled there was no evidence to suggest the Dutch collectors had not bought the icons in good faith.

    The icons, with a total value of about £10,000, were tracked down in Holland by Cyprus's consul to the Netherlands, Tassoula Hadjitofi, in late 1995. The Cyprus Church managed to secure an interim seizure writ and launched a legal battle for their return.

    It is believed the elderly Dutch collectors bought the icons from an Armenian art dealer who is thought to have acquired them through a network of illegal dealers in the occupied areas.

    The government and the Church have repeatedly protested to the United Nations about the pillaging of cultural heritage in the north.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [17] Police free man in gangland case

    A 27-year-old man arrested on suspicion of involvement in a January 26 gangland hit in Limassol was released from police custody yesterday.

    Pavlos Hadjicostas had been arrested hours after 33-year-old George Ioannou, alias Kotsoudias, was gunned down as he was leaving a Limassol cabaret with a Ukrainian stripper at 5.15am on Tuesday last week.

    Hadjicostas had been due to reappear in court today, but police did not have enough evidence to hold him.

    Justice Minister Nicos Koshis commented that police were now "not optimistic" about solving the Kotsoudias murder case.

    Friday, February 05, 1999

    [18] All motorcyclists must wear helmets

    THE House of Representatives plenum yesterday approved a legal amendment making it compulsory for all motorbike riders to wear a helmet, irrespective of the engine size of their machines.

    Disy and Edek deputies voted for the law change whereas Akel and Diko deputies voted against - maintaining that helmets should not be required for riders of bikes of engine capacity of 50cc or less.

    Hitherto, helmets have only been mandatory for those riding bikes with engines larger than 75cc.

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