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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-03-12

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, March 12, 1999


  • [01] Failure: envoys depart dejected
  • [02] 'Cabinet twisted the truth to clear Michaelides'
  • [03] Popular bank springs dazzling package on back of increased profits
  • [04] National Council finally decides against recourse
  • [05] Doctor faces life sentence for raping patient
  • [06] UK university seeks to reassure Cyprus students amid crisis reports
  • [07] Unions worry new hotel redundancies part of a trend
  • [08] Explosions keep LImassol police busy
  • [09] Government denies double standard claim
  • [10] Cyprus unions must adapt to survive in EU
  • [11] Balcony thwarts suicide bid

  • [01] Failure: envoys depart dejected

    By Staff Reporters

    BOTH the US and EU special envoys to Cyprus left in pessimistic mood yesterday, admitting they had been unable to resurrect the stalled settlement process.

    American Thomas Miller, after a day of talks with Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders that failed to break the deadlock, departed with a somewhat wistful quote from the late Frank Sinatra: "You... got to have hope."

    Germany's special European Union envoy for Cyprus, Detlev Graf zu Rantzau, was more blunt, saying he was not at all optimistic for a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    "I have not been able to detect on either side a new flexibility or the readiness to enter into a compromise," Rantzau said in Nicosia. "I leave Cyprus not optimistic at all."

    Rantzau said the general impression he took with him after his five-day visit was one of a "hardened" stance on both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides.

    Likewise Miller, the US State Department Co-ordinator for Cyprus, came away with apparently little more in his briefcase than he arrived with, to judge from Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's remarks after their talks yesterday.

    "If the Cyprus problem is going to be solved, it will be solved by the two sides. Whatever rights the Greek Cypriots have, we have too," Denktash insisted.

    The US envoy simply said he had a "good, productive talk" with Denktash, but did not suggest that this, or his meeting with President Glafcos Clerides on Wednesday, had brought a Cyprus settlement any closer.

    Denktash insists on recognition of his breakaway regime as an equal of the Cyprus Republic as a condition for resuming talks.

    Miller said his task had been "to move this process forward". But he implied continued US failure when he said: "I can do my job best when the atmosphere is conducive to progress", but in recent years "the atmosphere has not often been conducive".

    Rantzau said he had told both sides that to move things forward, they should be ready and willing to compromise.

    "If I'm honest, this is practically all I can take away from my discussions, " he said.

    The German envoy made it clear that Clerides had assured him he was willing to negotiate with Denktash on the basis of UN resolutions, and with no preconditions.

    "Mr Denktash, on the other hand, has said he is ready to negotiate provided that his status be acknowledged. And without any acknowledgement of status there will be no negotiations of any kind."

    Rantzau said he saw little point in putting forward any new proposals on Cyprus at the moment: "As of today there are no plans for any initiative on the part of the European Union... there is no room for a new initiative."

    "If one makes a proposal one must have a shred of hope it might fall on fruitful ground." This ground did not exist at the moment, he said.

    Miller was less brutal, though hardly more promising: "You always got to have hope," he asid. "You got to look on the good side... look for opportunities" to break the Cyprus stalemate.

    But Rantzau was categorical: "All I hear is a repetition of one position," he said, adding that what was sadly lacking in the issue was some kind of public debate about the future of the country.

    Miller, who had talks in Ankara on his way to Nicosia, left for Athens yesterday, where he will meet Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou today before returning to Washington.

    Before the end of what was probably his last visit before taking up a posting in Bosnia, Miller sought to "set the record straight" on one particular issue, telling reporters that President Bill Clinton had never pledged to solve the Cyprus problem before the end of his presidency on January 20, 2001.

    "He never promised to solve the Cyprus problem. What President Clinton has promised is to make as big an effort... as possible to solve the Cyprus problem," he said.

    Miller's visit to Cyprus was the first by a US envoy since Clerides decided in December not to take delivery of the S-300 missiles, which Turkey had threatened to destroy.

    Since then, the Abdullah Ocalan affair has brought Greco-Turkish relations to a new low, an aspect Miller conceded had dominated his current round of talks.

    Friday, March 12, 1999

    [02] 'Cabinet twisted the truth to clear Michaelides'

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE CABINET is guilty of "twisting" the truth in order to clear Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides of charges of abusing his authority for personal gain, House watchdog committee chairman Christos Pourgourides claimed yesterday.

    The Disy deputy - who has been trying for months to "nail" Michaelides for what he alleges are a catalogue of misdemeanours - said Michaelides' peers had "ulterior motives" for vindicating him.

    On Wednesday, the cabinet announced that, contrary to what an Ombudsman's report last week had indicated, the minister had not used his position to secure zoning changes in the Kalogiron area of Limassol. The zoning alteration enabled the Minister and his wife, Olga, to built a luxury home on two plots in the up-market suburb.

    Pourgourides said the cabinet announcement had kept him awake all night: "I could not sleep last night because I had to speak out," he told reporters after a behind-closed-doors meeting of his committee yesterday morning.

    "When the cabinet concludes that there is nothing reprehensible (against Michaelides) because the plot was not bought in 1988, but later, it shows we live in a time when ulterior motives twist everything," Pourgourides said.

    In rejecting any charges of wrongdoing, the Council of Ministers stated Michaelides and his wife had bought their two plots of land in Kalogiron well after (three and six years) the planning changes were approved by the cabinet in October 1987.

    Pourgourides said this was not true.

    "I feel I have an obligation to the public to set the record straight," he said.

    "Mr Michaelides, in a letter he sent President Clerides to answer the charges against him, mentioned that 'one plot was bought in 1988 for 21, 000.' So it was bought a few months after the cabinet decision to change the zones, and not three years later as the cabinet stated."

    The Limassol deputy went further, saying he doubted the first plot was bought as late as 1988. "How can it have been bought in 1988, when two people who applied in 1986 and 1987, respectively, to buy the same plot were told Michaelides had already bought it," he said.

    In her report, Ombudsman Eliana Nicolaidou confirms that Michaelides had informed Clerides the first Kalogiron plot was bought in 1988. The report states that the zoning changes were approved by the cabinet in 1987 on the recommendation of the local authority and Planning Department (which is answerable to the Interior Minister). Michaelides was Interior Minister at the time.

    Nicolaidou states the zoning changes were made "in the absence of any specific justification" - a fact which she states makes the motives for the cabinet decision "questionable".

    The cabinet's assertion that the plots were bought three and six years after the planning alterations would appear to have been based on the fact - noted in Nicolaidou's report - that the sales of the two plots were registered in 1990 and 1993.

    Michaelides has said Wednesday's cabinet statement vindicated him totally. Late last year, Michaelides was cleared after state-appointed investigators failed to find any grounds to the 16 corruption charges brought against him by Pourgourides.

    But the minister - who has always maintained he is beyond reproach - may not be off the hook yet as Pourgourides hopes a relevant report by his committee will lead the House plenum to condemn Michaelides for abuse of authority.

    The report was submitted to the plenum yesterday and will be debated at a future date. Michaelides has asked to be allowed to address deputies during this debate.

    Friday, March 12, 1999

    [03] Popular bank springs dazzling package on back of increased profits

    By Hamza Hendawi

    IT WAS THE Popular Bank's turn yesterday to be in the limelight and it did not disappoint. In fact, it dazzled.

    Ever eager not to be outshone by rivals in the larger Bank of Cyprus, Popular Bank boss Kikis Lazarides sprang a surprise on brokers and investors alike, announcing a two-for-one share split and an attractive bond issue worth 30 million.

    The announcement, made at a news conference, had an immediate impact on the market, where Popular Bank shares rose by 33 cents to close at 5.72, while those of the Bank of Cyprus took on 13 cents to close at 5.55. Combined, the two stocks accounted for 46.7 per cent of yesterday's trade, which totalled 10.68 million. The all-share index rose by 2.53 per cent to close at 120.98.

    "Excellent!" declared Neofytos Neofytou of AAA United Stockbrokers when asked to comment on the announcement. "It was much better than expected. It was excellent for investors and at no cost to the bank," he told the Cyprus Mail.

    "They've handled it professionally and there were no leaks," he said.

    The share split will have to be approved by a May 19 general meeting of the Group, but this is likely to be a formality and analysts expect the stock to reach between 6.5 to 7.00 by then.

    "In effect, the share split is like a one-for-one bonus," said Stavros Agrotis of CISCO, the Bank of Cyprus' brokerage.

    The analysts said the share split would widen the ownership base of the Popular Bank Group and boost the market.

    Lazarides said the non-convertible, 10-year bond issue would have a fixed interest rate of 7.25 per cent for the first year, but would thereafter be 0.25 per cent above the average yield on similar government bond issues.

    The issue will be referred to stock market regulators for approval in a matter of days.

    The Popular Bank chairman and chief executive also announced that the group's board was studying the listing of one of the group's companies on the Cyprus Stock Exchange. He did not say which, but traders agreed that the group's Cyprialife, one of two insurance companies belonging to the Popular Bank, was a strong candidate.

    The takeover by the Popular Bank in January of Nicos Shacolas' three insurance companies - Paneuropean and its sister companies Interamerican and Philiki - in a 47-million deal will lead to their delisting since the bank's stake in them now exceeds the 70 per cent ceiling set by market regulations.

    The purchase, according to Lazarides, created a need to broaden the capital base of the group. "The companies will be merged and possibly into two divisions, life and general insurance," said Lazarides.

    He also announced 1998 pre-tax profits of 39.1 million, a 19.7 per cent rise over the previous year and said that the bank would pay a dividend of 12 per cent of its shares' face value in addition to an eight per cent payout

    already issued, bringing the total to 20 per cent.

    Friday, March 12, 1999

    [04] National Council finally decides against recourse

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS will not after all file a recourse to the UN Security Council, the National Council decided yesterday.

    Speaking after a two-and-a-half-hour meeting of the top advisory body on the Cyprus problem yesterday, government spokesman Christos Stylianides said "things have changed" since the November decision to request a debate.

    Only socialist party Edek disagreed with yesterday's decision.

    Stylianides said the National Council believed the current international climate was not right for a recourse, particularly as a new initiative on the Cyprus problem is expected after the elections in Turkey next month.

    The recourse was to have been discussed in May. It would have been the first debate on the Cyprus problem in 15 years.

    Stylianides said another reason for yesterday's decision not to file was the fact that upcoming Security Council meetings would not be discussing major international issues.

    He said the National Council would be meeting again after the Easter holidays next month to discuss a new strategy on the Cyprus problem.

    Apart from Edek, the other parties present at yesterday's meeting all approved the decision.

    But Akel general-secretary Demetris Christofias said his party had opposed the recourse from the beginning.

    "When the original decision was taken, Akel was the only one who said the issue had been exhausted," he said.

    In defending his party's dissention, Edek leader Vassos Lyssarides said: "I very much fear that our prediction that some excuse will be found every time for not discussing the issue at the Security Council has unfortunately been proved right," he said.

    Edek pulled out of the government at the end of December over President Clerides' about-face on the deployment of the Russian S-300 missiles.

    But even the last-minute missile cancellation has not helped push forward efforts for a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    Negotiations have been stalled since Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash broke off talks in December 1997 in protest at the EU's decision to move ahead with Cyprus' accession.

    The November decision for a recourse was symptomatic of the resultant deadlock in negotiations.

    Denktash said on Wednesday there was "nothing to applaud" in the Greek Cypriot decision not to deploy the missiles.

    Friday, March 12, 1999

    [05] Doctor faces life sentence for raping patient

    A NICOSIA doctor faces a maximum life sentence today after being convicted of raping a female patient.

    He will be sentenced by the criminal court, sitting in Nicosia, following yesterday's plea for mitigation by his defence.

    Urologist Achilleas Korellis, 44, was found guilty on Wednesday of raping a 21-year-old woman who had visited his surgery with her boyfriend.

    Under the law, rape now carries a maximum life sentence after being changed from a maximum jail term of 15 years.

    The victim had visited the doctor's Nicosia clinic with her boyfriend in August 1996; he was visiting the doctor to seek advice on a genital complaint suffered after having sex, the court heard.

    But after examining the boyfriend, the doctor told him to leave the room, leaving the woman alone on the pretext he needed to examine her, according to the evidence.

    She was then told to undress; as she lay face down on the examination table, the accused came from behind and tried to have sex with her, the court heard.

    However, the woman managed to repel further advances from Korellis, and when she turned round saw the doctor with his trousers down, trying to conceal himself with his hands, the court heard.

    The woman escaped his clutches, ran out of the surgery and told her boyfriend. He then filed a complaint with the director of the clinic and legal proceedings followed.

    Following the conviction, the Medical Association said it would now discuss whether Korellis should be struck off.

    "This is an issue which does concern the Medical Association and we will forward this case to the disciplinary committee," CMA president Antonis Vassiliou said yesterday.

    And Vassiliou suggested this was not an isolated incident of sexual assault among the medical profession.

    "Allegations of sexual harassment do reach the ears of the association from time to time and we take it very seriously," said Vassiliou.

    Friday, March 12, 1999

    [06] UK university seeks to reassure Cyprus students amid crisis reports

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRIOT students at a west London university will not be affected by a financial crisis at the institution, its administration has said.

    According to a recent article in a British local newspaper, the Ealing and Acton Gazette, drastic action has been taken at the Thames Valley University (TVU), until 1992 known as the Ealing College of Higher Education, to stave of an 8 million sterling deficit.

    TVU Director of Communications Andrew Ward said there were currently 18 Cypriot students studying at the university and that it hoped to attract even more by participating in the British Education Fair opening today.

    "We have attended very Fair for as long as people here can remember," he said. "We have every intention of attending again this year."

    Ward said the article in the Gazette gave a false impression of what was happening at TVU. The paper said the measures to be taken, combined with plunging students numbers, could lead to the break-up of the university.

    The measures were reported to include the axing of some subjects, where there is "no clear student demand" and the non-filling of vacancies, at least until July.

    The newspaper said no one was stating what the threatened subjects might be, but "less popular courses in arts humanities and languages may be candidates".

    Another option was the possibility of some subjects being taken over by nearby universities.

    The report led to foreign students at the university worrying over the status of their degrees and the possibility of having to change universities to complete courses.

    Ward said the 18 Cypriot students currently at the univesity would not be affected by any changes, which would take place in 1999/2000. "The University has guaranteed that all students will be able to finish any qualification they have started," he said.

    "Incidentally, nearly all our students from Cyprus study subjects that will continue to be very much part of the University's offer in the future."

    Most Cypriot students attending TVU take Law and Accounting courses at the university of 28,000 students and 1,200 staff.

    Ward said TVU had provided degrees and diplomas to Cypriots for over 20 years. Over 3,000 Cypriot students a year study in the UK.

    "Although I do not have the exact figures to hand, I would estimate that more than 1,000 young people from Cyprus obtained their higher education qualification from TVU (and its predecessor colleges)," Ward said.

    The institution and its predecessors go back 130 years.

    A TVU press release said an intensive consultation had been undertaken involving the entire university, from which an Academic Plan would be produced. The plan will be presented to the Higher Education Funding Council on March 31.

    "In the course of these planning processes, the University will have to make tough decisions that undoubtedly will have painful consequences for some colleagues. If we were to do nothing now the University would face an extremely severe financial crisis next year," the statement said.

    But it stressed that speculation that the university would be broken up was unfounded, despite the Gazette reports that discussions had taken place with other universities.

    According to the Gazette, the Higher Education Statistics Agency revealed in August last year that TVU had one of the worst records of employment among graduates.

    In November, a survey by the Sunday Times said TVU was one of the five worst universities in the country.

    Friday, March 12, 1999

    [07] Unions worry new hotel redundancies part of a trend

    UNIONS yesterday reacted angrily to new dismissals in the hotel industry, after 21 employees at an Ayia Napa hotel were issued with their walking papers on Wednesday.

    According to state radio, the management of the five-star Aeneas Hotel yesterday said the redundancies had been necessary as reservations for the summer season had remained low.

    Assistant-manager Varnavas Theodorou did not comment further, saying that the matter was being handled by the manager, who is currently overseas.

    The unions yesterday expressed concern that the dismissals were part of a policy to employ more temporary than permanent staff.

    Sek's Famagusta hotels' representative, Michalis Katafaltis, said that the dismissals "show the employers' intention not to honour the Industrial Relations Code or Collective Agreement, so we condemn this action and will see what measures to take."

    He said there were currently 103 permanent staff at the Aeneas, and that an additional 77 would be hired for the summer period only.

    "It is clear that the management's intention is to limit the number of permanent staff," Katafaltis added.

    He said the unions were also investigating rumours that the hotel intended to import cheaper foreign staff to fill positions.

    Meanwhile, strikes at two Larnaca hotels yesterday continued into their 41st day, with no sign of compromise.

    Pickets are protesting outside the Lordos Beach and Golden Bay hotels for the reinstatement of 73 workers dismissed when sections of the hotels were turned over to outside contractors.

    Lordos Holdings, which owns the two hotels, insist that the dismissals were necessary to combat chronic losses.

    Union representatives and striking employees have been taken to Court accused of violating court orders taken out by Lordos Holdings.

    The court orders prohibited strikers from blocking the entrances to the two hotels.

    Friday, March 12, 1999

    [08] Explosions keep LImassol police busy

    REPORTS of two explosions kept Limassol police on their toes on Wednesday night, with one blast yesterday being dismissed as no more than fireworks.

    The first bomb rocked the usually bustling Makarios III Avenue at 9.55 pm, wrecking a new car.

    The 7,000 Honda Integra was parked outside Mavrommatis Motors and was engulfed by flames caused by the blast.

    According to a police report, two other cars were also damaged as were Mavrommatis Motors' office windows and the windows of a social club on the second floor.

    Police resumed investigations at first light yesterday, with police explosives expert Antonis Shakalis revealing that the device had gone off two to three minutes after the explosive was set. He said that the bomb had contained only a small amount of explosive, but would not reveal more detail to the press.

    Police said more than 10 people had been questioned by late yesterday afternoon, and that they were also looking for the owner of a car spotted speeding away from the scene seconds after the blast.

    In his statement to police, company owner George Mavrommatis said that he had no enemies and that the bomb must have been meant for someone else. He also noted that it was fortunate no pedestrians had been in the vicinity at the time of the blast.

    The second report of an explosion came just an hour later in Trachoni village, alarming the residents and the nearby British Bases.

    A Limassol deputy officer yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that police attributed the blast to "firecrackers as no evidence of a bomb blast has been found."

    Friday, March 12, 1999

    [09] Government denies double standard claim

    NO RELAXATIONS have been given for building at the archaeological site of Amathoundas, except for a sewage outlet, the government said in a statement yesterday.

    The statement was issued in response to accusations aired on Wednesday at the House Interior Committee, that officials had double standards in granting building permits for the area.

    Local residents complained that big businesses had been allowed to build there, while small landowners were told it was a protected area and that they could not build.

    A representative of the Amathoundas residents' struggle committee presented documents granting construction permission to a business, while turning down a small land owner's building plans. An Antiquities Department representatives also admitted that permission had been granted for the construction of a holiday village in the area.

    Committee chairman Nicos Katsourides asked the government for more information, and said Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides, as the responsible official, would be asked for explanations at a future committee session.

    But yesterday's government statement denied allegations of double standards and said the sewage outlet was the only construction allowed within the zone; and the only reason this had been approved was because the morphology of the land meant it could go nowhere else.

    It said this served no private interest, and that any other constructions would be allowed only after extensive study.

    Friday, March 12, 1999

    [10] Cyprus unions must adapt to survive in EU

    CYPRUS must adapt its union culture if it is to the thrive within the European Union, Pasydy president Dimitris Pitsilides said yesterday.

    Speaking at the annual general meeting of the public servants' union, Pitsilides said the EU environment was very different to that existing in Cyprus at present, and unions would therefore have to adapt in order to guarantee their future.

    He was echoed by Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis, who told the meeting that the union movement in Cyprus was one of the biggest "achievements" in the financial and social sector. But it had to be harmonised with international and EU standards, he added, pointing out that this would be difficult.

    He nevertheless reassured the unions that the government was on their side, and that they should be preserved in all respects.

    Decisions had already been taken with respect to EU harmonisation, he told the meeting.

    Over the past few weeks, Pasydy has clashed with the government over the proposed national health scheme, which it says is unfair to government workers, as contributions to be taken from their salaries may exceed what they already pay to private health care schemes. Pasydy says it is also concerned about the working conditions of government doctors and nurses under the scheme.

    Civil servants are currently entitled to free health care in government hospitals.

    Friday, March 12, 1999

    [11] Balcony thwarts suicide bid

    A 32-YEAR-OLD Nicosia woman was licking her wounds in hospital yesterday after her suicide bid failed in a rather spectacular manner.

    On Wednesday morning, the woman, who has not been named, went to her parents' fifth floor apartment in Strovolos, where she had a row. Tempers were so raised, in fact, that she tried to end the fight by going outside and jumping off the balcony.

    But instead of plunging to the ground, she landed on the first floor balcony below.

    The woman's father called the police and the fire brigade, and she was rushed to Nicosia General Hospital, where she was said to be only slightly hurt and out of danger.

    Police said that as she was relatively unhurt and no charges were to be filed, no further details would be made available in order to spare her and her family.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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