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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-02-10

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Wednesday, February 10, 1999


  • [01] Clerides anger at Michaelides blackmail allegation
  • [02] Greece will have operational control over missiles
  • [03] Lawyers to seek pardon for Israelis
  • [04] Vassiliou calls for deputy ministers to speed up EU process
  • [05] Subsidy plan to boost solar power
  • [06] Residents threaten to sue over desalination
  • [07] Hotel strikers threaten to name strike-breakers
  • [08] Dockers threaten to step up strike action
  • [09] Hilton takes over rags-to-riches Stakis chain
  • [10] Sex not drugs blamed for bomb attack
  • [11] Luck runs out for lottery theft suspects

  • [01] Clerides anger at Michaelides blackmail allegation

    By Charlie Charalambous

    PRESIDENT Clerides yesterday vehemently denied that he had avoided a major reshuffle because Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides threatened to dish the dirt if he was axed.

    A front page article in yesterday's Simerini newspaper alleged that Clerides had aborted plans for a reshuffle this month because Michaelides had threatened to blow the whistle on prominent politicians.

    Speculation has been rife in the media concerning a pending cabinet reshuffle, in which the Interior Minister was touted as favourite to get the chop.

    The government had fended off the rumours in half-hearted fashion, but yesterday's front page story angered the president who promptly issued a strongly-worded statement.

    "In a written statement, President Clerides categorically denies the front page Simerini article which alleges he postponed a reshuffle because Mr Michaelides warned he would make public revelations if sacked," said government spokesman Christos Stylianides reading out the statement yesterday.

    Michaelides also went public to deny he had approached Clerides in any way or issued any veiled threats connected with keeping his job.

    "President Clerides has had no meeting with Michaelides or any other minister concerning a reshuffle," said Stylianides.

    Clerides slammed the article as "libelous" because it suggested he had been blackmailed into covering up for his friends and colleagues.

    Michaelides has resolutely held on to this job, despite a series of damaging corruption allegations against him.

    Clerides refused at the height of corruption scandal last November to accept the minister's resignation.

    It was alleged at the time that the president had stuck by his minister, not through loyalty, but out of fear of what Michaelides might do if kicked out of office.

    Michaelides was later cleared by Attorney-general Alecos Markides of any wrongdoing but has remained an unpopular minister, according to recent opinion polls.

    The government as a whole has taken a battering in the polls, and this was said to be one reason why Clerides was ready to make six changes to his cabinet.

    But the government moved to dampen speculation about an imminent reshuffle, although many pundits believe it will still happen sooner than later.

    "The president wishes to state once more that he is not considering a reshuffle at this stage," Stylianides said yesterday.

    Wednesday, February 10, 1999

    [02] Greece will have operational control over missiles

    GREECE said yesterday it would have operational control over anti-aircraft missiles that Cyprus ordered from Russia but is now diverting to Crete following Turkish threats of military action.

    "The missiles remain in the possession of the Cypriot state. Greece will control their operation and of course will take over the operating costs of this system," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters.

    Cyprus formally signed over the controversial S-300 missiles on Monday.

    Details of the deal, signed by Greek Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his visiting Cypriot counterpart Yannakis Chrysostomis, were not released.

    "The two governments will be in full communication and will jointly decide in which ways this weapons system will be used," Reppas said.

    Tsohatzopoulos told reporters before the private signing that the missiles would be installed on Crete as part of a joint defence pact with Cyprus.

    "Greece guarantees the security of Cyprus," he said. "This is the basis of all our efforts."

    He said Cypriot and Greek officials would go to Moscow on Monday to iron out logistical details with the Russian makers.

    Greek media reported that the missiles would be installed at the easternmost tip of Crete.

    Cyprus ordered the S-300s some two years ago but agreed to divert them to Greece in December after threats from Turkey and pressure from Washington and the EU, which hinted that the row was hurting Cyprus's chances of joining the EU.

    Turkey has also expressed concern about the installation of the missiles on Crete, which lies about 550 km northwest of Cyprus.

    Wednesday, February 10, 1999

    [03] Lawyers to seek pardon for Israelis

    By Charlie Charalambous

    LAWYERS for the two Israeli agents jailed for approaching a restricted military zone in Cyprus will appeal for a pardon in three months' time.

    Although the three Cypriot lawyers agreed they could not successfully appeal against the three-year sentence imposed by an Assize court last week, they are confident of securing a presidential pardon.

    "In three or four months' time we will apply (for a pardon) and by this time relations between Cyprus and Israel may have improved," said defence lawyer Michael Kleoppas.

    He said that by then time Israelis Udi Hargov, 37, and Igal Damary, 49, would have spent a minimum of six months behind bars (they have been in custody since their November 7 arrest in Zygi).

    "It's too early to request a pardon right now but we believe there are good reasons for granting a pardon and I think the Attorney-general will study the application favourably after six months have passed," Kleoppas said.

    President Clerides said last week that he would not consider granting a pardon until the Israeli agents had completed a part of their sentence.

    From the very day the two were first arrested, Israel has applied heavy diplomatic pressure on the Cyprus government for their immediate release.

    Cyprus' refusal to comply has further strained relations between the two countries, already tense because of Israel's military ties with Turkey.

    And having already watered down the original spying charges, the government is well aware that there would be a public outcry if the Israeli agents were released so soon after being convicted.

    Another one of the Cypriot lawyers, Andis Triantafyllides, said yesterday he had decided against filing an appeal to the Supreme Court because "it had no chance of succeeding".

    "The Assize Court decision was correct in legal terms and the ruling presented the facts of the case in the right context," said Triantafyllides.

    Kleoppas also argued that public opinion was such that any appeal was bound to fail.

    "It's unlikely we would have won an appeal because everybody in Cyprus has condemned them as spies anyway," said Kleoppas.

    Triantafyllides said his clients, Hargov and Damary, had accepted his legal advice despite the fact they believe the sentence to be harsh.

    The Israelis are described as being in good spirits, receiving frequent visits from members of their families.

    Wednesday, February 10, 1999

    [04] Vassiliou calls for deputy ministers to speed up EU process

    CYPRUS needs to move faster towards harmonising its legislature with the EU acquis communautaire, Chief EU negotiator George Vassiliou said yesterday.

    Speaking after a meeting with President Glafcos Clerides, Vassiliou said: "There is a delay in the way we work, despite he fact that those manning the various services are working very hard indeed."

    The pace at which Cyprus is moving was "slow", Vassiliou warned, and the work that needs to be done was "huge".

    He said he had suggested to the president that posts be created for permanent secretaries or deputy ministers in order to help speed up the harmonisation process, and that, from now on, the House Foreign Affairs Committee would be renamed the House Foreign Affairs and European Union Committee and would deal exclusively with the EU harmonisation process.

    Vassiliou said that Clerides had agreed with the idea of appointing deputy ministers and had said he would discuss the matter with Attorney-general Alecos Markides in order to sort out the legal ramifications.

    Wednesday, February 10, 1999

    [05] Subsidy plan to boost solar power

    By Martin Hellicar

    SUBSTANTIAL state subsidies for solar power projects are in the pipeline, the House environment committee heard yesterday.

    "I'm not sure I should be divulging this yet, but Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis has asked us to draw up guidelines for provision of subsidies to support projects on energy saving and renewable energy," Solonas Kassimis, of the ministry's energy section, told deputies.

    The Minister's ambitions were to subsidise solar and other ecologically sound energy projects in the agricultural, industrial and tourism sectors to the tune of 50 per cent, with half a million pounds made available for subsidies this year, Kassimis added.

    But, this proposal apart, the general consensus at yesterday's committee was that the government was doing next to nothing to take advantage of the huge potential for solar power on the sun-drenched island.

    Costas Papastavrou, of the Agriculture Ministry's environment service, descried state efforts to promote renewable energy as "embryonic" and "less than zero."

    The presence of solar water heaters on the roves of 92 per cent of Cypriot homes means the island currently meets four per cent of its energy needs through solar power, topping the EU league table of solar power use.

    But Kassimis said solar power potential remained largely untapped and investment in sunshine-trapping technology could save the country millions of pounds while substantially reducing pollution.

    Ninety-six per cent of the island's energy needs are met by imported oil, costing the country 65 per cent of its foreign exchange earnings, Kassimis said. "For each additional 1 per cent of our energy needs that is produced here we save 1.2 million in foreign exchange."

    Each one per cent increase in solar power use would also mean a cut in annual carbon dioxide emissions of 10,000 tonnes, Kassimis told deputies.

    But other government representatives said the cost of installing solar power systems was prohibitive.

    Papastavrou was not among the doubters. He made plain his frustration at the lack of solar power action: "We come here and talk of plans and visions only to come back the following year to say the same things."

    "Cyprus is being slapped in the face by the EU because we are way behind in this field," Papastavrou said.

    The EU had set itself targets for reducing Carbon Dioxide emissions by 8 per cent by the year 2010 but Cyprus had not even begun to discuss emission reductions, he said.

    Papastavrou complained that the government had not considered the solar option when plans for new desalination plants were being thought up.

    Official state policy was to promote energy saving and self-reliance and yet staff in Kassimis's energy section have been steadily reduced from 10 to four over the past ten years, the committee heard.

    Diko deputy Marios Matsakis had no doubts as to why the state had failed to support solar power initiatives.

    "We all want to save energy, to reduce oil use. But it's no accidental that solar power does not get promoted. It's because oil companies would loose money from their pockets."

    Wednesday, February 10, 1999

    [06] Residents threaten to sue over desalination

    By Anthony O. Miller

    A CITIZENS' group calling itself the Struggle Committee of Ayios Theodoros yesterday accused Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous of "misleading the people" and the Council of Ministers over building 'mobile' desalination plants in Cyprus.

    Charilaos Costa, a spokesman for the group, said yesterday Themistocleous was "hiding the truth" about the environmental impacts on the villages of Ayios Theodoros and Zakaki of the two 'mobile' desalination plants the government plans to site there.

    Costa scoffed at the notion the two plants were 'mobile', declaring: "These plants are... as permanent as planting a tree." They will not only be anchored in tons of concrete, he said, but "they will (each) burn 20 tons a day of diesel fuel."

    "They will pollute the atmosphere and they will be noisy," he said. "The noise of these plants will be far higher than" the noise from the permanent Dhekelia Desalination Plant, he said.

    But he wryly declared: "I promised the minister I would make them 'mobile', " by suing the Cyprus government, either in Cyprus courts or European courts, to block or move them.

    Costa, who said his committee represented 1,500 residents of the two villages, echoed concerns voiced last week to the House of Representatives by the mukhtars of Ayios Theodoros and Zakaki about the two 'mobile' plants to be sited near their villages.

    The mukhtar of Zakaki was worried about noise from the diesel generators that will power the units. And he feared their heavy salt-brine discharge would harm coastal waters.

    The mukhtar of Ayios Theodoros accused Themistocleous of installing the two units without proper planning, and urged they be installed further from inhabited areas.

    House Environment Committee Chairman Demetris Iliades had sympathised with the mukhtars' concerns last week, declaring the government should not solve one problem by creating another.

    "It is understood that the noise created and the fumes put out (will) hurt the environment, and negatively affect the quality of life, because the units are (to be located) close to residential areas," Iliades said.

    Nicos Tsiourtis, Water Development Department (WDD) senior water engineer, said diesel generators were necessary, as there was no time to run high- tension electrical wires and pylons out to the sites proposed for the two desalination units.

    Costa dismissed this, claiming the real reason was that the Dhekelia Desalination Plant and the second permanent unit planned for outside Larnaca would each draw off two per cent of the total electricity output of the Cyprus Electricity Authority (EAC), and ultimately the EAC cannot afford to power the two 'mobile' units, plus the two permanent ones.

    Tsiourtis insisted the diesel generators would be "insulated and pre- packaged in containers, so we expect the noise levels to be very low - in the vicinity of 50 decibels."

    But Polyvios Eleftheriou, an engineering-noise lecturer with the Higher Technical Institute in Nicosia, said a normal conversation between two people in a room occurs at 60 to 70 decibels. He agreed it would be difficult to get diesel generators to run this quietly, especially at night.

    Costa said the government had not "scientifically chosen the areas where the desalination plants will be with any concern for the environment." Themistocleous admitted this before the House Environment Committee last week.

    The Minister said there would be no environmental assessment reports done prior to installing the mobile desalination plants, because the units have to be installed quickly in the next few months to get the island through this summer.

    But he said every possible precaution would otherwise be taken to minimise their damage to the environment.

    The government first went to bid last September for tenders for the two mobile desalting units, but still has not yet picked their builder from the 73 tenders received. Tsiourtis said he expected the Tender Board to open the bids this week.

    Without prior environmental assessments, and with the tender specifications requiring the two mobile units to be running within 22 weeks of the awarding of the winning bid(s), Tsiourtis said he expected the two mobile units to be on-line by June or July.

    The WDD's tender offer pledged to spend up to 330,000 to install one desalting unit at Ayios Theodoros near Larnaca to hook to the WDD's pipeline to Nicosia, and up to 300,000 to install a second mobile unit at Lady's Mile at Zakaki near Limassol, to hook up to Limassol's water system.

    At the time, it also said it would entertain bids for imported water at the same costs per cubic metre. Somehow, the thrust of the bidding process turned toward desalination, and away from importation.

    Not long after, Costa noted, Greece offered Cyprus water free of charge, if the Republic paid the shipping cost. At the time, the government said it hoped some of Cyprus' merchant fleet magnates would be generous in giving the government a break in the hauling costs. Then, he said, nothing more was said about Greece's offer of free water.

    "The government did not even seek quotes" on the cost of hauling the free Greek water, Costa said.

    Costa accused Themistocleous of refusing to address his concerns, either in writing, or by telephone. He said he most recently tried to address his concerns to the minister this past Saturday in a telephone call to a radio talk show.

    Discouraged, Costa said he was seeking legal counsel from George Colocassides, a Nicosia lawyer, who confirmed yesterday that "we are contemplating legal action" against the government regarding construction of the 'mobile' desalination units.

    Wednesday, February 10, 1999

    [07] Hotel strikers threaten to name strike-breakers

    By Athena Karsera

    STRIKERS yesterday threatened to go public with the names of strike- breaking colleagues still working at two Larnaca hotels.

    The warning came on day 11 of the strike, as pickets stood out in the rain outside the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach Hotels.

    They are demanding the reinstatement of 73 of their colleagues, dismissed as part of cost-cutting measures. Their jobs will now be farmed out to outside contractors.

    The strikers also decided yesterday to expand their blockade of the hotel entrances to bar fuel trucks from passing through.

    Pickets have already tried to stop strike-breakers and delivery men from entering the two hotels for several days.

    It was also announced yesterday that workers' unions Sek, Peo and Deok would be meeting on Friday to discuss further action.

    Sek's Nicos Epistathiou yesterday told CyBC radio that the unions were ready to negotiate and that the Labour and Commerce Ministries had a duty to intervene.

    On Friday, Constantinos Lordos, the Director of Lordos Holdings, which owns both hotels, cancelled negotiations with the strikers, saying he would talk again only once they stopped blocking the entrances for at least 24 hours.

    Throughout the strike, management has insisted that its decision to turn over sectors to private contractors was necessary to combat chronic losses.

    Unions insist that the strike will stop only once the dismissals are overturned.

    Meanwhile, workers at Nicosia's Philoxenia Hotel, of which the government is the main shareholder, yesterday morning demonstrated outside the Commerce Ministry.

    Striking for two hours from 7.30 am, the workers were demanding an official decision on the beleaguered hotel's future.

    Ten minutes before the end of the action a telegram was sent to Sek and Peo inviting them to meet with Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas at 8.30 this morning.

    The unions accepted Moushiouttas' invitation.

    The loss-making hotel needs some 2 million worth of refurbishing, which its board is unable to finance.

    The board wants the hotel to be closed down, especially since the government has been barred by the House of Representatives from selling any shares in the limited company it created to oversee the running of the Philoxenia.

    Wednesday, February 10, 1999

    [08] Dockers threaten to step up strike action

    DOCKERS and stevedores at Larnaca harbour have threatened to step up their strike action if they do not receive specific government proposals to solve the port's problems by today.

    The strike committee reached the decision during a Sek, Peo and Deok union meeting yesterday.

    After the meeting, Sek's Omiros Neocleous yesterday told CyBC radio that "the measures taken will depend on what the joint committee decides." He was referring to the joint Communications and Commerce Ministries' committee appointed to discuss the harbour issue.

    Strikers also resolved to keep the harbour entrance blocked with loading machinery as they have done since the beginning of the strike.

    The workers yesterday announced some of the measures that would be taken if a response is not received by today.

    These include a Thursday afternoon blockade of the vehicles of local officials invited to watch a demonstration by a French war ship moored at the harbour. The officials themselves will, however, be allowed to enter on foot.

    That same day, strikers will present a memorandum on the strike to the Communications Ministry and to House president Spyros Kyprianou.

    On Friday, pickets will congregate to receive their strike wages and on Monday they will march to the Presidential Palace.

    Strikers have repeatedly insisted that they cannot wait for the return of the Communications Ministry's secretary-general, Nicos Symeonides, to receive an answer to their demands.

    Symeonides is currently overseas and will return to Cyprus on February 19.

    It was also yesterday announced that the strikers had refused a private company's appeal to exclude earth-carrying ships from the strikes. The company said it was afraid its customers would to turn to harbours in the occupied areas for service if the strike continued.

    The 150 harbour employees have been demonstrating over their uncertain future since the beginning of the month. They complain of being underemployed and want the implementation of a Development Committee decision to modernise the harbour, guaranteeing them work for two to four years.

    They are also demonstrating against a delay in voluntary redundancy packages for those willing to give up their positions.

    Wednesday, February 10, 1999

    [09] Hilton takes over rags-to-riches Stakis chain

    STAKIS, the Cypriot-owned UK hotel and casino group founded 57 years ago has been taken over by British hotels and betting group Ladbroke.

    Ladbroke, who also run the Nicosia Hilton, took control of Stakis's 54 hotels and 22 casinos in a 1.6 billion sterling deal announced on Monday, the Daily Telegraph reported yesterday. The agreed takeover doubles the size of Ladbroke's Hilton hotels chain in the UK.

    Stakis founder Sir Reo Stakis, 86, spoke of his regret at the takeover of the company he founded in 1942, 15 years after emigrating to the British Isles. The takeover is the final chapter in Sir Reo's rags-to-riches career.

    "It's a matter of great sadness that this event has come to pass, bearing in mind that I have spent the best part of my life, over 50 years, creating and developing the group," Sir Reo was quoted as saying in the Telegraph.

    Sir Reo arrived in Britain in 1927 with only a suitcase full of Lefkara lace and 60. He travelled the country selling his lace and used the proceeds to start up a restaurant chain. His first eatery opened in Glasgow in the early 1930s - legend has it he taught Glaswegians to use a knife and fork - and established Stakis in 1942.

    Sir Reo's personal stake in Stakis is put at 10 million sterling and his family's at 40 million sterling.

    Stakis chief executive David Michels, who is to rejoin Ladbroke as chief executive of Hilton International, said Sir Reo saw the business sense of selling.

    Sir Reo had groomed his son Andros to take over Stakis, but when he did the company went downhill fast. Andros lost his job in the early 1990s, Michels moving over from Ladbroke to rescue the group.

    "Eight years ago Stakis was on the edge of collapse with a market capitalization of less than 70 million (sterling). Now it is worth 1.2 billion (sterling)" Michels told the Telegraph.

    No one was available for comment on the takeover at the Nicosia Hilton yesterday.

    The Nicosia hotel has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently, with the government investigating allegations that the owners of the hotel building, the Cyprus Tour Development Company (CTDC), had overspent some 9 million on renovations. The cabinet is still considering a report on the matter. CTDC is 82 per cent government owned.

    CTDC chairman Michael Erotokritos said yesterday the Ladbroke takeover would probably be beneficial to the Cyprus Hilton, though he added it was "too early to say."

    Wednesday, February 10, 1999

    [10] Sex not drugs blamed for bomb attack

    AN ILLICIT affair, and not illegal drugs, is now thought to be behind Saturday's Limassol car wash explosion, a court heard yesterday.

    A 36-year-old man from Ypsonas, Renos Kyriacou, was remanded for eight days yesterday on suspicion of carrying out the bomb attack in Limassol last weekend.

    Evanthis Ioannou, 31, suffered light injuries when a booby-trap device exploded as he was opening the door to his car wash.

    The Limassol district court heard yesterday that the victim was having a love affair with a married woman, whose family are close friends of the suspect.

    Kyriacou is also suspected of planting an earlier bomb outside Ioannou's Yerasa home on January 24.

    According to police, last Friday Kyriacou arranged over the phone to meet Ioannou at his car wash on the Saturday at 11am.

    But when Ioannou arrived and turned the key to his office door, a device detonated and ripped the car wash apart.

    Although the suspect has not given a statement, police told the court that Kyriacou's explanation of his movements at the time of the blast contradicted other witness testimony.

    Ioannou is currently in police custody as a suspected drug dealer.

    Wednesday, February 10, 1999

    [11] Luck runs out for lottery theft suspects

    AN IRANIAN man and his Ukrainian girlfriend were remanded yesterday on suspicion of involvement in a January 18 raid on a Paphos petrol station which netted almost 14,000 scratch cards.

    Paphos District court heard that police had found a number of the scratch cards taken in the raid on plumber Aknar Naderzadeh, 30, and 27-year-old Olga Melnicova, who were both arrested on Monday.

    The haul of government-issued scratch cards taken from the petrol station on Pallikarides avenue was valued at 12,650 - each of the 13,800 cards being worth between 50 cents and five pounds (and offering winnings of between 15 and 50,000).

    The thieves also took 57 in petty cash.

    Naderzadeh and Melnicova were remanded in police custody for eight days.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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