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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-04-09

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, April 09, 1999


  • [01] Confusion as Kyrianou's Belgrade mission falters
  • [02] Protest to UN over 'murder' of enclaved man
  • [03] Clerides upbeat on 'boat people' problem
  • [04] Famagustans petition UN over Varosha
  • [05] Tchizov reiterates Russian support
  • [06] Bank strike possible after lay-offs
  • [07] Greek embassy may become a museum
  • [08] Compromise agreed in hotel strike
  • [09] Greens hail sludge dumping decision
  • [10] Toys containing PVC 'should be banned'
  • [11] Water rationing eased over Easter
  • [12] Damage being assessed after major hailstorm
  • [13] SBA spends 1.9m on fire trucks
  • [14] Did you turn on to 'call' girls?

  • [01] Confusion as Kyrianou's Belgrade mission falters

    By Martin Hellicar

    HOUSE president Spyros Kyprianou was last night braving Nato air strikes in Belgrade on a personal mission to secure the release of three US soldiers held captive by Serb forces in Yugoslavia.

    Kyprianou is expected to meet Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic today, but the success of his mission seemed uncertain yesterday after conflicting reactions from Yugoslav officials.

    A source close to Milosevic said the Serb leader might meet Kyprianou today, "but there will be no release of the soldiers", Reuters reported. On the other hand, Information Minister Milan Komnenic promised the West "good news", but would not elaborate.

    Kyprianou appeared to have lost none of the confidence he expressed on Wednesday: "The climate is such as to leave room for optimism. Whether Nato's bombing stops or not I will stay on until I exhaust this effort of mine," he told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) from Belgrade.

    "I will not be leaving tonight... tomorrow morning I will meet with the (Yugoslav) President," Kyprianou said on arrival in Yugoslavia shortly before 6pm Cyprus time.

    The three US servicemen - Staff Sgt Andrew Ramirez, 24, Staff Sgt Christopher Stone, 25, and Specialist Steven Gonzales, 24, - part of a Nato detachment to Macedonia, were captured near the border with Yugoslavia's Kosovo province last week and paraded on television, at least two of them appearing bruised. Belgrade said they were seized on Yugoslavian soil, but Nato said they had been patrolling in Macedonia.

    Earlier yesterday, Nato called a temporary halt to air strikes on Yugoslavia to allow safe passage to a Greek Air Force C-130 flying Kyprianou into the country. Before leaving Cyprus for Athens on Wednesday afternoon, Kyprianou had asked for a 24-hour Nato ceasefire to allow him to complete his mission. This did not materialise, forcing the House president to wait in Athens overnight. Kyprianou again urged a ceasefire yesterday: "If the bombing stopped my mission would be a lot easier," he said in Belgrade.

    US Defence Secretary William Cohen said earlier the only concession to Kyprianou's mission would be to hold fire to ensure safe passage of his plane, and that only for daylight hours.

    "We don't intend to stop our operations in order to benefit Mr Milosevic. I'm not going to allow him to manipulate us, the prisoners should be released unconditionally," Cohen said.

    Nato strikes against Yugoslavia resumed after dark.

    Reports immediately after Kyprianou's departure from Athens yesterday afternoon suggested he would fly straight back out of Belgrade with the three soldiers, but the Greek C-130 left without him just before sundown. A Greek Air Force spokesman told CNA the C-130's departure had been for "security reasons" and added that another plane would be at Kyprianou's disposal when he needed it.

    Cohen was not optimistic that Kyprianou would bring the captives out: "I don't even know if there has been any offer to release them. This is something that has been proposed by the Cypriots."

    Officials of Milosevic's Socialist Party said they had been unaware of the veteran Cypriot politician's mission until just before his arrival at Belgrade airport. But the officials said Kyprianou, who was met at the airport by a top Yugoslav parliamentarian, was a friend of Yugoslavia and "always welcome".

    A US military official told Reuters that if the three soldiers were actually freed, a Greek C-130 plane would pick them up and fly them to Larnaca. The captives would then be handed over to US officials and flown to a Nato base in Germany, diplomatic sources said.

    When he announced his surprise "personal mission" on Wednesday, Kyprianou indicated Milosevic was ready to hand over the captives as a goodwill gesture and was not seeking anything in return.

    President Clerides, who returned from a cruise to resume his duties yesterday, said he hoped Kyprianou would succeed in his mission. But he dismissed Kyprianou's claims that the mission had been down to the House president's own initiative.

    "The initiative came from the ambassador of Yugoslavia to Cyprus, Ivan Mrkic," he said.

    Kyprianou is one of Clerides' fiercest critics, and securing the release of the US captives would constitute a personal coup for the opposition Diko party leader. Kyprianou has been at pains to state his mission is motivated solely by humanitarian considerations and the belief that his securing the captives' release would push the US to boost efforts for a Cyprus settlement.

    Friday, April 09, 1999

    [02] Protest to UN over 'murder' of enclaved man

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS has protested to the United Nations over what it calls the "brutal murder" of an 85-year-old Greek Cypriot enclaved man in the occupied areas.

    Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Alecos Shambos lodged the protests with the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

    He also called on the UN to implement more effective means for the protection and security of the enclaved.

    Unficyp has already launched an investigation into the suspicious death of Elias Mantira, spokesman Paul Kolken said yesterday.

    "We started an investigation because of the results of the post mortem," Kolken said. "But we are keeping an open mind on what comes."

    A post mortem on Wednesday on the body of Mantira from the Karpass peninsula concluded he had died from head injuries as a result of "serious violence".

    The post mortem was carried out by state pathologist Sophoclis Sophocleous with UN doctors in attendance. Diko deputy and forensics expert Marios Matsakis also participated on behalf of the victim's family.

    Matsakis said yesterday there had been various injuries to Mantira's body including the head, neck, arms and hands.

    "He was murdered," Matsakis said.

    He said the UN medical team at the post mortem had seen the same signs and instantly decided to launch a murder investigation. "We are not hopeful of much due to the occupation forces," Matsakis said.

    He said Mantira had lived alone and had been found dead last week on the floor of his house under suspicious circumstances.

    He said the "occupation forces" had carried out a "so-called" post mortem which concluded that the elderly man had died of a coronary. "They did not do a proper autopsy," Matsakis said.

    "His heart was normal for his age."

    Matsakis said the incident proved that no death of an enclaved person should be taken at face value and that a post mortem should be carried out every time.

    Almost 500 Greek Cypriots, mostly elderly people, live in the Karpass peninsula.

    Friday, April 09, 1999

    [03] Clerides upbeat on 'boat people' problem

    PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides returned home early yesterday and declared the island's 'boat people' problems "will soon be settled", after his talks with the presidents of Syria and Lebanon.

    Clerides had a two-hour meeting with President Hafez al-Assad in Damascus about the Cyprus government's problems with illegal 'boat people'.

    He also discussed with Lebanese President Antoine Lahoud in Beirut the problem of illegal immigrants landing in Cyprus after leaving Lebanon in unseaworthy boats sailed by smugglers claiming they were heading for Italy or Greece.

    Clerides said he and Assad decided to take further action to improve their countries' bilateral relations.

    Syria has some 40,000 troops in Lebanon, essentially making the latter a Syrian province.

    Many of the illegal immigrants who set out from Lebanon enter through its leaky borders with Syria, meaning that any attempt by Cyprus to stem the tide must include talks with both Syria and Lebanon.

    Meanwhile, police said yesterday they had to step in to stop a fight among some of the 24 boat people still being housed at government expense in the Pefkos Hotel in Limassol.

    Three people were injured in the fight in which one man used a kitchen knife against his opponents, police said. There were no arrests.

    The 24 are nearly all who remain from a boatload of 113 people, many from Africa, who were rescued at sea last June by Cyprus authorities from their leaky, overcrowded Syrian-registered trawler.

    Most of those who came to Cyprus with them have either been deported or voluntarily returned home.

    Friday, April 09, 1999

    [04] Famagustans petition UN over Varosha

    By Jean Christou

    FAMAGUSTA residents yesterday lodged official protests with the embassies of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council over Turkish threats to settle Varosha.

    In the petition the residents expressed their anger and anxiety over the threats by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to bring in thousands of Albanian refugees fleeing the Kosovo conflict.

    "These threats prove that neither Turkey not Denktash respect the Security Council's resolutions about Cyprus," the petition said. "We strongly believe that in view of all these international resolutions, the town should have been returned to its people long ago."

    They appealed to the Security Council members to take practical measures not to allow Varosha to be settled.

    The Cyprus government has already issued a strong protest to the UN.

    Varosha, a Greek Cypriot suburb of Famagusta, was a popular tourist resort before the Turkish invasion in 1974 when its inhabitants abandoned it.

    Under UN resolutions Famagusta can only be settled by its legal inhabitants. The town is already patrolled by the UN even though it is not part of the buffer zone.

    Denktash was quoted as saying yesterday that the Cyprus government has no right to object to his proposal to bring in Albanian refugees.

    "If there is a problem with regards to Varosha, then the issue can be discussed and resolved when a political solution is reached," he said. "The rights and authority of the Greek Cypriots end at our borders. We are the authority within our borders."

    Friday, April 09, 1999

    [05] Tchizov reiterates Russian support

    RUSSIAN envoy for Cyprus Vladimir Tchizov yesterday reiterated Russian support for a Cyprus solution and said there were lessons to be learned from the current situation in Yugoslavia.

    Speaking after meeting Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides, Tchizov said he had previously visited Athens and Ankara and had contacts in Moscow with the US special representative on Cyprus, Thomas Miller. On his return to Moscow, he said, he would be meeting with the EU presidency representative Detlev Graf Zu Rantzau and British representative for Cyprus Sir David Hannay.

    Tchizov said that during his meetings so far he had discussed assorted issues about the Cyprus problem and that everyone involved was working on it according to their own country's position. He said views were being exchanged and the possibility of co-ordinated action was being discussed.

    Asked if developments in the Balkans affected Cyprus, Tchizov said they did, as they proved once again that "international disputes cannot be solved with the use of force".

    Tchizov and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Avteyev will today meet President Glafcos Clerides.

    Friday, April 09, 1999

    [06] Bank strike possible after lay-offs

    By Athena Karsera

    THE BANK Employees' Union (Etyk) may take strike action in protest at the dismissal of 52 insurance company workers.

    The 52 employees from the Interamerican, Paneuropean and Philiki insurance companies lost their jobs last Friday after being deemed surplus staff by the Popular Bank group which owns the three firms.

    Etyk secretary-general Loizos Hadjicostis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that the decision was taken after employees from the three companies and a fourth, Cyprialife, voted 119 to 38 in a secret ballot in favour of taking action.

    Hadjicostis said the Union would decide exactly what action would be taken at another general assembly after the Easter holidays. In the meantime, Etyk will continue negotiations with Popular Bank for the 52 to be rehired.

    "If strike action is taken it will almost certainly affect Popular Bank branches too," he said. "Most of our members work at banks and are not insurance company employees."

    The Popular Bank bought the companies from the Shacolas group in January in a 47 million deal dubbed by the local press as the 'deal of the century'.

    The companies were delisted from the stock market following their acquisition.

    Friday, April 09, 1999

    [07] Greek embassy may become a museum

    THE CURRENT Greek embassy on Byron Avenue may become a cultural centre or museum after the new embassy is built in Engomi.

    An embassy source told the Cyprus Mail confirmed reports that the Greek government had asked for a plot of land on Procopiou Street on which to build the new embassy. He said they had also applied for the necessary permits and tax relief.

    The new site is close to the Russian and American embassies. The source said no firm plans have yet to be made about the design or cost of the building.

    But the source underlined that given the long history of the current embassy, the Greek government planned to hold on to it.

    It was possible that it would be turned into a cultural centre or museum, he said. The Greek embassy has been on Byron Avenue near the centre of Nicosia since 1960.

    The source said the decision to move had been prompted by the age and size of the current building. Although it is of great historic importance, the needs of Greek diplomats have increased and the embassy is no longer adequate as a working environment.

    Friday, April 09, 1999

    [08] Compromise agreed in hotel strike

    A SEVEN-DAY strike at a luxury Ayia Napa hotel officially ended yesterday when unions accepted a management counter offer relating to the dismissal of 21 permanent members of staff.

    Sek hotel representative Andreas Poullis said the employees at the five- star Aeneas Hotel had decided to accept the proposal that the dismissals be cut down to 10 members of staff only.

    The 21 workers would be able to choose the ten from among themselves, and those leaving would receive extra compensation for giving up their jobs.

    The strike began last Thursday after a Labour Ministry meeting ended without any agreement being reached.

    Negotiations between the two sides began in March, when the 21 were given their notice, and continued even after the strike action was called.

    Management had said that the lay-offs were necessary as reservations for the summer season were low.

    The unions were concerned that the dismissals were part of a policy to employ more temporary, instead of permanent, staff.

    Meanwhile, there is still no sign of compromise at two strike-hit hotels in Larnaca, where the industrial dispute is now in its 70th day.

    Employees at the Lordos Beach and Golden Bay hotels are protesting against the dismissal of 73 workers whose jobs are now being done by private contractors.

    Lordos Holdings, which owns the two hotels, has said that the dismissals were necessary in order to combat chronic losses at the hotels.

    Friday, April 09, 1999

    [09] Greens hail sludge dumping decision

    By Martin Hellicar

    GREENPEACE yesterday heralded Israel's decision to halt the dumping of toxic sludge in the Mediterranean as a "victory for the environment".

    Local greens were concerned the dumping could contaminate fish caught by Cypriot fishermen, although the Fisheries Department insists there is no evidence for this.

    "After 13 years of dumping its toxic sludge in the Mediterranean sea, Haifa Chemicals' last dumping permit expired at the end of March with no renewal, following pressure by Greenpeace," the international pressure group said yesterday.

    Greenpeace quoted the head of the Sea and Coast department of the Israeli Environment Ministry, Elik Adler, as saying there was "no intention" to extend Haifa Chemical's dumping permit.

    "We welcome the decision to stop sea dumping and the destructive consequences imposed on the environment," the Greenpeace Mediterranean campaigner in Israel, Ofer Ben-Dov, said.

    This is the second sea dumping victory for Greenpeace in recent months: "Haifa Chemicals joins the Israeli Electricity Company, which stopped dumping its coal ash at the end of 1998. Again, Greenpeace Mediterranean had a strong influence in ensuring the termination of this practice," Greenpeace said.

    Greenpeace activists on a boat chartered from Cyprus carried out a direct action against the discharge operations last year, trying to blockade a dumping ship off Haifa.

    The pressure group says the evidence of pollution from the sea dumping is "irrefutable".

    "The inner part of Haifa Bay can support no life form. In the outer parts, fishermen regularly report strange, contorted fish and other marine life among their catch," a Greenpeace press release said.

    People eating fish caught in these waters were at "high risk" from ingesting "poisonous material" it added.

    Friday, April 09, 1999

    [10] Toys containing PVC 'should be banned'

    The Movement of Ecologists and Environmentalists yesterday criticised the government for not banning toys made of PVC.

    In a written statement, the Movement said that Greece had recently decided to follow other European countries in banning toys made of the substance after a Greenpeace investigation showed that the chemicals were "a serious danger to small children".

    If children were exposed to PVC over extended periods of time they could become susceptible to cancer and suffer damage to their kidneys, liver, blood or reproductive system, it said.

    A Greenpeace study carried out in Greece last year showed that most toys contained a toxic PVC known as DINP, "in percentages from 20.5 to 49.4 per cent of their total weight".

    The Movement said that the study had prompted the Greek government to ban the manufacture and sale of these toys in Greece from June 30 this year.

    The announcement added that the Cyprus state laboratory had begun a similar study in December, but that no results have yet been announced.

    Friday, April 09, 1999

    [11] Water rationing eased over Easter

    NEAR-NORMAL rainfall this winter has filled the island's reservoirs enough to suspend water rationing in Nicosia and Limassol over Easter, water board officials said yesterday.

    From today to Monday, homes in Nicosia and Limassol will get the same amounts of water as they receive in non-drought times. Rationing will resume in these cities on Tuesday morning, the officials said.

    Larnaca will not suspend water rationing, except on Easter Sunday, choosing to keep supplies restricted to 12 hours per day, three days per week over the holidays, local officials said.

    This is despite the fact that Larnaca draws its water from the same dams as Nicosia and Limassol. Larnaca Water Board officials could not explain the rationale of their holiday rationing regime.

    Paphos, whose dams hold more of the island's water than those serving Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaca, is not expected to ration water over the holidays.

    Rainfall since October 1, 1998, the start of the meteorological year, has been 92 per cent of normal - at 429 millimetres of rain, Klitos Piyiotis, Meteorological Service senior superintendent, said yesterday.

    Inflow into the island's reservoirs since last October 1 totalled 55 million cubic metres of water, or about 45 per cent of normal, as of yesterday, said Nicos Tsiortis, senior engineer at the Water Development Department.

    The island's dams currently hold 64.6 million cubic metres of water, about 24 per cent of total capacity, compared to the 49.9 cubic metres they held at this time in 1998, when they were only 15.2 per cent full, Tsiortis said.

    Despite having more water this year than last, the Nicosia Water Board has warned that it plans to cut its 'normal' rationing regime of 12 hours per day, three days per week, by 33 per cent this summer. The decision has sparked outrage in the capital.

    Friday, April 09, 1999

    [12] Damage being assessed after major hailstorm

    By Athena Karsera

    THE AGRICULTURAL Insurance Organisation (Oga), which is responsible for compensating farmers whose crops have been damaged by bad weather, is still calculating the extent of the damage caused to vine-growing areas by a major hailstorm this week.

    But despite the storm in the grape growing village of Vasa Kilaniou in the Limassol District, the island's wine-making industry should remain unaffected, according to the boss of one major winery.

    Keo managing director Akis Zambartas told the Cyprus Mail that although the storm may have caused extensive damage to vines in that particular area, "it did not affect the whole of Cyprus".

    The storm hit at 2 pm on Tuesday and lasted for two and a half hours. It also caused damage to almond and fruit trees.

    The director of Oga, George Neocleous, said the damage estimation process would take at least until May or June, especially since the damage had been caused at such an early stage in the vines' development.

    "A realistic estimate can only be made when we see if the vines continue to develop, because the fruit was not yet on the plants when the storm hit," he said.

    But Neocleous did say that the damage had been vast "in both intensity and length", and it had affected several other villages including Omodhos and parts of Vouni, Ayios Amvrosias, Pachna and Potamiou.

    He confirmed that the wine-making industry should not be affected by the hail, "as long as there are not many more heavy hail storms". In April and May, he said, crops were particularly susceptible to hail storms.

    Neocleous said that the drought of the past few years would have a greater influence on 1999 grape crops. This year's improved rainfall would be beneficial to next year's grape crop, he said.

    Friday, April 09, 1999

    [13] SBA spends 1.9m on fire trucks

    THE BRITISH Sovereign Bases Area (SBA) has just bought 1.9 million worth of state-of-the-art fire engines to replace their aging fleet of vehicles, SBA Spokesman Captain Jon Brown said yesterday.

    The seven new red trucks, specially designed for both fire suppression and rescue operations, would be the envy of many fire services in Britain, he said.

    All come with high-intensity water cannon, which use minimum amounts of water fighting fires - essential considering the scarcity of water heres. They also have thermal-imaging devices, allowing them to locate casualties in total darkness.

    The new trucks are designed to negotiate the tough terrain of the Cyprus countryside, which will help both the SBA and Cyprus, as the Bases have a mutual-aid agreement with the Republic to help its fire crews in fire suppression.

    British Forces Cyprus Command Fire Officer Ken Gough noted the Bases were "grateful when (Cyprus fire crews) came to our assistance" last August 10, when a fierce brushfire destroyed 14 homes, including the SBA commanding officer's, at Episkopi.

    Brown said the Ministry of Defence purchase of the new trucks was not necessarily due to the loss of so many homes in the August fire, but he acknowledged the new trucks "are a better vehicle" than the Bases currently have.

    The Bases have a contingent of 130 firefighters, spread among Britain's four installations at Akrotiri, Troodos, Dhekelia and Akrotiri, Brown said.

    The new fire engines will formally be handed over on Wednesday, April 14.

    Friday, April 09, 1999

    [14] Did you turn on to 'call' girls?

    By Andrew Adamides

    THE MYSTERIOUS Livesat sex channel will retain its mystique until someone makes a formal complaint about it, Xenios Savvides of local satellite TV specialists Malouppas &amp; Papacostas said yesterday.

    Livesat, which alternates adverts for sex phone lines featuring scantily- clad ladies inviting viewers to "make love with your credit card" with motor-racing crashes, appeared recently when news channel Euronews went digital on April 1.

    Many viewers had until then enjoyed Euronews as part of their Hotbird satellite packages, but then those without digital decoders switched on to find that their expected up-to-the minute news coverage had been replaced by alluring phone-sex girls and car crashes.

    Savvides said that his company has had no complaints from any users of Hotbird systems supplied by them, although they were aware of Livesat's presence. Although they could find out where Livesat was coming from, he went on, until there were complaints, they would not do so.

    He pointed out that it was not the satellite package retailers who were responsible for the channel, and added that "some people like that sort of thing."

    Although no hard-core footage is shown by Livesat, anyone concerned about under-age family members seeing the risque channel can easily tune it out, he said.

    Euronews is still available on terrestrial TV, and Eurosport, also advertised as going digital, can still be received by Hotbird users without a digital decoder.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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