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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-05-07

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, May 07, 1999


  • [01] Turkey hits out Greece over F-16 overflight
  • [02] House Plenum slams `illegal' oil embargo
  • [03] Brokers have a last shout
  • [04] Banks on high alert for millennium bug
  • [05] Minister promises action on public sector
  • [06] Hotel representatives walk out of House committee meeting
  • [07] Government defends 100,000 grant to Anorthosis
  • [08] Ayia Napa offers Europe's first glimpse of the millennium
  • [09] Lawyers seek to free immigrant held for nine months beyond his sentence
  • [10] German tourist missing since April 30
  • [11] Disappearing barrels taken up 'at highest level'
  • [12] Israeli plastic surgeons at hand to help fire victims
  • [13] Chemical reaction behind factory fire
  • [14] Rapist father sentenced

  • [01] Turkey hits out Greece over F-16 overflight

    BY Jean Christou

    Turkey yesterday accused Greece of escalating tension in Cyprus by flying warplanes over the island on Wednesday.

    "Two Greek F-16 and two A-7 warplanes tried to land on May 5, 1999 at the Paphos military airbase in southern Cyprus, but they were obliged leave the area," foreign ministry spokesman Sermet Atacanli told a news briefing in Ankara yesterday.

    "This shows the Greek-Greek Cypriot front is determined to increase tension on the island."

    Atacanli declined to say why the planes had been unable to land, but Greek Cypriot newspapers said there had been mock dogfights between Greek and Turkish fighters on Wednesday west of the island.

    Defence Minister Yiannakis Chrysostomis confirmed the reports of Turkish interference in the Greek air manoeuvres on Wednesday.

    Before leaving for Athens and Crete yesterday with National Guard Commander Demos Demou, Chrysostomis said the Turkish planes had buzzed Greek warplanes returning to base.

    There had been no further incident, he said, and the remainder of the Greek Toxotis exercises had proceeded smoothly.

    Four Greek F-16s flew over the Paphos air base on Wednesday morning and over the Troodos mountains. The overfly lasted some 15 minutes.

    Today, Chrysostomis will travel to Crete to visit Cypriot officers working there on the installation of the Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles.

    Cyprus signed a deal with to purchase the missiles by the end of 1998, but decided against their deployment at the 11th hour in the face of mounting international pressure.

    Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides yesterday met Britain's special Cyprus envoy Sir David Hannay in London in contacts understood to be part of British and American efforts to kick-start stalled Cyprus settlement talks.

    He also met Russian envoy Vladimir Tchizhov on the sidelines of events held in London to mark the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe (CoE).

    According to sources in the UK, Cassoulides and Hannay discussed the initiative expected from the US, Britain and Russia for the resumption of negotiations under UN auspices.

    Later yesterday, Cassoulides left for Budapest to attend a one-day meeting of the Committee of Ministers to mark the CoE's establishment.

    Hungary currently chairs the six-month rotating presidency of the Committee.

    Friday, May 07, 1999

    [02] House Plenum slams `illegal' oil embargo

    By Athena Karsera

    THE House Plenum yesterday afternoon voted in favour of a decree condemning the "illegal" oil embargo against Yugoslavia and Cyprus' role in the action.

    After lengthy and heated discussions, the House voted 29 in favour of the decree and 20 against.

    Supporting the mandate were Akel, which first suggested the decree, Diko, Edek and Alexis Galanos on behalf of the Eurodemocratic Renewal Party.

    Against were Disy, Androulla and George Vassiliou on behalf of the United Democrats.

    In his argument, Akel general-secretary Demetris Christofias accused the government of making lame excuses in defence of the Council of Ministers' decision to have Cyprus participate in the embargo. He reminded the Plenum that Yugoslavia had always supported the country over the Cyprus problem and wondered what Cyprus would be asked to do next if it went along with the embargo.

    Speaking on behalf of Diko, Tassos Papadopoulos said the government's decision had no legal binding since a decision to implement the embargo would have to be approved by the House. He also said the threat of not becoming part of the EU should not affect the country's decision as "we should be allowed in on our own merit."

    Disy president Nicos Anastasiades argued that Cyprus should keep its size in mind and not try to be "protector of the world" especially as bigger countries which disagreed with the philosophy behind the embargo had stood by its implementation. "Are they all traitors to what is morally right?" he asked.

    But he did admit that the Council of Ministers' decision alone could not legally stand without the house's approval.

    The decree called the EU embargo illegal claiming it went against UN decisions, and that Cyprus was therefore under no obligation to go along with it.

    The House called the government to reverse its decision on the embargo and repeated its call for an immediate halt to Nato bombings in Yugoslavia and a start to peace negotiations.

    The government on Wednesday officially endorsed a decision to join the EU oil embargo following a Cabinet meeting, saying it was in the national interest.

    The government last month said it would join the embargo, but reserved the right to examine the final decision once the ban was approved by the EU.

    Friday, May 07, 1999

    [03] Brokers have a last shout

    By Hamza Hendawi

    TRADERS on the Cyprus Stock Exchange may have had their last shout yesterday, the final day of the open outcry system which will be replaced from today with a fully-computerised trading system.

    No longer will brokers leave their cubicles to crowd around the bourse's clerks at the front counter to shout their orders. Instead, the 50 or so traders from 19 brokerages will sit quietly on their desks in front of computer screens, noiselessly posting orders and prices.

    The new system was deliberately introduced on a Friday to allow the exchange's authority to tackle possible glitches over the weekend. A total failure of the system, said to be a remote possibility, could mean the return to the old open outcry system.

    A fully-computerised bourse, in theory at least, should mean greater volume since the system could simultaneously handle more than one order, but not everyone is won over by the latest stride into the world of hi-tech.

    "The new system makes you lose contact with the market: the depth of the market and the sentiment of the market," veteran broker Louis Clappas told the Cyprus Mail.

    "It is too early to comment on the impact of the new system, but other markets which introduced it saw their volume increase," said Clappas, who also heads the brokers' association.

    Under the new system, brokers will between 10.10 and 10.25am enter their pre-opening orders and prices. Trading will begin at 10.30 and last for 90 minutes.

    Brokers will have to continue to trade from the exchange's offices at a marble-and-glass building on Nicosia's upmarket Grivas Dighenis Avenue, but will be allowed to do so from their own offices once they became fully accustomed with the new system.

    "There may be problems, but then virtually every bourse that became fully computerised encountered teething problems," said Stavros Agrotis, senior trader at CISCO, the bank of Cyprus' investment banking and brokerage arm.

    Trading on the last day of the outcry system on the three-year-old bourse clearly did not rise to the occasion.

    The all-share index closed slightly lower at 127.52, 0.07 per cent down on Wednesday's close. Volume was a modest 5.15 million.

    It was the second successive day in which the market finished in negative territory after Tuesday's all-time high of 128.62.

    As it is usually the case, bank stocks dominated trade with the Bank of Cyprus closing down four cents at 5.23, while the Popular Bank went up by four cents to close at 6.33. Trade in the entire banking sector absorbed 2.98 million of the value of trade and its sub-index closed down 0.13 per cent at 165.07.

    Friday, May 07, 1999

    [04] Banks on high alert for millennium bug

    By Hamza Hendawi

    THE CENTRAL Bank has recommended to on-shore commercial banks on the island that staff leave be reduced to the absolute minimum during the last two weeks of the year in case problems related to the millennium computer bug arose.

    Banking sources said the recommendation, contained in a directive issued by the Central Bank earlier this month, sought to ensure that adequate staffing levels would be maintained in case the widely-feared bug, also known as the Y2K bug, hits their computer systems.

    If it materialises, the bug is expected to strike at midnight of December 31, 1999. Hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent by governments and businesses across the world to upgrade computers to be 2000 compliant amid grim warnings that incompatibility could cause massive blackout, airliners to drop out of the skies and sea vessels to lose their way.

    The Bank of Cyprus, the island's largest financial institution, appears to be taking no chances and had even before the Central Bank's recommendation decreed a ban on all leave in the period between December 15 and January 15 except for compelling reasons, according to the banking sources.

    Taking time off during that period will be particularly difficult for the Bank of Cyprus' information technology and personnel departments, they added.

    A spokesman for the Popular Bank, the island's second largest, said the bank planned to heed the Central Bank's advice, but added that its computer network was certain to sail through the transfer to the year 2000.

    A Hellenic Bank spokesman sounded an even more confident note, saying the bank did not foresee any problems since its new network, on stream since January, was year 2000 compatible.

    Friday, May 07, 1999

    [05] Minister promises action on public sector

    By Hamza Hendawi

    FINANCE MINISTER Takis Clerides used an international gathering on public sectors which opened in Nicosia yesterday to catalogue the woes of the island's own and reaffirm the government's oft-repeated commitment to reform its ever-growing bureaucracy.

    "All parties agree that productivity in the public sector is low, operating costs are high and decision-making is slow," said Clerides, who quit a successful career in business in March to join the Cabinet and take on the daunting task of redressing serious imbalances in state finances.

    Clerides, who has yet to spell out a comprehensive economic policy in public, said the government had prepared an "action plan" to modernise and improve the public sector. The plan, he said, included what he called more efficient hiring procedures and new methods of assessing the performance of public servants.

    The minister also linked the improvement of the public sector, which he described as an "absolute necessity", to the economy regaining its competitiveness.

    Clerides did not elaborate on this link, but the president of the Institute of Certified Accountants in Cyprus, which is cosponsoring the three-day conference entitled 'Achieving Performance and Quality in the Public Sector', said private businesses needed a more efficient public sector to ensure their own success.

    "It is not possible for the private sector in a country to be productive and competitive if the public sector has excessive regulations and controls and extensive red tape," said Ninos Hadjirousos.

    A growing public sector payroll coupled with inefficient services to the public have been a major worry to the government in recent years. Reforms introduced so far to upgrade the sector have been largely cosmetic.

    The latest tussle between the government and the powerful union of civil servants is over an embryonic scheme to introduce a national health service which would require employees to make a small monthly contribution towards its costs.

    The union is fighting the proposed scheme, arguing that its members have the right to free medical care as employees of the state. Newspaper reports this week spoke of threats by the union to sue the government over the issue before international courts.

    Friday, May 07, 1999

    [06] Hotel representatives walk out of House committee meeting

    By Athena Karsera

    LORDOS HOTELS representatives yesterday walked out of the House Labour Committee in an explosive session over the continuing strikes at their two Larnaca hotels.

    Larnaca deputy Nicos Kleanthous had suggested the Committee discuss the presence of police outside the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotels since strikes began at the end of January, with his Diko colleague Nicos Pittokopitis accusing the police of illegally preventing strikers from picketing.

    Larnaca police chief Savvas Lardis predictably disagreed, saying the police had to be on hand to stop strikers from preventing delivery men and non- striking workers from entering the hotels and to stop pickets harassing tourists.

    Peo representative Yiannis Phillipou said Lardis had threatened strikers he would call in the riot police, even though he said strikers had never forcefully tried to enter either hotel. Phillipou also said police had threatened to arrest union representatives.

    Sek's Nicos Epistethiou said violence would not deter the strikers from picketing, while Deok's Lenia Pantelidou added that the state had a duty to facilitate the right to strike and not to intimidate pickets.

    But the Hoteliers' Association's Photis Adonis said workers who chose not to strike also had rights, as did the hotels' shareholders. And he pointed out that strikers had no legal right to trespass on hotel property.

    This caused an outcry from the unions and a point of order was called, with Kleanthous saying that matter was not in the framework of yesterday's discussion.

    Amid the ensuing commotion Lordos Holdings' representatives, company lawyers Andreas Papacharalambous and Antonakis Andreou, company general manager Andreas Christodoulides and personnel manager Andreas Kaittanis walked out.

    They said they were unable to express their opinions freely in such an atmosphere.

    Committee members condemned the walk-out as a sign of disrespect towards the House of Representatives.

    The pickets' representatives continued the discussion, claiming the police had been heavy-handed in their treatment of strikers while not investigating the charges the strikers themselves had brought up.

    The discussion is set to continue next Thursday, when the police have been asked to present a report on the expense of their duties outside the hotels.

    Friday, May 07, 1999

    [07] Government defends 100,000 grant to Anorthosis

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE GOVERNMENT'S gift of 100,000 this week to the Anorthosis football club of Famagusta had nothing to do with the club's pro-Serb stance, Government Spokesman Costas Serezis said yesterday.

    President Glafcos Clerides made the donation official on Wednesday in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the grand opening of Anorthosis's new clubhouse in the league-winning team's Larnaca stadium.

    Serezis acknowledged the donation of 100,000 in tax revenues to the club - which is reputed to be quite wealthy in its own right - but said the grant was made according to Cyprus law covering government aid to refugee groups. Anorthosis is a refugee club from Famagusta.

    Besides, Serezis said, the Council of Ministers had decided to give the club the cash to rent its new clubhouse - essentially from itself in its own stadium - in December 1998, long before Nato began bombing Yugoslavia and Anorthosis began its pro-Serb activity in Cyprus.

    The cash handover occurred at the same time as the government donated 40, 000 Swiss Francs (just under 15,000) for Kosovo Albanian refugees to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

    Soon after Nato began bombing Yugoslavia in late March to try to counter Belgrade's 'ethnic cleansing' of Albanians from its southern Kosovo province, Anorthosis offered to act as a conduit for Cypriots willing to fight with Serb forces against Nato.

    But the government has taken pains officially to distance Cyprus from its widespread public sympathy for the Serbs, which it sees as harmful to the island's political interests as it presses its European Union membership bid and seeks Western intervention with Turkey to end the 24-year division of Cyprus.

    The 100,000 grant to Anorthosis is only a tiny portion of the money the government budgets each year for refugee causes, according to an official of the Finance Ministry, who requested anonymity.

    The official told the Cyprus Mailthe Republic's 1999 budget contained over 91 million in aid for refugees, up from 84 million in 1998.

    The official conceded there was just reason to question the need for such refugee aid today, in light of the fact that much of the money goes to the grandchildren of the original refugees of Turkey's invasion, and not to those who were actually driven from their lands in the occupied north by Ankara's army in 1974.

    Rosie and Michael Charalambous, the 'godparents' of the Cans For Kids charity, noted that in 10 years of recycling aluminium drinks cans to raise money for medical equipment for Makarios Hospital, their charity has never once been the beneficiary of the government's annual charity, as Anorthosis was this week.

    Rather, they said, despite Cans for Kids' official status as a charitable organisation, it has to pay VAT taxes on any medical equipment it buys overseas to donate to Makarios Hospital.

    Despite the fact that Anorthosis is a refugee club, "I don't see why the government gave the money," Michael Charalambous said. "Why not to Omonia? Why not to Apoel" football clubs, he asked.

    Anorthosis General Manager Themis Violaris said the reason Anorthosis got the government money was not only because it was a refugee club, but also a first division refugee club, and only first division refugee clubs are entitled to such funds.

    "You have to prove yourself" as a football club, he said, adding that this was the third year in a row that Anorthosis had finished top of the Cyprus football league.

    Violaris said Anorthosis had so far signed up "around 200 people" for combat with Serb forces in Yugoslavia, and that "about 10 people" from Cyprus had already actually gone to Yugoslavia to fight.

    Friday, May 07, 1999

    [08] Ayia Napa offers Europe's first glimpse of the millennium

    By Anthony O. Miller

    IT'S NOT the end of the world - in fact it's the beginning of the new millennium - but a mere 34 minutes on the map means the sun will rise some two minutes sooner on January 1, 2000, at Apostolos Andreas in the occupied Karpass Peninsula than it will in Ayia Napa.

    To most people visiting Ayia Napa that day, the difference will not be noticeable, as they will be witnessing what the resort is officially billing as "The First European Sunrise."

    But insofar as the land mass of Cyprus, the Cyprus Meteorological Service, official government policy and international recognition are concerned - and depending on where one considers Europe officially to begin - the first European sunrise will technically occur at Apostolos Andreas on the very northeasternmost tip of the island.

    This is because government policy and UN resolutions consider Cyprus to comprise the entire island, irrespective of Turkey's occupation of its northern third since Ankara's army invaded Cyprus in 1974.

    And it is because Ayia Napa is at 35 degrees zero minutes north latitude and 34 degrees zero minutes east longitude, whereas Apostolos Andreas is at 35 degrees 39 minutes north latitude and 34 degrees 34 minutes east longitude, according to Meteorological Service Senior Superintendent Clitos Piyiotis.

    But that trifling 34 map minutes farther eastward, Piyiotis said, means Ayia Napa Municipality's claim to offering "The First European Sunrise" next New Year's morning is technically some two minutes - but "not more than two minutes" - late, by the clock.

    Ayia Napa Mayor Barbara Pericleous shrugged off the disparity, claiming "someone" had said that Ayia Napa was where the Age of Aquarius would officially star-cross Cyprus next January 1, so the city decided to go with this.

    To ring in the new millennium, the Municipality plans to spend some 50,000 on festivities to lure tourists to fill some of the 25,000 hotel beds the seaside city boasts, she said.

    December 31, 1999 events include an open-air party for the entire family in Seferis Square at 3pm, followed by drama, dancing, satire, "and plenty of wine, free for all" in the same Seferis Square, beginning at 10pm that night.

    Fireworks, music and more partying will welcome in the midnight hour, followed by yet another pyrotechnics display at 2am on January 1, 1999, to coincide with the change of the year at Greenwich, England, where the world's official timepiece is kept.

    Then at 5am, those still standing will be taken to Cape Greco to officially welcome "The First European Sunrise," by Ayia Napa standards, according to the city's official brochure.

    There is no indication what anyone will be doing at Apostolos Andreas that morning, or whether anyone there will even notice.

    Friday, May 07, 1999

    [09] Lawyers seek to free immigrant held for nine months beyond his sentence

    By Anthony O. Miller

    A HABEAS corpus hearing is being held today in the Supreme Court in an attempt to free from prison a Sierra Leone man, who has been jailed some nine months beyond his two-month sentence for entering Cyprus illegally last year and without a passport.

    The man, Ikri Johnson, arrived in Cyprus last July through Turkey and Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus after fleeing the infamously brutal slaughter of civil war in his homeland, his lawyer, Yiannakis Erotocritou, said yesterday.

    "Even the police asked me to help him," Erotocritou said of Johnson, who has been languishing in a cell for illegal immigrants in Nicosia since his sentencing to two months in jail last July.

    In response to Erotocritou's April 16 petition, Attorney-general Alecos Markides on April 20 ordered Johnson released from what essentially has been nine months of illegal detention beyond the term of his original sentence, both Erotocritou said and Markides' office confirmed yesterday.

    But Chief Migration Officer Christodoulos Nicolaides refused to release Johnson on April 20, Erotocritou said, prompting his filing of a petition for a habeas corpus hearing to bring Johnson to court to determine if his continued detention is legal.

    Louisa Christodoulides, the lawyer in Markides' office handling the case, said Markides had as of late yesterday not decided whether to contest the habeas corpus petition in court today.

    She acknowledged Johnson's detention for some nine months beyond the end of his sentence was an infringement of his human rights, but blamed it on Migration Department foot-dragging in trying to deport him back to his homeland.

    No one was available in the Migration Office for comment.

    [10] German tourist missing since April 30

    POLICE said yesterday they were searching for a German tourist missing from his Ayia Napa hotel since April 30.

    According to a police spokesman, Oscar Werner Mayr, 74, was reported missing by the manager of his hotel on Sunday.

    The elderly German arrived in Cyprus on April 29 for a two-week holiday alone.

    Last Friday he left the hotel and failed to return, the police spokesman said. He said an investigation has been launched and a search of the Paralimni-Protaras area carried out, but there was no sign of Mayr.

    The spokesman said the German embassy had been informed.

    Mayr is 1.65m, wears glasses and is balding, with a little white hair on the sides.

    He was last seen around the hotel wearing brown clothes, an olive green cap and carrying a brown leather handbag.

    Police at Paralimini have called on the public to contact them with any information.

    Friday, May 07, 1999

    [11] Disappearing barrels taken up 'at highest level'

    THE MYSTERIOUS removal earlier this week of a number of barrels blocking a road in old Nicosia was taken up with the highest levels of government, Unficyp said yesterday.

    A team of Unficyp soldiers yesterday moved into the area to replace the barrels, which cut off a section of road the UN says is part of the buffer zone.

    "The road had been blocked for 25 years because it is a section of the buffer zone," said Unficyp spokeswoman Sarah Russell.

    She said that on Tuesday night the marker barrels had been removed and the road opened up.

    "This is obviously a serious violation of the integrity of the buffer zone and it is close to the Turkish Cypriot cease-fire line, so there were security concerns," Russell said.

    She said the issue had been raised yesterday "at the highest levels of government" and that the barrels had been replaced.

    Nicosia Mayor Lellos Demetriades said yesterday that the issue was a matter for the Defence Ministry. "I know that some time ago the barrels were removed but we did not remove them," he said. "I also know the incident is being dealt with by the National Guard."

    Friday, May 07, 1999

    [12] Israeli plastic surgeons at hand to help fire victims

    DOCTORS said yesterday that father and son Savvas and George Savides, injured when their oil factory exploded on Wednesday, had 80 and 60 per cent burns respectively.

    A team of plastic surgeons from Israel arrived on the island on Wednesday night and examined the two, but made no statement. Local doctors said they too were "cautious" about commenting on the case.

    The Savoil factory in Kalo Chorio, Larnaca, which makes lamp oil, was extensively damaged by the explosion on Wednesday afternoon. Savvas, 53, the owner of the factory, and George, 20, were injured in the blast and rushed to Larnaca General Hospital.

    Preliminary reports from the fire investigation suggest the fire started when sparks from a machine came into contact with oil, causing a fireball. Seven other employees, including Savvas' other son Grigoris, escaped unhurt.

    It took five fire engines half an hour to extinguish the blaze. The total cost of the damage has not yet been calculated.

    Friday, May 07, 1999

    [13] Chemical reaction behind factory fire

    Police yesterday said the explosion and consequent fire at a seed oil factory in Kalo Chorio on Wednesday afternoon had been caused by a chemical reaction in one of the factory's cisterns.

    Savoil owner Savvas Savvides, 53, and his son George, 20, were seriously injured in the blast.

    Police last night said both men were in a critical condition.

    Meanwhile, the ministerial committee appointed to address the Pittas factory fire on April 25 convened for the first time last afternoon.

    The committee comprises Commerce, industry and Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis, Finance Minister Takis Clerides and Agriculture Minister Costas Themistokleous.

    No statements were made after the meeting.

    Pittas is the island's largest and oldest dairy and was about to begin selling its products in the UK.

    The fire gutted Pittas' four-month old factory causing around 10 million worth of damage.

    Friday, May 07, 1999

    [14] Rapist father sentenced

    A 37-YEAR-OLD Nicosia man was yesterday sentenced to 10 years in prison after a criminal court found him guilty of repeatedly raping his young daughter.

    The man, now separated from his wife, was found guilty on 10 charges including rape, incest and having unlawful sex with his then 12-year-old daughter.

    Court proceedings at the Assizes in Nicosia took place behind closed doors over the last three months.

    According to court evidence, the offences occurred between 1996 and March 1997 at a village in the Nicosia district. It wasn't until earlier this year that an official complaint was made to Nicosia CID.

    At first, police said that the father had admitted to the offences during questioning but once in court he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

    The man has remained in custody since the beginning of the trial.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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