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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-02-24

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Wednesday, February 24, 1999


  • [01] S-300s send 1998 defence spending to record high
  • [02] Security issue to the fore after Madden meeting
  • [03] Greek Cypriot who drove north after row with brother
  • [04] Cyprus backs EU call for fair trial for Ocalan
  • [05] Water tenders delayed by site dispute
  • [06] New detention centre seeks to improve conditions for illegal immigrants
  • [07] Hotel strikes to hit Famagusta area today
  • [08] Public sector to strike across the board
  • [09] Peo elects new leader
  • [10] Opinion poll backs municipality on pedestrianisation
  • [11] Bourse changes trading hours, with option to extend
  • [12] Small quake shakes Cyprus
  • [13] Russian held for smuggling heroin in condom
  • [14] Sunday dinner turns to tragedy
  • [15] Drugs board praises Cyprus record

  • [01] S-300s send 1998 defence spending to record high

    By Charlie Charalambous

    CYPRUS defence spending rocketed last year to a record 256.3 million on the back of the costly S-300 missile deal that never was.

    For the luxury of President Clerides diverting the troublesome Russian missiles to Greece, every Cypriot citizen paid 386 per head on arms purchases in 1998, according to an independent think tank.

    "The figures are mainly due to the price of the S-300s, which were the most expensive part of last year's arms expenditure due to the government's outstanding obligation on the S-300 contract," Cyprus Strategic Studies director Aristos Aristotelous told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    It is understood that the total cost of the missiles (including maintenance) is around the 130 million mark, with well over 100 million already paid by the government.

    In a deal signed with Greece and Russia last week, Cyprus will receive medium range missiles in exchange for the S-300s while Athens will also pay off the outstanding debt to Moscow.

    According to the centre's 1998 arms purchasing figures, the government spent a huge 5.5 per cent of GDP on defence in 1998, compared to 4.5 per cent (196,2 million) the previous year.

    In military terms, 1998 was also significant for the opening of the Paphos air base, a base that the S-300s were supposed to protect.

    Cyprus' defence expenditure as a percentage of GDP puts it above Greece, Turkey and other Nato and EU countries, though the Middle East as a whole spends a greater percentage of GDP on guns.

    Other European countries spending more per GDP are all in or near conflict situations, with only Albania (6,7 per cent), Armenia (8,9 per cent) and Serbia (7,8 per cent) coming ahead of Cyprus, according to figures released by the centre yesterday.

    But in per capita spending, Cyprus beats them all, with every one of us laying out $756 a year on defence, compared to $553 for the Middle East, $526 for Greece and a mere $131 for Turkey.

    Of the 256 million spent last year, 76 per cent went on purchasing weapons systems and paying off old debts, while 24 per cent went on administration and operational costs, Aristotelous said.

    But Aristotelous says its not all doom and gloom for the tax payer, who is already being squeezed by the increased defence levy.

    "In 1999 we expect the level of expenditure on arms to be reduced because of the Cyprus government's decision to impose an arms freeze as an act of good will on the Cyprus problem."

    The level of weapons purchases is expected to fall below four per cent of GDP.

    The highest ever recorded level of arms spending as a proportion of GDP was 7.4 per cent in 1993 (244,6 million) the same year that Clerides hailed the Cyprus-Greece joint defence pact.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [02] Security issue to the fore after Madden meeting

    BRITAIN believes that security guarantees should be stepped up in the event of a Cyprus solution, British High Commissioner David Madden said yesterday.

    Speaking after a routine meeting with President Glafcos Clerides, Madden was invited to comment on press reports that London would be happy to stick to the failed tripartite 1960 guarantees to back up any new solution.

    The 1960 guarantees gave Britain, Greece and Turkey the right to intervene to restore the status quo in the event of trouble in Cyprus. It was invoked by Turkey in 1974 to justify its invasion in the aftermath of the Greek- inspired coup in Nicosia.

    Madden said yesterday that security would "obviously be a very important part of the future settlement." He added that it was "up to the two sides here to talk about the security arrangements which will make them feel comfortable in a settlement."

    Asked if the UK would support the deployment of a multinational force on the island, he said it was one of the ideas being discussed.

    During his meeting with Clerides, Madden discussed UN resolution 1,218, which backs tension-reducing efforts and a comprehensive settlement on Cyprus.

    He and Clerides met to "talk through some of the issues in 1,218 and see what progress could be made," Madden said.

    He also assured that British envoy for Cyprus Sir David Hannay was still highly active on Cyprus' behalf, adding that one of the purposes of a recent visit to Washington by Hannay was "to discuss the Cyprus problem and ways forward".

    Hannay was snubbed by President Clerides during his last visit to Cyprus in January after raising the issue of confederation in remarks on his arrival. Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash also refused to see him.

    Clerides yesterday also met with UN permanent representative Dame Ann Hercus as part of her ongoing shuttle talks. The two met for an hour. No statements were made after the meeting in compliance with the media blackout on the process ordered by Dame Ann. Hercus merely told reporters as she left that she would meet again with Clerides and Denktash next week.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [03] Greek Cypriot who drove north after row with brother

    THE TURKS were yesterday still holding a Greek Cypriot who drove across to the north in a drunken state on Monday after an argument with his brother.

    Unficyp said 24-year-old Dominic Chrysanthou - who is thought to have crossed via the Strovilia check-point in the British base of Dhekelia - had yesterday been remanded by a 'court' in occupied Nicosia.

    "He was remanded for illegal entry and will re-appear in court on Friday," Unficyp spokesperson Sarah Russell said.

    Russell said a UN doctor had visited Chrysanthou, who holds a British passport, in custody in Famagusta yesterday and had found him to be "alright".

    According to police, Chrysanthou, who lives in the Vrysoulles estate outside Larnaca, drove over to the occupied areas in his Honda civic at around 2pm on Monday after a row with his brother.

    British soldiers manning the Strovilia check-point have no authority to prevent people crossing to the north.

    Police and Unficyp were yesterday working to secure Chrysanthou's release.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [04] Cyprus backs EU call for fair trial for Ocalan

    THE GOVERNMENT has backed the EU's position that Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan should be given a fair trial attended by international observers.

    Yesterday's written statement from government spokesman Christos Stylianides called Turkey to solve its problems through political means.

    "Of particular importance is the European Union's strict opposition to the death penalty and the expectation that Turkey will resolve its problems by political means with full respect for human rights," the statement said.

    Turkey was also taken to task over its attempts to humiliate Ocalan by presenting him on television gagged and bound and standing nervously in front of the Turkish flag.

    "The Cyprus government, moreover, deplores Turkey's attempt to make propaganda capital out of the issue, expresses its abhorrence at the manner in which the captive Kurdish leader was paraded in front of the Turkish television cameras and stresses the need that Abdullah Ocalan is treated humanely."

    Meanwhile, six Kurds being held at Larnaca holding cells went on hunger strike last Saturday in protest at Ocalan's capture by Turkey.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [05] Water tenders delayed by site dispute

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE TENDER Board is delaying awarding tenders for two 'mobile' desalination plants until the Agriculture Ministry decides where to locate them, amid objections - including a lawsuit - of villagers near the proposed sites, a government official said yesterday.

    Meanwhile, the Ayios Theodoros Struggle Committee, which is party to the lawsuit, yesterday warned Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous in a letter of the "serious danger that strategic areas of our country will get into dangerous hands because the favourites for the tenders are Israeli firms."

    "There is a real danger that you will be misled by a top official in the Water Department, who has studied in Israel and has connections with Israel, " the Struggle Committee's five-page letter cautioned Themistocleous.

    The letter, a copy of which was sent to the Cyprus Mail, did not identify the official, and Struggle Committee spokesman Charilaos Costa declined to identify him for the record.

    But Costa did question why the government had awarded an Israeli joint- venture the bid to build a permanent desalination plant outside Larnaca, when the Dhekelia Desalination Plant's operator had offered to provide double its current daily output - at a less environmentally fragile site than Larnaca - for 1.3 cents more per cubic metre of water.

    "The Ministry is still thinking about how to proceed. (It) is considering the villages' claims about possible damage to the environment and its stance about that," Nicos Tsiourtis, Water Development Department senior water engineer, told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    "The Ministry is considering the protests, the reasonings of the villages before deciding the final location of the plants. The tender board is still waiting for the final location before deciding on the tender," he said.

    Themistocleous' final decision on siting the two 'mobile' de-salting plants "will not change the tender award too much," Tsiourtis said, noting: "As the minister said - it will be only small changes to the locations of the plants" that he will make.

    Tsiourtis said the tender awards could be "perhaps within two weeks, one week." And while the two 'mobile' plants would still use diesel generators for power, he held out the hope that, "perhaps steps will be taken very soon to supply EAC (Cyprus Electricity Authority) power" to them.

    Costa insisted yesterday the villagers "will not consider (for) a minute a contract with (diesel) generators" powering the 'mobile' desalination units. The villagers' lawsuit, to which the Committee is a party, is set for a March 5 hearing before the Supreme Court.

    The Committee's letter to Themistocleous declared the entire 'mobile' desalination programme "illegal" for allegedly violating the Coastal Protection Law and local tourism zoning restrictions, and for being decided upon without consultation with the Planning Bureau, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation or the Technical Chamber.

    It further noted that no environmental assessment report had been done before picking the sites for the two units - near Ayios Theodoros, and Zakaki in Limassol. Themistocleous has conceded this, pleading that the drought is still on and the two plants are critical to get Cyprus through the fast-approaching summer.

    Costas Charalambous, Manager of Caramondani Brothers, yesterday said his company's joint venture with Caramondani Desalination Plants Ltd. - operator of the Dhekelia Desalination Plant - had, indeed, offered to build another plant next to its Dhekelia unit as an alternative to the bid it submitted - and lost to the Israelis - to build the Larnaca desalination plant.

    Two Israeli joint-venture companies - IDE (Israeli Desalination Engineering) and Oceana - in January won the bid to build the island's second permanent desalination plant in Larnaca. Their 10-year contract calls for them to sell de-salted water to the Republic for 42.2 cents per cubic meter.

    Charalambous admitted Caramondani's tender for the Larnaca plant proposed a higher unit cost - 47 cents per cubic metre of water - than the Israeli bid for the Larnaca site.

    But he noted his company's simultaneous offer to build a second desalination plant, next to its Dhekelia works, proposed de-salting an equal 40,000 cubic metres per day for 43.5 cents per cubic metre - a mere 1.3 cents higher than the Israeli bid for the Larnaca plant.

    Charalambous said siting a second permanent plant next to the existing one in Dhekelia would not threaten the environment the way Larnaca officials and citizens, and Cyprus and EU environmentalists, charge the Larnaca site will.

    The Larnaca site's opponents fear electricity pylons and wires leading to the new desalination plant will adversely threaten the ecologically fragile Alikon salt flats area. As well, they already feel the city is under seige from air pollution from both the airport to the south and the oil refinery to the north.

    Both Costa and Charalambous claimed the Israeli joint-venture companies, IDE and Oceana, were owned and subsidised by the Israeli government - thus their ability to undercut other bidders for the Larnaca plant.

    Israeli Embassy First Secretary Matty Cohen yesterday dismissed the charge, denying that either IDE or Oceana or their joint-venture was owned or subsidised by the government of Israel.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [06] New detention centre seeks to improve conditions for illegal immigrants

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A NEW detention centre for illegal immigrants was opened at the Nicosia Central Prison yesterday as part of the government's humanitarian approach to the problem.

    The new wing was built at a cost of over 100,000 to alleviate the overcrowded prison and introduce better living conditions for those immigrants in detention.

    "The centre has been built to international regulations so that their stay can be as comfortable as possible, even if they are here temporarily," said Justice Minister Nicos Koshis during yesterday's opening.

    Although Koshis conceded that the money spent could be put to better use in the future.

    "If only these places were not needed, because, under normal circumstances, we should be building places to house the homeless and poor families," said Koshis.

    "However, there is a problem which we need to face and we hope it will only be temporary and these places can be used for other purposes."

    But the statistics suggest that the government may need to build more detention centres as the number of immigrants entering the island illegally has increased over the past few years.

    The authorities fear that thousands of immigrants are preparing to invade Cyprus from Lebanon - a trickle that could become a flood if and when Cyprus joins the EU. To combat the threat, the government is seeking to buy multi-million pound radars to improve coastal security.

    A total of 57 immigrants, mainly from Arab countries, are currently being held in prison or holding cells on the island.

    The Central Prison is also desperately overcrowded, with its 220 capacity being stretched beyond 300 inmates. The new detention cells were built to help ease tensions in a prison allegedly riven by underworld rivalries.

    Prisoners are being released early in an effort to improve cramped conditions.

    Attorney-general Alecos Markides said a purpose-built detention centre for immigrants would improve the government's image towards foreigners.

    He said introducing a law on political asylum - based on EU regulations - would speed up the process for immigrants; the relevant bill is nearly complete, he said.

    Markides said another area for improvement was in police attitudes towards immigrants. He was referring to brutality claims against riot police quelling a disturbance in Larnaca last October.

    "There is a need to convey to the instruments of law and order the mentality with which to face these people in a modern world so we will not have a repeat of what happened in Larnaca," Markides said.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [07] Hotel strikes to hit Famagusta area today

    By Athena Karsera

    STRIKES at two Larnaca hotels went into their 25th day yesterday with no sign of compromise and sympathy action planned for hotels in the Famagusta district today.

    Hoteliers' association Pasyxe once again condemned the escalation of the strike, which on Friday spread to all Larnaca hotels for two hours. Today's Famagusta district action will also see a two-hour stoppage.

    Speaking on state radio yesterday, Pasyxe's director-general Zacharias Ioannides said the unions' decision to escalate the action, with sympathy town-by-town strikes due across the island this week, was in violation of the hotel industry's collective agreement.

    Ioannides said that Pasyxe's offices had been "inundated with calls on Friday and Saturday, with members wondering why they should respect a collective agreement... and then be victimised by a strike."

    Also speaking on state radio, Sek's hotel representative Nicos Epistethiou said that the unions' goal was in fact to protect the collective agreement.

    "This is where Pasyxe is making its big mistake. The collective agreement states the working conditions and pay of hotel workers."

    Epistethiou noted that the collective agreement did not mention strike action, and "states who is a hotel worker - and Pasyxe has to turn its attention to that area, for only hotel workers to work in the industry."

    He said the collective agreement banned hotels from employing private contractors in the industry.

    The strikers have been demanding the reinstatement of 73 employees sacked from the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotels when sections from each hotel were turned over to private contractors in an effort to lower costs.

    Constantinos Lordos, the director of Lordos Holdings, which owns the two hotels, yesterday insisted his party was "not willing to negotiate our rights."

    He said a company was entitled to arrange employment "as they see fit" in order not to lose money.

    Lordos repeated that he would only return to the negotiating table to discuss helping sacked workers find new jobs, adding that "many have already been reemployed and the unions know this."

    He said the market was "full of work" for the dismissed employees.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [08] Public sector to strike across the board

    By Andrew Adamides

    A CIVIL service strike will bring the public sector to a standstill tomorrow, unions warned yesterday.

    Pasydy, Oelmek, Poed, Oltek, Oede and the Police Association said after a meeting that the two-hour strike from 11.30am to 1.30pm would happen across the board - and would include teachers.

    Only a skeleton staff at hospitals and at the Civil Aviation department will remain on the job.

    The unions are protesting over the proposed National Health scheme, complaining that the government is pushing ahead with plans to implement it without fully consulting them first.

    They are worried that, if the scheme is implemented, contributions drawn from members' wages may be greater than the amount they already pay out to their union health schemes. Pasydy is also concerned that the health professionals it represents may suffer from a deterioration of their working conditions under the new scheme.

    Draft legislation for the national plan is due to be tabled before the house tomorrow as well, and Health Minister Christos Solomis has said that, although he does not preclude further negotiations with the civil servants, he will not allow them to hold the bill hostage. He has promised that the government will look after the welfare of civil servants.

    Government doctors back the health plan, but are now no longer members of Pasydy after forming their own breakaway union last year.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [09] Peo elects new leader

    PAMBIS Kyritsis was yesterday elected new Peo general secretary, succeeding Akel deputy Avraam Antoniou, who retired from the post last week.

    Kyritsis, who was Peo executive secretary, secured 54 votes to the 37 of Peo assistant general secretary Sotiris Fellas in yesterday morning's vote by the general council of the left-wing workers' union.

    The new general secretary vowed to work hard for the defence of workers' rights.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [10] Opinion poll backs municipality on pedestrianisation

    NICOSIA municipality yesterday released the findings of an independent survey showing overwhelming public support for pedestrianisation.

    An opinion poll conducted between January 11 and 17 this year by Cymar Market Research showed that 86 per cent of those asked wanted Nicosia's only car-free thoroughfares - Ledra and Onasagorou streets - to stay that way. Three hundred 18-to-65-year-olds were quizzed for the poll, commissioned by the Town Hall.

    Pedestrianisation has become a contentious issue in the capital, with most shopkeepers along Ledra and Onasagorou protesting for the return of cars, claiming that their banishment has hit shop takings hard. The Town Hall denies this and has long-term plans to pedestrianise Makarios avenue, the town's most popular shopping street.

    The poll suggested only 14 per cent of Nicosians backed the shop owners' pleas for the return of cars. Only 18 per cent of those polled said they would shop more on Ledra and Onasagorou streets if they were allowed to drive down them - further bad news for protesting shopkeepers.

    Two-thirds of those asked said pedestrianisation made shopping much easier for them. Only ten per cent of poll participants said pedestrianisation had made shopping harder for them. The municipality noted in announcing the poll findings that similar studies carried out in 1997 and 1995 showed 15 and 22 per cent, respectively, of people found pedestrianisation hampered their shopping sorties.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [11] Bourse changes trading hours, with option to extend

    TRADING on the Cyprus Stock Exchange will from today begin at 10.30am and end at noon, the bourse announced yesterday.

    Traders said that market officials would also have the authority to extend trading by a further 30 minutes if activity was at a high level.

    Since it became official nearly three years ago, trading in the stock market has begun at 11am and ended at 12.30.

    The option of extending trading by 30 minutes follows frantic activity on the market earlier this month, with trading levels worth as much as 16 million, more than twice previous records, and a bull run which saw share prices soar by as much as 30 per cent since the start of the year.

    Shares fell yesterday for the second trading session in a row. The official all-share index closed at 114.20, 0.59 per cent down on Friday's close.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [12] Small quake shakes Cyprus

    A SLIGHT tremor measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale was felt mostly in Limassol and Larnaca but also in other areas at 11.07 on Monday night. No injuries or damage were reported.

    According to a Geological department announcement yesterday, the epicentre of the tremor was in the Episkopi area.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [13] Russian held for smuggling heroin in condom

    A RUSSIAN Greek living in Nicosia tried to smuggle heroin into the country by placing it in a condom and swallowing it, a Larnaca court heard on Sunday.

    Builder Yennadios Kerhantzides, 35, was arrested at Larnaca airport just after 9pm on Saturday and brought up before Larnaca District Court the next day.

    The court heard that drug squad officers had stopped and searched Kerhantzides, who arrived on a flight from Athens, after receiving a tip- off that he was carrying illegal narcotics. Officers found nothing on him, but were not satisfied of the man's innocence and decided, with his consent, to take him to Larnaca general hospital for an x-ray search.

    The search showed a foreign object in Kerhantzides' bowels. He was given a laxative and later passed a condom containing 8.5 grammes of heroin, police told the court.

    Kerhantzides has, according to police, confessed that the hard drug was intended for his own personal use.

    The court remanded the suspect for five days.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [14] Sunday dinner turns to tragedy

    A FAMILY Sunday dinner took a tragic turn when a young women choked on her food and later died.

    Niki Christou Ktoridou, 25, was dining with her husband and in-laws in Yeri when she began choking at 7.30 pm.

    Her husband Michalis carried out first-aid and immediately called an ambulance.

    Ktoridou was taken, unconscious, to Nicosia General Hospital, where doctors removed a small piece of meat from her throat.

    But despite doctors' efforts to revive her, Ktoridou died at 8.20 pm.

    An autopsy carried out yesterday showed that Ktoridou had suffocated.

    Wednesday, February 24, 1999

    [15] Drugs board praises Cyprus record

    THE INTERNATIONAL Narcotics Control Board has expressed overall satisfaction with Cyprus' record on drug trafficking, but warned that the island needs to vet offshore banks and businesses more carefully.

    The annual report says that Cyprus has in place comprehensive drug control legislation in line with international treaties and that its control systems for narcotics and psychotropic substances work effectively.

    The board does, however, note that it would like to see increased vigilance of transactions involving psychotropic substances, in order to make sure they do not get channelled illegally into third world markets.

    It also recommends that Cyprus continue to study patterns and trends of drug abuse.

    Regarding the offshore sector, the report noted that Cyprus' success in attracting business made it vulnerable to international money-laundering activities. It added that, although the government had taken successful action against these crimes, more effort needed to be put into vetting offshore banks and corporations applying for licences to operate, calling on the Central Bank to carry out its own inquiries into the legitimacy of offshore operators.

    The International Narcotics Board is an independent body responsible for the implementation and monitoring of international narcotics conventions.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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