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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-03-25

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

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


Wednesday, March 24, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Officer killed in mine clearing operation
  • [02] Police think revenge could be behind Limassol murder
  • [03] MMAD officer charged over beating of immigrants
  • [04] Boat people sent back to Lebanon
  • [05] Cyprus evacuates nationals from Yugoslavia
  • [06] Vassiliou keen for broader reshuffle
  • [07] Market comes off its record high
  • [08] Trade deficit widens
  • [09] Stiffer penalties essential if road safety to be improved
  • [10] Yugoslavs hurt as lift plunges four floors
  • [11] Cypriots clinch top research scholarships

  • [01] Officer killed in mine clearing operation

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A HIGH-RANKING National Guardsman was killed yesterday during an operation to clear a minefield near the buffer zone outside Nicosia.

    Sergeant-major Stelios Masinis, 32, from Aglandjia, was killed instantly when a 1974 anti-tank mine exploded in front of him during the military operation in Potamia village south of the capital.

    He was trying to remove the mine when it suddenly exploded.

    The death raised questions about safety precautions used during army mine- sweeping operations.

    "The methods used by the National Guard are those internationally recommended and used by most Nato countries," said Defence Minister Yiannakis Chrysostomis dismissing the criticism yesterday.

    This was not the view of House Defence Committee member Marios Matsakis, who said the army did not have the specialised equipment to remove primitive mines.

    "The methods used for removing old mines are a death trap, and it's ridiculous to say the methods used are the approved ones," said Matsakis.

    He said that, despite recommendations from the House, the National Guard had failed to purchase the necessary equipment to clear decades-old rusty land mines.

    Masinis was leading a group of National Guardsmen to remove mines placed at the Potamia mine field after the Turkish invasion 25 years ago.

    The village, 20 kilometres from the capital, is situated on the edge of the buffer zone, and UN observers witnessed the tragic accident.

    Masinis was described as an expert mine sweeper, who specialised in clearing old mines of the type that killed him.

    Chrysostomis ordered an investigation into the cause of the accident soon after visiting the site.

    Five years ago, two National Guardsmen who killed in a similar operation in Pyla near Larnaca.

    There are an estimated 73 minefields located within 500 metres of the 180- km buffer zone and some 38 minefields and booby trapped areas within it.

    At least 16,000 landmines are still buried on the island.

    Cyprus has signed the March 1 Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines.

    Wednesday, March 24, 1999

    [02] Police think revenge could be behind Limassol murder

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A 26-YEAR-OLD man was yesterday remanded in custody for eight days on suspicion of planting the bomb that killed chief game warden Savvas Savva on Tuesday.

    Charalambos Spyrou, from Kantou, was remanded by a Limassol district court yesterday morning after police said they had eye-witness evidence placing him at the scene of the city centre blast.

    A search of Spyrou's home also uncovered material that could be used to make a bomb similar to the one that killed Savva, police told the court, adding they had evidence that the suspect had approached at least two people for explosives before the attack.

    The chief game warden died after a remote controlled device exploded underneath the seat of his Pajero jeep.

    The bomb went off as Savva was driving home down Makarios III avenue in Limassol during rush hour, just minutes after he had dropped his two children off to school.

    An investigating officer told the Limassol court yesterday that the police had eye-witness evidence placing the suspect at the scene of the blast, passing the children's school minutes earlier and near the victim's Limassol home as he prepared to set off on his fatal journey.

    The court heard that police were also following a line of inquiry that Spyrou was seeking revenge for the death of his cousin, who was killed by special game wardens on November 15.

    Marinos Spyrou, 25, was shot dead by game wardens while he was hunting in a prohibited area near Kantou, Limassol. Two people have been charged in connection with the shooting.

    Police chief Andreas Angelides added his weight to the suspicion, saying yesterday he believed the motives behind the killing were "revenge, anger and hatred".

    "When such cold-blooded crimes are committed... it is something terrifying, something that touches the lives of every citizen more than anything else," Angelides told a news conference yesterday.

    Other leads allegedly connecting the suspect to the attack, include the fact that Savva had given evidence against drug dealers after uncovering cannabis plantations, and against poachers selling protected game.

    Monday's bomb blast sparked widespread condemnation, prompting demonstrations on the streets of Limassol by public employees and residents calling for greater police protection.

    Public service union Pasydy is apparently considering offering a £100,000 reward to anybody providing evidence leading to the conviction of those responsible for Savva's death.

    Savva was buried in Limassol yesterday.

    Wednesday, March 24, 1999

    [03] MMAD officer charged over beating of immigrants

    By Charlie Charalambous

    MMAD deputy commander Charalambos Mavros was yesterday charged with dereliction of duty in connection with last October's beating of 48 African boat people.

    Mavros was brought before a Larnaca district court and charged yesterday morning. He pleaded not guilty. The hearing was adjourned until June 18.

    Although television footage showed riot clad members of the rapid reaction force beating defenceless and fallen detainees in quelling a disturbance at Larnaca police holding cells last year, no other member of MMAD is being prosecuted.

    Attorney-general Alecos Markides ruled following an investigation that Mavros should carry the can, as he headed the operation and his officers could not be identified.

    Several of the immigrants needed hospital treatment after being attacked with batons and tear gas in an operation which shocked ministers watched on television.

    Following the October 23 incident, Markides appointed six criminal prosecutors to look into the beatings, which sparked widespread public outrage.

    Their findings concluded that unnecessary force was used to control the disturbance, but Markides said that, without identifying the individuals concerned, the charge of collective responsibility could not be brought.

    The 40-odd Africans had been among 113 boat people rescued sick and starving from the Ridallah Syrian fishing trawler last June and initially taken to the Pefkos hotel in Limassol.

    Last August, the Africans, mainly single Nigerian males, were transferred to the Larnaca cells following riots outside the Limassol hotel.

    Most of the Africans have since been deported, but a few remain in Cyprus to testify in Mavros' trial. The government paid them a total of £10,000 in compensation for the injuries sustained.

    Mavros faces a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment if convicted of the charge.

    Wednesday, March 24, 1999

    [04] Boat people sent back to Lebanon

    By Anthony O. Miller

    CYPRUS yesterday sent back to Lebanon 89 boat people rescued in stormy seas off Cape Greco last week.

    The deportation was conducted with the co-operation of Lebanese officials, in keeping with a January agreement between Cyprus and Lebanon, under which Beirut agreed to accept back illegal immigrants who embarked from Lebanese soil.

    The 89 were returned aboard the Royal Prince at 8am, and were expected to arrive in Beirut Port at about 8pm yesterday, Costas Papamichael, an Immigration official, told the Cyprus Mail.

    The illegal immigrants had been detained under police guard aboard the same government-chartered vessel since being guided into Larnaca Harbour by a Coast Guard vessel last week.

    Cyprus police officers were aboard the Royal Prince during the immigrants' return voyage to Lebanon, newly appointed Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said. A police boat also accompanied the vessel back to Beirut, Papamichael added.

    The Foreign Ministry in a statement expressed the government's "pleasure towards the government of Lebanon" for taking the boat people back after "it was proved (they) departed in the direction of Cyprus from Tripoli, Lebanon."

    The Ministry praised the "decision of the friendly Lebanese government (as)... practical proof of the close and friendly ties between Cyprus and Lebanon... (in the) practical application of the principle of good neighbourly relations."

    Few of the 89 had any identity documents, since many had thrown their papers into the sea as the coast guard vessel approached their overcrowded Syrian-registered fishing boat. Police managed to recover some documents from the water, but most of them were lost, complicating efforts to identify and deport them.

    However, interviews with the boat people satisfied Lebanese embassy officials in Nicosia that they had indeed set out from Tripoli, even though no Lebanese nationals were aboard the vessel.

    Many of the 89 boat people claimed to have been loaded into the fishing boat at sea from larger "mother boats," while others claimed to have been ferried from Tripoli in small boats to the fishing boat in which they were ultimately found.

    Some of the boat people said their vessel, which lacked a navigation compass but was freshly painted with the flag of Lebanon, had been guided by other boats to near where the Cyprus Coast Guard boat intercepted it off Cape Greco.

    Lebanese chargé d'affaires Khalil El-Habre said these factors and others suggested to him the boat people were pawns in a large international smuggling operation.

    Meanwhile, Cyprus hopes to arrange a visit for Christodoulou to Damascus to discuss with Syria an accord on repatriation of illegal immigrants similar to the one Cyprus has with Lebanon, Papamichael said.

    Meanwhile, Cyprus is beefing up its helicopter and Coast Guard boat patrols of coastal waters, he added. The aim is to turn back such vessels as soon as they enter Cyprus' territorial waters to prevent their making landfall.

    Illegal boat people have become a major problem of late. Last June, Cyprus authorities rescued 113 boat people at sea. Of them, 24 are still being housed at state expense in the Pefkos Hotel in Limassol. Another 23 were granted refugee status and the remaining 66 were deported or repatriated.

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

    Wednesday, March 24, 1999

    [05] Cyprus evacuates nationals from Yugoslavia

    THE CYPRIOT Embassy in Belgrade yesterday began evacuating 57 Cypriots from Yugoslavia following a Tuesday night order for Nato military intervention against the Serbs.

    Nato Secretary-general Javier Solona gave the command for Nato to step in after US envoy Richard Holbrooke failed to persuade Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to accept a peace plan for its Albanian-majority province of Kosovo.

    Cyprus ambassador to Yugoslavia Andreas Skaparis said yesterday his embassy had catalogued 57 Cypriots as being present in Yugoslavia, adding that the evacuation would take "two to three days".

    Skaparis said that 15 of the 57 Cypriots were students, most of whom were resident in the northern town of Novi Sad near the Hungarian border.

    "We have been taking this action for days now," he said. "Originally the arrangement was to tell them that the situation was getting worse and to help those who wanted to leave."

    Skaparis said that, despite these warnings, most had decided to stay on, but that the new instructions from Nicosia were to evacuate all Cypriots. He added that their efforts were being helped by the Greek Embassy in Belgrade, which was also in the process of evacuating its nationals.

    Skaparis said that the operation was expected to be completed by the end of the week and that "The embassy staff and I will be staying until all the rest have left."

    Wednesday, March 24, 1999

    [06] Vassiliou keen for broader reshuffle

    By Martin Hellicar

    JUNIOR government partners the United Democrats (UD) are keen to see a cabinet reshuffle, but will give President Clerides time to complete his dialogue with all parties first.

    Rumours of a reshuffle have been rife ever since Dinos Michaelides resigned as Interior Minister last week in the face of persistent corruption charges.

    UD leader George Vassiliou said yesterday his party was not after more cabinet seats, but saw a change of ministerial personnel as vital for "broadening" the government in the wake of the departures of Edek and Christos Stylianides from government.

    Edek jumped ship just days after Clerides' controversial December decision not to bring the S-300 missiles, while Stylianides (of the Political Renewal Movement) resigned as Government spokesman last week in protest at the cabinet's decision to clear former Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides of corruption charges. These departures left the UD as the only government partners for Clerides' Disy party - a position with which Vassiliou is obviously uncomfortable.

    Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous belongs to the UD.

    Vassiliou and other UD members met Clerides yesterday morning. In statements afterwards, the UD leader made it plain his party was not after hounding Clerides into swift action and believed his dialogue with parties could be a stepping-stone towards a broader government.

    The dialogue, involving all parties, aims at arriving at consensus on serious issues like state expenditure, VAT increases and EU harmonisation procedure, and is seen as part of the government's image bolstering campaign.

    "It is not right for us to continuously talk about a reshuffle today or a reshuffle tomorrow. We have expressed our position to the President and he is aware of our position, but the government is formed by the President and not by participating parties or others on the outside," Vassiliou said.

    Vassiliou said he did not consider last week's replacing of Stylianides and Michaelides a reshuffle.

    Wednesday, March 24, 1999

    [07] Market comes off its record high

    PROFIT-TAKING forced share prices off Tuesday's record high, with the official all-share index yesterday closing 0.85 per cent down at 124.02. The value of trade stood at £7.21 million, more than half of which was in bank titles.

    Bank of Cyprus tumbled by six cents to close at £5.80 at the end of the last trading day before a 12-cent per share dividend is paid to shareholders. The Popular Bank was down nine cents at £5.91.

    The two financial institutions, the largest in Cyprus, combined for more than 55 per cent of yesterday's trade in terms of value.

    Five of the market's seven sectors finished down yesterday, with only insurance and trade in positive territory.

    Wednesday, March 24, 1999

    [08] Trade deficit widens

    IMPORTS in 1998 rose by nearly £100 million, contributing to a trade deficit of £1.35 billion compared to £1.25 in 1997, official figures released yesterday showed.

    The Department of Statistics and Research said 1998 exports totalled £551.1 million, down from £640 million in the previous year. Total imports, including goods placed in bonded warehouses, totalled £1.9 billion last year, slightly higher from 1997's £1.89 billion.

    European Union countries combined for 54.7 per cent of the island's 1998 imports, up from 47.6 per cent in the previous year. The 15-nation EU, which Cyprus hopes to join by 2003, was also the destination for more than half of the island's exports. Arab states came a distant second, taking 26.9 per cent of exports last year, down from 28.8 per cent in 1997.

    Wednesday, March 24, 1999

    [09] Stiffer penalties essential if road safety to be improved

    A POLICE "brain-storming" session involving British experts has concluded that stiffer penalties and better driving instructors and driving test examiners are a must if the island's dire road safety record is to be improved.

    Police Chief Andreas Angelides yesterday presented the findings of the first road safety seminar conducted on March 18 and 19 in Nicosia. The seminar was attended by British road safety experts.

    Angelides said the seminar had considered ways of improving the attitude and road manners of local drivers and had concluded that road safety awareness could be increased by "stiffening penalties, more effective policing and the modernisation of relevant laws."

    There was also a need to "change and modernise the methods for examining driving test examiners and instructing driving instructors," he said.

    The police chief also said there was a need to keep drivers better informed of changes in traffic regulations.

    Angelides said other recommendations to come out of the seminar were that police should increase road safety awareness liaison with schools.

    He also called for greater local authority and private sector involvement in road safety campaigns. "What became evident from the British experience was that on the issue of road safety there is direct and active involvement of local authorities and private organisations, something which does not happen in our country," Angelides said.

    Cyprus has one of the highest road death rates in Europe. The police chief said the main causes for road accidents were speeding, violation of traffic regulations, sudden lane changes and drunk driving.

    Wednesday, March 24, 1999

    [10] Yugoslavs hurt as lift plunges four floors

    FOUR men were injured yesterday when the cables of the lift they were in snapped, bringing them hurtling to the ground from the fourth floor of a Limassol block of flats.

    Police said they were investigating the circumstances of the accident in the Fortuna apartment block in the Enaerio area of the town.

    The four men in the lift at the time were Yugoslavs and had to be rescued from the lift cage by firemen, police said.

    Three of them were given first aid at Limassol hospital and then released, while the fourth suffered multiple fractures and had to be kept in for observation.

    Wednesday, March 24, 1999

    [11] Cypriots clinch top research scholarships

    CYPRUS has achieved a rare distinction in the world of academia, with no fewer that six Cypriot students securing British government scholarships to carry out research at UMIST, one of Britain's top ten research universities.

    The six students have also secured UMIST graduate studentships to cover their PhD tuition fees.

    "The awards which they hold are open to students from any country in the world and are exceedingly competitive so that it is very unusual for six students from one country to be successful in obtaining these scholarships, " the British Council announced yesterday.

    The six students are: Panayiotis Alexandrou, Marios Constantinou, Haris Haralambous, Loizos Christofi, Photos Vryonides and Demetris Hadjiloucas.

    The first five are all studying electrical and electronic engineering, while the sixth is doing research in mathematics.

    UMIST is a very popular university among Cypriots.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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