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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-03-02

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

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


Tuesday, March 02, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Government turns abroad to raise $300 million
  • [02] Mossad agents on the prowl for Kurdish camps?
  • [03] Ocalan row hampers Cyprus initiatives
  • [04] Abuse of foreign workers under fire
  • [05] CY unions meet to discuss pay rise strategy
  • [06] Nicosia hotels to stage sympathy strikes
  • [07] Unions meet at Ledra Palace to discuss all-island forum
  • [08] Twins born over Cyprus
  • [09] Government seeks further Akamas consultations
  • [10] Bomb targets bank raid witness
  • [11] Teenager hurt in hit-and-run
  • [12] Transplant centre hooks up to US hospital
  • [13] Monster Raving Loony Party for Cyprus?

  • [01] Government turns abroad to raise $300 million

    By Hamza Hendawi

    THE GOVERNMENT plans to raise the equivalent of $300 million abroad through an international bond issue expected to be denominated in the euro.

    Bankers said the money would be used to meet part of the government's entire 1999 financing requirements, estimated at 735 million, up from last year's 647 million. The funds may take up to 90 days to be raised.

    The issue, which will come up for approval before a plenary session of the House later this week, will be the third since 1997, when the government successfully issued a five-year bond issue worth $300 million. A 10-year $400 million issue followed last year.

    The government of President Glafcos Clerides borrows abroad to cover its yawning deficits so as not to increase demand on domestic liquidity with negative results for the economy. Domestic borrowing by the government would place upward pressure on interest rates, making borrowing more expensive and slowing economic growth.

    Bankers say that local banks would also be hard pressed to raise the vast amounts required by the government.

    News of the government's plans to borrow abroad coincided with a report by the internationally-respected Moody's that backed the island's A2 rating for foreign debt, but catalogued some of the challenges facing the economy as Cyprus moves closer toward the European Union.

    Noting that the political environment on the island has recently grown more "fractious," Moody's Investors Service said prospects of passing through parliament important legislation to increase revenues and liberalise the financial sector appeared to be less than certain.

    "The longer-term outlook for Cyprus' creditworthiness is therefore increasingly dependent on the near-term prospects for economic adjustment," said the Moody's report.

    "Moody's analysts emphasise that the significant widening of the fiscal and current account deficits since 1995 increases the urgency of the economic reform agenda, especially the proposed hike in value added tax rate.

    "In addition, financial sector liberalisation, which is crucial to Cyprus' further integration into the EU, must advance this year with the removal of the interest rate ceiling," said the report.

    The government's fiscal deficit is projected at close to six per cent of GDP in 1999, while the public debt is forecast at more than 60 per cent. A government attempt to raise more revenue to narrow the deficits failed when the House last May threw out a package of far reaching tax increases.

    Moody's said economic growth averaged 4.2 per cent in the 1994-98 period but warned that structural problems, especially the competitive challenges facing tourism, international business services and industry, lurked ahead.

    "In the absence of enhanced flexibility of the labour force or additional investment to enhance productivity, growth is likely to stay well below the historical average," the report said.

    Share prices, meanwhile, resumed their appreciation yesterday when the all- share index closed in positive territory for the fourth successive session.

    The index was up 1.63 per cent to close at 118.76, pushing shares up by as much as four per cent since Wednesday.

    Most trade was in the banks blue-chips, whose sub-index shot up by 1.53 per cent to close at 145.70. Market leader Bank of Cyprus appreciated by seven cents to close at 5.43, while the Popular Bank raked in 10.5 cents to close at 5.34. Hellenic Bank was up 2.5 cents to close at 3.13.

    Only insurances companies ended the day lower, with all six other sectors of the bourse finishing up.

    The valued of trade was 4.97 million.

    Tuesday, March 02, 1999

    [02] Mossad agents on the prowl for Kurdish camps?

    By Charlie Charalambous

    DID THE security forces release two suspected spies found searching for Kurdish military camps near Paphos after realising they were Mossad agents?

    Although the allegation in yesterday's Apogevmatini may seem somewhat outlandish, an official response from the police failed to dismiss it out of hand.

    "It's a political issue, not a police matter," is all the police press office was willing to tell the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    Apogevmatini claims that two Israeli agents looking for secret Kurdish guerilla training camps were caught by Cyprus Intelligence officers in the remote Paphos village of Inia recently.

    The two suspects were later set free after the authorities discovered they were Israeli agents and feared the political repercussions from Tel Aviv, the paper alleged.

    Justice Minister Nicos Koshis could neither deny nor confirm the Apogevmatini report: "I don't have any information like that... I just don't know," he told the Cyprus Mail.

    Only last week, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit claimed that Cyprus was a breeding ground for PKK guerillas and hosted military training camps for the separatist organisation.

    This allegation was categorically denied by President Clerides, who gave an open invitation to EU or UN observers to come and have a look for themselves.

    Ever since Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan was captured by Turkish security forces two weeks ago, Cyprus has been targeted by Turkey as a "terrorist refuge".

    Ocalan, Turkey said, was found in possession of a Cypriot passport at the time of his arrest. The Cyprus government has denied any involvement in the "Ocalan passport" affair.

    Cypriot intelligence sources are also reported as saying that the island was "crawling" with foreign spies, mainly from Israel, Britain and Turkey.

    The media has speculated that Mossad agents are on the island to pass any information concerning the Kurds to their counterparts in Turkey (MIT).

    A majority of Cypriots strongly sympathise with the Kurdish cause as they see a common oppressor in Turkey.

    Paranoia over the suspected presence of Israeli spies on the island has been heightened ever since two Israeli agents were arrested in Zygi last November eavesdropping on police frequencies.

    Israeli anti-terrorist agents Igal Damary, 49, and Udi Hargov, 37, were convicted and sentenced to three years by an Assize court last month for "approaching a military area".

    They pleaded guilty to the charge after more serious spying accusations were dropped by state prosecutors.

    The arrests and subsequent trial caused great friction in Cyprus-Israeli relations, already reeling from Israel's military ties with Turkey.

    During last Thursday's parliamentary debate over the Zygi saga, left-wing Akel deputy Kikis Yiangou said the island was "crawling" with Mossad agents and alleged Larnaca marina was used as a covert meeting point.

    Yiangou also claimed that Mossad agents used a network of Cypriot informants, citing a former high-ranking Cypriot intelligence officer who hosted Mossad agents at his seaside villa.

    The deputy further alleged during the debate that a well-known Cypriot with good connections was on the pay-roll of Mossad and fed it with classified government information.

    Tuesday, March 02, 1999

    [03] Ocalan row hampers Cyprus initiatives

    THE CONTROVERSY surrounding the capture by Turkey of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan is making it difficult for Nicosia and Athens to launch any new initiatives on the Cyprus problem, the government said yesterday.

    Since the capture of Ocalan in Kenya last month, Turkey has accused Cyprus of harbouring Kurdish training camps and of having a hand in helping Ocalan by giving him a Cyprus passport.

    "We consider that there is a deliberate bid on the part of the Turkish side to create a climate of tension with the sole aim of deflecting international opinion from the Ocalan issue, which reflects badly on Turkey, " said government spokesman Christos Stylianides.

    "This verbal effort to create tension will not meet with a response from us, from either Greece or Cyprus. We will not in any way contribute to this creation of tension."

    Stylianides said both diplomatic and military steps had been taken in the face of these developments, but did not elaborate.

    Greece placed its forces on alert last week amid rising tension with Ankara.

    On Sunday, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides, returning from the United States, said Cyprus had nothing to do with the Cyprus passport allegedly found on Ocalan.

    He said Turkey's comments were a disguise in order to draw attention away from its own negative stance on the Cyprus problem.

    "Turkey knows very well that Cyprus was not involved at all in the case of the Kurdish people to claim their rights," Cassoulides said.

    "I believe it would be wrong if we were to try and fall victim to Turkey's propaganda, which wants to justify its negative stand by putting forward false claims and various things..."

    Cassoulides is due to being a new round of talks with his European Union counterparts from March 15, Stylianides announced yesterday.

    He said the aim of the week-long European tour was to inform Foreign Ministers on Cyprus's EU accession course.

    During his two-week visit to the US, Cassoulides said he asked for more American moves towards Ankara to break the current deadlock, but noted that any diplomatic activity would not be seen until after April's elections in Turkey.

    Tuesday, March 02, 1999

    [04] Abuse of foreign workers under fire

    By Athena Karsera

    SERIOUS allegations were levelled at Cypriot employers of foreign workers during a meeting of parliament's Human Rights Committee yesterday.

    The meeting was called following a proposal by Akel deputy Takis Hadjigeorgiou for a re-examination of the current situation.

    Introducing the issue, Hadjigeorgiou said the needs of legal foreign workers were often eclipsed because it was illegal immigrants that were grabbing the headlines.

    Hadjigeorgiou said the Committee should in particular examine issues concerning foreign workers' salaries, medical treatment and contracts.

    He said foreign workers were regularly brought to the island, not because there were no Cypriots available to do the job, as required by law, but because foreign workers were usually paid less than locals.

    "The term 'equal work equal pay' should apply," Hadjigeorgiou said. "It might upset the so-called madams, but I don't think it's logical that a foreign person should be paid less."

    And he noted instances of foreign house maids who became ill and were fired, rather than receiving adequate medical treatment. "There was a foreign woman working permanently here who got cancer and was deported," he said.

    He went on to tell the committee of instances where workers had been made to sign contracts in a language they could not understand.

    Hadjigeorgiou said contracts "should be in English or a language they understand. A representative from their embassy should be present and they should be given a card with a contact number on it."

    He added that this number could be used by workers who were mistreated. And the Akel deputy cited the example of an employer who threw a maid out onto the street the day she arrived, "because he did not like the way she looked."

    And he called for ideas from attendant representatives from the Labour, Interior and Justice Ministries, Foreigner Support Movement and Cyprus Association for the Promotion of Human Rights.

    But a representative from the Labour Ministry told the committee that his Ministry was not responsible for domestic workers and artistes, only for other foreign workers.

    These two groups, he said, fell under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry. This meant the regulations that governed their employment were different to those of other workers.

    And the Interior Ministry man added that the problem of unfair treatment of legal foreign workers was not one of gaps in the law, but of a failure to implement it.

    He said all complaints from foreign workers were submitted to the Attorney- general, who decides whether the workers' rights have been violated.

    If so, the employers are not allowed to employ foreign workers again and alternative work is found for the workers.

    A police representative assured deputies that complaints by foreign workers were treated "exactly the same as those made by Cypriots."

    A representative of the Foreigner Support Movement, Doros Kakoullis, blamed much of the problem on the fact that foreign workers were divided into two categories and fell under the jurisdiction of separate ministries.

    He said his movement received many complaints: "One this Saturday involved a Filipino woman. She told us that her employer made her withdraw her salary every month and re-deposit it so that it would appear he was paying her." Kakoullis added that the woman had been fired on Sunday.

    He said workers were often sacked just before the weekend as government services would then be closed.

    But the Labour Ministry Representative said there was another side to the coin: he said that, as workers were allowed to stay on the island for only four years, they often made complaints against their employers just before having to leave.

    They are then allowed to stay on the island until the court investigates their claim, sometimes giving them several extra years on the island.

    The Committee decided to continue the discussion at its next meeting.

    Tuesday, March 02, 1999

    [05] CY unions meet to discuss pay rise strategy

    FOUR Cyprus Airways (CY) unions met yesterday to discuss further measures to secure pay demands, and said they would seek a meeting with Communications and Works Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou.

    Costas Demetriou, the head of Cynika, the airline's biggest union, said his members as well as the three other unions covering cabin crew and engineers, had rejected CY's proposal for a lump sum in lieu of pay rises for 1999.

    Demetriou said the company had offered 300,000 to some 2,000 employees seeking a 2.5 per cent pay rise in line with rises in semi-government organisations. The demand led to a four-hour work stoppage on January 28.

    "The money offered by the company amounts to a rise of only around one per cent on a one-off basis," Demetriou said. "We want an annual increase."

    But Demetriou added the unions would not consider further strike action until they had secured a meeting with Ierodiaconou. "We called his office today and expect an answer this week," Demetriou said.

    The unions also have a meeting with CY management tomorrow to discuss the company's survival.

    Demetriou said, however, that, as far as the four unions were concerned, there was no connection between the pay demands and the discussion on the company's survival.

    Tuesday, March 02, 1999

    [06] Nicosia hotels to stage sympathy strikes

    NICOSIA hotels will stage a two-hour sympathy strikes tomorrow after Labour Ministry talks failed to reach a compromise in the Lordos hotel dispute yesterday.

    Pickets at the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotels in Larnaca have been striking for over a month demanding the reinstatement of 73 colleagues laid off when sections of the two hotels were turned over to outside contractors.

    After meeting yesterday with the unions and management, Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas said no progress had been made.

    "This meeting does not mean that the problem has been solved. There are many difficult aspects to the problem, but attempts to solve it will continue," the minister said.

    For his part, Constantinos Lordos, the president of Lordos Holdings, which owns the hotels, said: "There will be a problem for as long as the unions want to decide and the company pays."

    Sek and Peo unions were more optimistic.

    Sek's secretary-general, Michalakis Ioannou, said "the fact that we will be meeting again is positive. Our position remains the same as it was at the start, but this does not mean we are not willing to have dialogue and to find a compromise."

    The new Secretary general of Peo, Pampis Kiritsis, added: "I think it is obvious that we have not made progress on the basic problem, but we have to continue trying."

    Lordos argues the dismissals were necessary in order to overturn chronic losses at the hotels and has said they are non-negotiable.

    Tuesday, March 02, 1999

    [07] Unions meet at Ledra Palace to discuss all-island forum

    REPRESENTATIVES from unions on both sides of the Green Line met at the Ledra Palace yesterday to begin organising the third All-Cyprus Trade Union Forum.

    The forum is due to take place on May 28 and 29, a joint announcement from the six main unions said yesterday.

    Three trade unions from each side will take part in the forum: left-wing Peo, right-wing Sek and public service union Pasidy from the government- controlled side, and Turkish Cypriot unions Turk-Sen, Ktams and Dev-Is.

    According to yesterday's announcement, the third forum will focus on a review of developments since the last forum in 1998 as well as on issues such as social security.

    The trade union forums are designed to build confidence between the two sides and to help put in place a working system prior to an eventual solution based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation.

    Contacts between the two sides have come to a virtual standstill since the end of 1997, when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash called a halt to meetings in protest at the EU's decision to open accession talks with Cyprus.

    Meanwhile, the UN yesterday announced that it had closed down its Limassol liaison office for Turkish Cypriots due to a lack of interest.

    The office was set up two years ago to assist 300 or so Turkish Cypriots living in the government-controlled areas and to organise Turkish language and culture classes.

    "Despite widespread advertising both through the media and by word of mouth, only 11 visits have been made to the office in the past two years and no children have shown interest in following language and culture classes," an Unficyp statement said.

    However, the UN will continue to visit police stations and welfare offices in Polis, Paphos and Limassol and will call at Turkish Cypriot homes as required and at the Turkish Cypriot coffee shop in Limassol.

    Tuesday, March 02, 1999

    [08] Twins born over Cyprus

    A KENYAN woman went into premature labour and gave birth to twins aboard a Gulf Air flight over Cyprus on Sunday.

    A doctor aboard the flight helped to deliver a boy and a girl for Grace Akosha, 31, before the captain of the flight asked for permission to land at Larnaca Airport in the early hours of Sunday.

    The mother and babies were taken to Larnaca hospital from where the infants were later transferred by police helicopter to Makarios Hospital in Nicosia.

    The premature twins, born at only 30 weeks and each weighing 1.3 kilos, have been placed in incubators and will be closely monitored over the coming weeks, doctors said.

    Akosha had been on her way from Birmingham to Nairobi and was on a flight from London to Bahrain when she went into labour.

    "For me it was a big surprise," she told journalists from her hospital bed.

    The Kenyan woman has two other children who are being cared for by her parents in Nairobi.

    Tuesday, March 02, 1999

    [09] Government seeks further Akamas consultations

    THE GOVERNMENT is still seeking to find a compromise on the management of the Akamas that will take the concerns of local residents into account.

    "In such cases, if we do not have the consent of the local communities things cannot move forward," Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous said after a meeting of the ministerial committee on the Akamas yesterday morning.

    Environmentalists have long campaigned for the protection of the pristine area as a National Park - a principle adopted by the state. But local residents want the freedom to develop their Akamas beach-front properties.

    The minister said the recommendations of a government-commissioned World Bank report on the management of the remote peninsula still formed the template for government thinking.

    "At all levels in government, the general approach is that the solution will come through the adoption of the philosophy of the World Bank report," he said.

    The report, released two years ago, recommends that development in the ecologically sensitive area be restricted to within existing village boundaries, with the rest of the area protected as a wildlife park. The report was welcomed by local greens but not by Akamas area residents.

    "There are certain thoughts for marrying the World Bank report with the positions of the local communities," Themistocleous said.

    The minister said the government would be ready to consider some form of compensation system for local residents whose land would be rendered closed to development by inclusion in a National Park.

    He said the government was keen to see the Akamas question resolved as soon as possible, but the relevant ministerial committee would have to have further meetings to further consider the positions of all concerned.

    On the committee are Themistocleous, Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis, Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides and representatives of the Finance and Communications &amp; Works ministries.

    "We all see the matter as urgent," Themistocleous said. "The communities want to know as soon as possible what is going to happen to the area. The government wants to implement a plan for the designation of the area as a National Park but without the interests of the residents in the area being ignored," the minister said.

    Tuesday, March 02, 1999

    [10] Bomb targets bank raid witness

    A BOMB blast in Limassol yesterday morning has been linked to the arrest of three suspects following last Thursday's Ypsonas armed bank heist.

    Motorcycle parts shops Zenmar Trading was the target of a homemade device, which exploded at 1am yesterday.

    Police said it was the owner of the shop, Zenon Georgiades, 57, who gave police statement that led to the arrest of three suspects connected to last week's armed robbery, in which the culprits got away with 19,000.

    Police believe the blast was an attempt at intimidation against Georgiades, warning him to keep his mouth shut or face further reprisals.

    "I can't say if the statement I gave to police about the battery has anything to do with this," Georgiades told reporters.

    Georgiades had told police that a new battery on the stolen Yamaha used in the heist had been bought from his bike shop a day before the robbery.

    A small home-made device containing low-intensity explosives was placed behind the front wheel of the Georgiades' company Isuzu van, causing light damage, bomb expert Antonis Shiakallis said yesterday at the scene on Limassol's Makarios Avenue.

    He said it was too early to say whether the latest blast had any similarities to other incidents in a recent spate of bombings in the town.

    Two masked gunmen were involved in Thursday's Ypsonas hold-up; they were seen leaving the Bank of Cyprus branch on a red motocross bike, which was later found abandoned.

    Police have yet to recover the money and the firearms used.

    Panicos Chrysostomou, 19, Pantelis Ioannou, 26, and Herodotos Petasis, 34, were all arrested in connection with the robbery the next day.

    Tuesday, March 02, 1999

    [11] Teenager hurt in hit-and-run

    A TEENAGER was badly injured in a hit-and-run accident in Paphos this weekend, while a 26-year-old died in a Troodos motorcycle crash.

    Michalis Christodoulou, 26, from Strovolos, died instantly when his bike swerved off a bend on the Nicosia-Troodos road and hit a crash barrier on Sunday.

    Christodoulou was married and the father of a two-month-old baby.

    Twenty-year-old labourer from Georgia Andreas Tarchanides, who was riding pillion at the time, was injured in the crash and was taken to Nicosia General hospital, where he was yesterday described as out of danger.

    Limassol traffic police are investigating the cause of the accident.

    Also on Sunday, Koulis Parpas, 15, from Palichori, was knocked off his bicycle and sent flying into a nearby field by an oncoming vehicle on the Latsi to Polis Chrysochous road.

    Two Georgians, brothers Aristotelos Pansenides, 30, and Leonidas, 28, were later arrested after a vehicle was found abandoned 400 metres from the scene of the accident.

    They were charged and released yesterday.

    The owner of the car, Georgian Ioannis Papadopoullou, was not arrested.

    Parpas was taken to Paphos General Hospital, where he was treated for head injuries.

    Polis Chrysochous police are investigating the accident.

    Tuesday, March 02, 1999

    [12] Transplant centre hooks up to US hospital

    CYPRIOT children being treated at the Paraskevaidion Surgical and Transplant Centre will now be able to benefit from a new "telemedicine" link-up with the Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts.

    The link-up was officially inaugurated at a ceremony last night. At both the Paraskevaidion Centre and the Springfield hospital, there are now VidiMedix 1000 workstations which will allow better communications and follow-up care of patients by doctors at the other end. Not only are doctors now able to communicate with live video and audio, but images such as X-Rays and photographs can also be transmitted. More features are expected to be developed in the future.

    The costs of the system, which the Centre's Nassos Athanasiou told The Cyprus Mail were around $300,000, are being paid for by a grant from the Paraskevaides Foundation.

    The system was tested on February 18, when the Shriners Hospital Chief of Staff, Dr David M Drvaric, conducted a telemedicine examination of a seven- year-old patient in Cyprus with the help of Dr Costas Christodoulakis.

    The Shriners Hospital's relationship with Cyprus began in 1979, when two Cypriot children suffering from orthopaedic deformities were taken to the Springfield Hospital under the sponsorship of a Cypriot couple living in Springfield. Since 1983, medical staff from the hospital have visited Cyprus every year. Last year, doctors saw 370 child patients at the Paraskevaidion Centre, while around 75 were sent to Springfield for treatment.

    The Paraskevaides Foundation was established in 1980 to help Cypriot children obtain overseas healthcare not available in Cyprus. It also awards scholarships for study and has interests in preserving traditional Cypriot Culture and architecture.

    Tuesday, March 02, 1999

    [13] Monster Raving Loony Party for Cyprus?

    A TOPLESS Millennium Dome and the introduction of the 'Loony Pound' are just what Cyprus needs to celebrate the year 2000, according to wacky British 'politician' Screaming Lord Sutch.

    Speaking on Radio Napa from the UK, Sutch, a longtime visitor to the island, told presenter Nathan Morley: "I love Cyprus and come almost every year, and I think a topless dome would be a great attraction."

    He also called for an extension to the day, with 24-hour sunshine.

    Sutch, a former sixties pop star who now heads the Monster Raving Loony Party, entered politics in 1964, when he stood against Harold Wilson. Since then, he has also stood against Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher and John Major, whom he describes as his favourite MP.

    The Monster Raving Loony Party holds no seats in parliament, as its constitution states that any candidate who stands and wins must resign from the party immediately. It has equally mad policies on everything else, including the environment, suggesting that in order to cut pollution, cars should be replaced by space hoppers.

    Asked whether he would like to open a branch of the Monster Raving Loony Party in Cyprus, he said: "It would be my dream to have a branch on the island. I'm always looking for new members."

    He did not mention whether he felt any local politicians were qualified to join.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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