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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-03-24

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Tuesday, March 23, 1999


  • [01] Outrage at rush-hour death blast
  • [02] Clerides under fire for Pangalos comments
  • [03] Into the lion's den
  • [04] Share prices hit record high
  • [05] Diplomat concedes some boat people probably came from Lebanon
  • [06] New appeals to end bitter hotel strike
  • [07] Student nurses go on strike
  • [08] French exports to Cyprus up 19 per cent in 1998
  • [09] Tourists among seven hurt in crash

  • [01] Outrage at rush-hour death blast

    By Charlie Charalambous

    OUTRAGE greeted yesterday's horrific murder in Limassol of a 52-year-old civil servant, who was killed in a rush-hour car bomb attack just minutes after taking his children to school.

    Chief game warden Savvas Savva was in heavy traffic on Makarios Avenue, returning from a routine school run to drop off his young son and daughter, when a booby-trap exploded under his car seat.

    Police believe the bombers waited for their victim to leave the children at school before detonating the device.

    Official condemnation was swift. "The government will not compromise with murderers and extortionists," said Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou. He described the murder as a "callous and hideous act".

    Justice Minister Nicos Koshis said no stone would be left unturned in the hunt for the killers. He said police are "determined to take every conceivable measure to solve this abominable crime".

    Koshis said he believed the "financial interests" of poachers were behind the bomb attack.

    Hours after Koshis vowed to capture the killers, a 26-year-old unemployed man, Charalambos Panayi Spyrou, was arrested in connection with the bombing. He is expected to appear in court today.

    Savva was head of the Limassol game service, which recently launched a drive to halt the illegal hunting of migratory birds at Akrotiri salt lake.

    Friction between poachers and government officials was also thought to have been why a bomb was left outside a game warden's home in Limassol last month. He was unhurt by the blast.

    Police believe yesterday's bomb was detonated by remote control, suggesting that the killers shadowed Savva's car for some time in another vehicle.

    The force of the 7.30am explosion blew the victim out of his car, and he landed some distance away in the road. He was rushed to Limassol hospital but died of his injuries minutes later.

    The blast rocked Makarios Avenue, which was jammed with rush-hour traffic at the time.

    Eyewitnesses said a packed school bus was in front of Savva's departmental Pajero jeep when the bomb went off. Miraculously, no one else was hurt.

    Windows were shattered by the explosion and uprooted trees were testament to its force.

    After yesterday's killing, hundreds of people, including public employees and lawyers, took to the streets of Limassol to demand more effective policing.

    Political parties, hunters and environmentalists all issued statements condemning Savva's murder.

    Relatives of the victim said that Savva had met the Limassol police chief on Monday night, demanding that his game wardens be protected.

    Koshis confirmed that such a meeting had taken place, but he said he was "not aware" that the issue of personal security had been raised by Savva.

    Savva is reported to have compiled evidence implicating a specific person in the organised black market trade of protected game.

    Limassol has gained a reputation as the island's crime capital because of the frequency of gangland-related violence.

    Tuesday, March 23, 1999

    [02] Clerides under fire for Pangalos comments

    By Jean Christou

    PRESIDENT Clerides' televised accusations against former Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, over his involvement in the Russian missile fiasco, provoked a strong reaction on the island yesterday.

    During Monday's night's live television interview, Clerides said Pangalos had meddled in the missile affair by negotiating their non-arrival behind Nicosia's back.

    Yesterday, the government defended the President's disclosures, with newly- appointed spokesman Costas Serezis saying Clerides had no intention of withdrawing his comments.

    "The president is not going to withdraw anything," Serezis said. "He is responsible for what he says and he wasn't telling tales on anyone. By responding to reporters' questions, he simply stated a fact."

    But party leaders on the island were critical yesterday, particularly Edek leader Vassos Lyssarides and Akel spokesman Nicos Katsourides.

    Socialist Edek withdrew from the government coalition in protest at the December 29 cancellation of the missiles by the President.

    "While (Clerides) himself took responsibility for the decision not to deploy the missiles, he has once again created a difficult situation between the Cyprus government and the Greek government," Lyssarides said.

    During the television interview, Clerides said it had not been the Cyprus government that had negotiated the non-arrival of the missiles. It was Pangalos, he said who had first suggested the creation of a no-fly zone to US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in exchange for cancellation of the deal.

    "I'm curious to see what reaction there will be on this attempt to transfer responsibility for the s-300 fiasco from Clerides to the Greek government," said Akel's Katsourides.

    And he referred to statements made by Pangalos at the recent Pasok conference, in which the former Foreign Minister said he had not even known about the missile order when it was initially made.

    Katsourides said it appeared the only reason Clerides had held the live television interview was to deflect public attention from the current problems surrounding his government.

    Clerides was forced into a mini-reshuffle by the resignation last week of government spokesman Christos Stylianides over the cabinet's vindication of Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides. Michaelides, who was accused of corruption, quit days later.

    Diko leader Spyros Kyprianou said yesterday he didn't care who was responsible for the non-deployment of the missiles, only for the fact that they had not come.

    He said it was clear that there were still a lot of unanswered questions on the issue and on the status of the joint defence pact signed with Greece in 1993.

    But Alexis Galanos, leader of the European Democratic Renewal Movement, defended the President, adding that there were some issues surrounding Pangalos that needed to be revealed.

    "It's a well-known secret that Pangalos, without asking the Cyprus government, independently went into negotiations for the non-deployment of the missiles," Galanos said. "He was obliged to come to a previous understanding on this with the Cyprus government. Instead, he created a climate which brought the Cyprus government to a dead end."

    Tuesday, March 23, 1999

    [03] Into the lion's den

    By Charlie Charalambous

    STILL wet behind the ears, suffering first day nerves and a little uneasy about divulging information, new government spokesman Costas Serezis entered the lion's den yesterday.

    A portly yet cuddly Serezis took to his new task as government spin-doctor with a healthy sprinkling of trepidation and some timely advice from the floor.

    The man brought back from a 25-year exile in Athens strolled into his first full press briefing yesterday, neatly attired in a beige double-breasted jacket and with coiffured grey hair.

    But in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the spokesman's room, the new kid on the block might soon have been wishing he had never left mother Greece.

    It was during the 30-minute briefing that he started getting hot under the collar, and his well-groomed manners were no match for experienced or persistent press hacks, who eat government spokesman for breakfast.

    And for the cynics in the back row, some of his comments raised a few sniggers, especially when he sought to defend the president's honour.

    "The president doesn't tell lies," said Serezis, commenting on Clerides' television statement about the Russian missile fiasco.

    Responding to criticism of Clerides lacklustre Monday night TV performance, Serezis showed his true colours.

    "What more could you want as journalists than to hear the president give his views on the political issues of the day."

    The range of questions came thick and fast on issues such as the S-300 missiles, American initiatives, Limassol underworld crime and Greece-Cyprus relations.

    Although obviously not thoroughly briefed on some of the burning issues of the day, Serezis committed the cardinal spin-doctor's sin - he freely revealed information about a presidential letter.

    Inadvertently, Serezis told the exclusive-hungry pack that President Clerides had recently written a letter to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, the contents of which he was "unaware".

    If there's one thing you do not do, it's openly to declare that the president has written a letter, for the conspiracy theorists will come out of the woodwork with a vengeance.

    "Sorry for pointing this out," said one hack, offering free advice.

    "You shouldn't have told us about the existence of a letter if you don't know the content," the reporter added.

    Serezis then naively replied (though as a professional journalist he ought to know better): "why do you want an announcement on everything?"

    "Because we live in a democracy," said another wag from the ranks of the press corp.

    Needless to say, the "revelation" about the Clerides letter made headline news, but the likeable Serezis was taking his faux pas on the chin.

    "I'm open to suggestions and from time to time I would like to hear your opinions," Serezis told a huddle of reporters after the briefing, which seemed to take years off his life.

    In the heat of the battle, Serezis would occasionally release a half-smile, sip on his orange juice for life-affirming support, and fend off searching questions with: "I don't know about that, I'll find out and tell you tomorrow."

    But after being grilled in the claustrophobic spokesman's arena, Serezis might be wishing tomorrow never comes.

    "It's a heavy weight to carry and a huge responsibility," Serezis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday after his first day on the job.

    Judging by the low marks he received from the Cyprus Problem contingent, Serezis might be unwise to check out of his current residence at the Forum Hotel and into a more permanent abode.

    Tuesday, March 23, 1999

    [04] Share prices hit record high

    By Hamza Hendawi

    SHARE prices roared to a new all-time high yesterday, thanks to the blue- chips of the two largest banks. The all-share index rose by 1.15 per cent to close at 125.08, overtaking the previous record of 124.03 on February 11.

    Prices have so far this year risen by more than 35 per cent and traders expect the powerful rally to continue for still some time. Yesterday's trade saw the second successive hike in share prices by more than one per cent and takes to 2.44 per cent the market's appreciation since Monday.

    "I would say that we haven't seen the end of the rally yet," said Koullis Panayiotou of CLR Stockbrokers, one of the island's top investment houses. "There is still lots of good news expected, which will maintain interest in the market."

    The value of yesterday's trade was a respectable £7.71 million and five of the bourse's seven sub-indices finished higher, while two - investment and miscellaneous companies - ended lower.

    The banking sector gained the most, with its sub-index finishing at 159.57, up 1.56 per cent on Monday's close. The value of trade in the sector was £4.40 million, more than half of the total.

    The Bank of Cyprus was the biggest winner, rising by 12 cents to close at £5.86, while the Popular Bank ended at £6.0, up seven cents on Monday. Hellenic Bank was down two cents at £3.39.

    Trade in the three titles, together with the small Universal Bank, combined for 56.4 per cent of trade in the market yesterday.

    The market was first set alight this year by the Popular Bank's January 12 announcement that it was buying Nicos Shacolas' insurance business in a £47- million deal. Ten days later, the Bank of Cyprus announced an attractive "thank you" package to its shareholders, which included bonus shares, warrants and a new rights issue to mark its centenary.

    The Popular Bank followed up by announcing last week a 2:1 share split and an attractive bonds issue. Interest in Popular titles is continuing on the back of reports that the bank is also considering a bonus issue.

    The 1999 rally was underpinned by the late December decision of President Glafcos Clerides to cancel the controversial deployment on Cyprus of Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles. Turkey had repeatedly threatened to take them out if they come to Cyprus. They will now be deployed on the Greek island of Crete, thus averting what became commonly known on the island as a "hot incident" over the missiles.

    Tuesday, March 23, 1999

    [05] Diplomat concedes some boat people probably came from Lebanon

    By Anthony O. Miller

    LEBANESE chargé d'affaires Khalil El-Habre said yesterday he was sure some of the 89 boat people in police custody in Larnaca had come from Lebanon, and that as soon as this could be proved, his country would take them back under its agreement with Cyprus.

    The 89 were intercepted off Cape Greco by Cyprus helicopters and a coast guard boat last Thursday and guided to safety in Larnaca. Their small Syrian fishing boat did not even have a compass at the time of their rescue from stormy seas.

    The boat people, including 18 children and 17 women, are nationals of Iraq, Egypt, Syria, the Palestinian Territory, Somalia and Sierra Leone. They are under police guard aboard the government-chartered boat, Royal Prince, docked in Larnaca port.

    Cyprus police were expecting word yesterday from Lebanon as to whether Beirut would take back the 89, whose fishing boat had been freshly painted with the flag of Lebanon before setting out.

    But El-Habre said he had no word from Lebanon's Ministry of Interior or Directorate of General Security, which houses its Immigration Department, as to the status of any or all of the 89.

    "Unfortunately, I can't give any idea, any supposition in the matter, because it's not up to me," El-Habre said. "It's a security matter, a technical matter."

    "There are no Lebanese nationals on board," he said, reiterating his earlier claims, "but everybody says they are coming from Lebanon."

    "I am sure we will find someone (aboard) coming from Lebanon. I am sure, because I have spoken to the (boat) people. But I don't know how many, and what their nationality is," the diplomat said.

    "If we prove in our documentation that they have been living in Lebanon, and they have left Lebanon, then on the basis of the agreement (with Cyprus) we will take them back," El-Habre said.

    The agreement was signed in January, after Lebanon refused to take back any but six of 29 boat people that Cyprus said had pitched up from the Lebanese port of Tripoli, straining relations between the two neighbours.

    "I can't tell you how many people it will be," he said. "Why raise expectations and harm our relationships for no reason? So, I prefer to await the official answer of my government," the chargé d'affaires added.

    Part of the puzzle facing Beirut authorities is the report that the boat people threw their identity papers overboard when the coast guard boat approached them. Some of this documentation was recovered from the water by Cyprus police, but most of it was lost.

    El-Habre said many of the boat people claimed to have been loaded into their small Syrian fishing boat while at sea from other boats, and that these 'mother' boats kept their documentation at the time of the mid-ocean transfer.

    Still others indicated they were put into small boats in Tripoli and transferred at sea to the fishing boat they were found in.

    Illegal immigrants washing up on the island's shores have become a major problem of late.

    Of 113 boat people rescued at sea last June, 24 are still being housed at state expense in the Pefkos Hotel in Limassol, while 23 were granted refugee status and the other 66 were deported or repatriated.

    With several wars raging in Africa, and instability in Iraq, Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East, the Cyprus government fears the island - at the "crossroads of three continents" - will increasingly become a target of migrants on the move.

    Tuesday, March 23, 1999

    [06] New appeals to end bitter hotel strike

    By Jean Christou

    STRIKING workers from the two Lordos hotels continued their sit-down protest yesterday on beaches along the Larnaca to Dhekelia road.

    Union representatives said that, when they reached the beach area yesterday to protest, they discovered many of their placards had been destroyed.

    The development in what has become an increasingly bitter dispute over redundancies comes in the wake of the circulation of leaflets calling on the public to 'spit on' those who have continued to go to work at the two Lordos hotels.

    During yesterday's protest, strikers forced the closure of the Larnaca to Dhekelia road for one hour and unions warned of an escalation of measures.

    However, by late afternoon it was announced that a huge demonstration planned for today had been called off and that unions and employers would meet Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas to discuss the dispute.

    Peo representative Stavros Kasoumis said during yesterday's protest that the unions were "once again" calling on the company to return to a dialogue to settle the 54-day old strike by some 160 workers.

    The workers from the Lordos Beach and the Golden Bay hotels are striking over the dismissal of 73 of their number in a staff shake up.

    The company says the strike is illegal and has gone ahead with replacing striking staff.

    Yesterday, the Association of Tourist Enterprises (Stek), which represents a series of luxury hotels, issued a statement calling on all sides in the dispute to put an end to it.

    Stek said it was "worried and saddened" by the nasty turn which the strike was taking and particularly the way in which pickets were behaving outside the hotels.

    Lordos Holdings has already taken the strikers to court and managed to obtain two court orders prohibiting unruly behaviour and barring strikers from preventing entry to the hotels.

    "This kind of thing not only undermines what was thought to be a mature and responsible union movement in the country but also hurts tourism, our main source of income," Stek said.

    The association said that while it recognised that calling a strike was the right of the workers, strikers and their sympathisers did not have the right to act violently and illegally, and to use "outdated methods" to undermine tourism.

    Lordos Holdings has also given the government notice of its intention to seek damages for the alleged failure of police to protect its hotel properties against pickets.

    Tuesday, March 23, 1999

    [07] Student nurses go on strike

    THE ISLAND'S student nurses staged a 24-hour strike yesterday to protest work and vacation conditions and the value of their diplomas, in a walkout the Health Ministry condemned as "uncalled for and completely inexcusable."

    Margarita Phoukkari, 21, a second-year nursing student at Nicosia General Hospital, said a major complaint sparking the walkout was the value, or lack of it, that their nursing diplomas carry abroad.

    "We study for three years and three months, and only get a diploma (which) sometimes isn't even recognised overseas. We want recognition in the form of a proper degree," she said.

    As well, she said nursing students were "supposed to go into the wards to put what we have learned into practice," whereas hospital authorities "take advantage of us, making us do all sorts of jobs," including some of the more distasteful.

    Where university students get "two or three months" of summer vacation, nursing students, she said, only "have the Health Minister's promise that we'll have six weeks" of vacation some time in the near future.

    The hiring of foreign nurses, instead of Cypriot nurses, also irked the striking student nurses, Phoukkari said, noting a bill before the House of Representatives would address this issue.

    "The bill would ensure that nurses at private clinics are paid properly and that Cypriot nurses are employed before foreign workers are brought in," she said, adding that clinics with "their low pay are taking advantage of nurses."

    The Health Ministry, in a statement yesterday, called "completely illogical" student nurses' claims to getting no official attention, since their leadership knew "a meeting had been set between them and the Health Minister (Christos Solomis)" for today.

    Preparatory to today's meeting, the statement said, Solomis had directed his ministry's director-general - who is also president of the nursing school's board - to meet with the student nurses, and that meeting occurred on March 9.

    Solomis merely wanted his director-general to brief him on that March 9 meeting before setting today's meeting between himself and the student nurses, and yesterday's strike was "uncalled-for and completely inexcusable, " the statement said.

    Solomis and his permanent secretary were unavailable for comment.

    Tuesday, March 23, 1999

    [08] French exports to Cyprus up 19 per cent in 1998

    FRENCH exports to Cyprus have increased by 19 per cent in 1998 over the previous year, totalling £95 million, while France's imports of Cypriot goods declined by 2.5 per cent last year to £6.6 million, according to a press release issued by the French Embassy yesterday.

    The latest figures, it said, made France the island's seventh largest foreign supplier in 1998 and took the country's share of the Cyprus market up to five per cent last year, up from 3.9 per cent in 1996 and 4.2 per cent in 1997.

    French exports to Cyprus are mainly cosmetics, vehicles, telephone equipment and electrical and mechanical goods.

    The trade figures were released to coincide with the embassy's promotion of 'Francexpo 99', a French products and services fair which will be held in Cairo, Egypt, from May 2 to May 6 this year. More than 180 French companies are taking part in the fair, during which 12 technical seminars will be held on various areas of interest.

    Cypriot businessmen were briefed on the event by the French Embassy in Nicosia on Monday.

    "The French Ambassador and the Commercial Counsellor in Cyprus are convinced that the organisation of a Cypriot business mission to Cairo on the occasion of Francexpo Fair would increase French presence in Cyprus and offer Cypriot enterprises new opportunities of co-operation with French companies in many fields," said the French Embassy release.

    Tuesday, March 23, 1999

    [09] Tourists among seven hurt in crash

    SEVEN people, including four tourists, were slightly injured on the Ayia Napa to Xylophagou road yesterday afternoon.

    The accident happened at around 3.30pm, when a car heading towards Xylophagou went out of control and slammed into another vehicle and a tourist bus.

    Bus driver Nicholas Xeni from Avgorou and two teenage girls from one of the cars were injured, along with two elderly Norwegians and an Israeli couple in their twenties.

    The four tourists and the bus driver were treated at Paralimni hospital before being released, while the two girls were taken to Larnaca hospital and kept in for observation. None of the occupants of the third car was injured.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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