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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-07-30

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

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


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Wednesday, July 30, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Clerides turns the tables on Serezis
  • [02] Shares skid again with banks worst hit
  • [03] 'Nothing to worry about' over ammunition shortage
  • [04] Mossad spy scare sparks political outrage
  • [05] 'Happy ending' as Turks release one of two Greek Cypriots
  • [06] Government to seek tenders for Hilton stake
  • [07] Britain to protest after tourist complaints
  • [08] Residents claim circus pulling spectators with false price offers
  • [09] Were crash tourists stoned or not?

  • [01] Clerides turns the tables on Serezis

    By Charlie Charalambous

    GOVERNMENT Spokesman Costas Serezis packed his bags to go on holiday yesterday, but there may not be a job to come back to after President Clerides appeared to close the door on his future.

    Since the Serezis saga began, the spokesman has claimed all along that he had the full backing of the president, but yesterday's message from the Presidential Palace told a different story.

    "In reference to the Government Spokesman's statements against Disy and its leadership, I would like to clarify that I do not share them," said Clerides' brief announcement.

    "On the contrary, I express my appreciation for the close co-operation with Disy in general and specifically the leadership."

    Clerides was forced to issue the statement following Serezis' unprecedented Thursday attack on the ruling party, in which he accusing it of trying to score cheap political points by using the spokesman as a scapegoat.

    Serezis said Clerides had given him the green light to take on his detractors after refusing to accept his resignation on three occasions this week.

    "It is a fact that Mr Serezis submitted his resignation three times, the last time in writing. I did not accept his resignation, because as is known I do not take decisions under pressure," said the Clerides announcement.

    Disy have been calling for the spokesman's head accusing him of being a media disaster and a man who has done more to harm the government's image than improve it.

    Clerides understands that he owes his position to the party he created, and cannot turn his back on the only major party left to support his government.

    But the president's loyalty to his Cabinet members is legendary and he is not one to opt for knee-jerk reactions in order to please public opinion.

    He proved how stubborn that loyalty can be in the more damaging sleaze allegation that swirled for months around then interior minister Dinos Michaelides, as well as in his recent support for besieged defence minister Yiannakis Chrysostomis.

    But following Clerides' terse statement yesterday, the informed speculation is that Serezis will be booted out of office in a mini-reshuffle some time in September.

    And Disy boss Nicos Anastassiades seemed to be plunging the knife further into Serezis' back, when he told reporters after meeting Clerides yesterday: "for the party, he (Serezis) is past history."

    Anastassiades -- who has labelled the spokesman "ungrateful and arrogant" -- said after yesterday's meeting with Clerides that Serezis had been "out of order" during Thursday's outburst.

    "There is no split between the party and the president," said Anastassiades.

    "I agree it (the row) damages the government's image," said Anastassiades, wondering if any other country has a spokesman who attacked the party which supported the government.

    The Disy leader has not flinched during his very public row with Serezis and yesterday described the spokesman's scathing attack on Disy as the desperate act of a man "fighting to keep his chair".

    Disy maintains that Clerides agrees with its view that Serezis is the wrong man for the job and must go sooner rather than later.

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    Wednesday, July 30, 1999

    [02] Shares skid again with banks worst hit

    By Hamza Hendawi

    SHARE prices yesterday slipped for the second consecutive day, not a totally negative development when you consider that many wanted the market to cool off, shed a few pennies and build higher resistance levels.

    The alternative, they argue, would be the doom-and-gloom scenario in which share prices collapse, wiping out hundreds of million of pounds from investors' portfolios over one or two sessions and killing off the Cyprus Stock Exchange as a reliable venue of investment.

    In yesterday's trade, the all-share index finished the day at 260.02, 4.33 per cent down on Thursday, when it skidded by 7.65 per cent to snap one of the strongest rallies ever seen in the market.

    Only two of the market's seven sub-indices finished in positive territory yesterday. Insurance and 'other' companies were up by 5.07 per cent and 9.82 per cent respectively on a combined volume of about 3 million.

    Banks were again the worst hit, their sub-index shedding 6.29 per cent to close at 346.56. The Athens-bound Bank of Cyprus was down 52 cents to close at 11.27 and the Popular Bank ended at 6.35, down by 26 cents.

    Hellenic Bank, which on Thursday announced its second takeover of an insurance company in as many weeks, was down 53 cents. It closed at 7.70.

    The sector attracted an impressive 22.96 million in trade, nearly half the bourse's entire volume of 41.18 million.

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    Wednesday, July 30, 1999

    [03] 'Nothing to worry about' over ammunition shortage

    By Athena Karsera

    THE CHAIRMAN of the House Defence Committee said yesterday neither his Committee nor the government felt the problem over recent shortages in National Guard ammunition stocks still existed.

    Takis Hadjidemetriou was speaking to reporters after a committee meeting on defence issues with President Glafcos Clerides, Defence Minister Yiannakis Chrysostomis, Finance Minister Takis Klerides.

    "For the committee and for the government in particular, there was no problem, or crisis, or reason for public concern," Hadjidemetriou added.

    He said yesterday's meeting had been productive and that any previous concerns on the issue had been put to rest. "The message we received today must be considered positive and should dispel concerns or doubts on our defence abilities."

    Hadjidemetriou said that National Guard supply order tenders were carefully monitored by government officials.

    However, he said that the Defence Ministry needed to be strengthened to ensure that Chrysostomis would be able to supply necessary services.

    "In regards to the various methods and procedures that exist and somehow block the Defence Ministry's activities, ways certainly must be found to make things simpler so that our goals can be achieved faster."

    The row over tender procedures for the supply of National Guard ammunition and the lack of bullets broke earlier this month.

    It was claimed that the National Guard was down to 20 per cent of its war supply ammunition and that the Greek company contracted for the job had supplied Cyprus with sub-standard Spanish bullets which had been rejected by experts.

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    Wednesday, July 30, 1999

    [04] Mossad spy scare sparks political outrage

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A NEW Mossad spy-scare has caused an angry reaction among local politicians who want the island's image as a "spook" capital to be cleaned up.

    "We don't like spies in our country and we expect ambassadors to tell the truth about what's going on," said opposition Diko deputy Marios Matsakis yesterday.

    The chairman of the parliamentary defence committee, Takis Hadjidemetriou said the House would probably discuss the issue after the summer recess.

    "We should wait and see what the police come up with. It seems there was some spy activity which the Israeli embassy had no knowledge of, judging by the Israeli ambassador's surprise," said Hadjidemetriou.

    Mossad agents had their cover blown in Nicosia when an eagle-eyed motorist spotted a Mazda 323 with the same number plates as his immobilised Volvo.

    Seeing the suspicious plates, the man followed the "Mossad Mazda" to the Israeli embassy compound in a high-speed chase, Philelefhterosnewspaper reported on Thursday.

    This latest incident comes only five months after two Israeli agents were jailed for approaching a restricted area.

    The Cypriot made a formal complaint to police about the misuse of his registration plates and the parking fines they had earned him.

    "It's sounds like a very nice story," Israeli ambassador to Cyprus Shemi Tzur told reporters on Thursday.

    Tzur could neither confirm or deny the story: "I have no information about this at all."

    However, on Friday, nobody at the Israeli embassy in Nicosia was available for comment or to give the usual denials of spy allegations.

    "I fully condemn the incident in the same way that parliament condemned what happened in Zygi and we expect the authorities to stop it," said Matsakis

    "Past events have proved that ambassadors have lied about spying and we expect friendly countries to tell the truth," he added.

    The Cypriot authorities are treating the matter very sensitively in order not to disrupt good relations between Nicosia and Tel Aviv, sorely strained when two Israelis were arrested as spy suspects in Zygi last November.

    In February, Udi Hargov, 37, and Igal Damary, 49, were sentenced to three years in prison by the Assize court for approaching a restricted military area during secret National Guard operations.

    Hargov and Damary pleaded guilty to the charge after the more serious charge of spying against Cyprus were dropped.

    In their defence, the two Israelis were described as members of an "elite anti-terrorist organisation" trying to prevent acts of terrorism against Israel.

    Although Cyprus-Israeli relations have since improved, Tzur has said his government wanted the two agents released immediately as it had requested from the outset.

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    Wednesday, July 30, 1999

    [05] 'Happy ending' as Turks release one of two Greek Cypriots

    By Martin Hellicar

    ONE OF two Greek Cypriots being held by the Turks was yesterday released to return to the government-controlled areas.

    Spyros Koushioumis, 22, from Dhali in the Nicosia area, was set free at about 1.30pm after a military 'court' in occupied Nicosia dropped illegal entry charges against him.

    Unficyp spokeswoman Sarah Russell said the 'court' decided Koushioumis had not intended to cross the divide on Sunday evening.

    "The court accepted that he had made a mistake and released him without charge or penalty," Russell said.

    "It was a happy ending," she added.

    Koushioumis had been held by the Turks since about 7.30pm on Sunday, when he crossed to the north through the Vryssoules check-point, in the British base of Dhekelia.

    Bases spokesman Jon Brown said Koushioumis, who works as a waiter in Ayia Napa, had ignored the warnings of British soldiers manning the check-point, who urged him not to cross.

    The soldiers have no authority to stop people going north.

    Canadian Greek Cypriot Rogiros Georgiou, who crossed to the north on July 21, was yesterday still being held on charges of trespassing into a military area.

    The Canadian national was captured by Turkish soldiers after he lost his way on the old Nicosia to Larnaca road and ended up at occupied Pyroi.

    Georgiou, who lives at Kalo Chorio in the Limassol area, is expected to appear before a military 'court' in the north on August 3.

    The UN reported Georgiou to be in good health after his arrest last week.

    A total of nine Greek Cypriots and Greeks have strayed into the occupied areas this year, while 17 Turks and Turkish Cypriots have crossed the divide in the other direction.

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    Wednesday, July 30, 1999

    [06] Government to seek tenders for Hilton stake

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE COUNCIL of Ministers yesterday called for new tenders to buy out the government's 82 per cent holdings in the Hilton Hotel in Nicosia because the offer of Cyprus-based Louis Tours was unsatisfactory.

    "The Council of Ministers has not accepted the (Louis) offer and has asked for new tenders," Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis said yesterday, after concluding the Cabinet's last meeting before its August recess.

    Rolandis had originally said he felt the government should get more than Louis' 10 million offer for its stake in CTDC, and had wanted to renegotiate the offer.

    Government sources, who requested anonymity, said Louis Tours had raised its bid to 11.5 million for the government's 82 per cent of the Cyprus Tour Development Company (CTDC), which owns the Nicosia Hilton. The private sector owns the rest.

    But the raised Louis offer fell short of the 13 to 15 million the sources said the government wanted for its shares in CTDC, so the Cabinet opted to seek new tenders.

    The government is under pressure to sell 12 per cent of its 82 per cent CTDC holdings by September 1. Stock Exchange rules require it to reduce those holdings to 70 per cent of outstanding shares by then, so CTDC can stay listed on the Exchange.

    At yesterday's Cabinet meeting, ministers faced three options: accept Louis' offer; reject it and seek new tenders; or simply issue new shares in the hotel in a public offering.

    In seeking to raise the Louis bid, one source said, the government had argued that Louis' offer "was equivalent to something like two-thirds of the net assets of the company."

    As well, while no legislation exists currently allowing casinos in Cyprus, the Hilton Hotel is a prime candidate for siting a casino, should such legislation ever pass, the source said, adding that Louis was well aware of this.

    "After all, it's a prestigious business. It gives access to one of the main hotel operators in the world," the source said.

    Louis' bargaining chips included the fact the Hilton still has 14-15 million in debts stemming from 16 million in renovation and reconstruction in 1992. Louis would have had to undertake this, the source said.

    Then there is what one source termed the "lopsided" contract the government originally struck with Hilton International.

    As well, had the Louis bid won, the travel giant would have had to make a similar purchase offer to the public holders of the remaining 18 per cent of the shares in CTDC, the source said.

    Finally, Louis would also have had to plough some money into the hotel to make it viable.

    "In other words," a government source said, "whoever takes it will have to spend something like 20 to 22 million" to acquire the hotel and its debts, and get it up to snuff.

    Securing other tenders should not be a problem, as "serious investors have contacted" the government about buying its shares in the Hilton, a government source said.

    And those bidders already know that Louis' 11.5 million bid was not satisfactory, so they will have a head start in the new tendering process.

    A successful sale of the Hilton would realise Rolandis' long-held aspiration to get the government out of the hotel business. The government's other hotel, the shop-worn Philoxenia in Nicosia, has closed. The government is still weighing whether to accept one of two private tenders to operate the Philoxenia as a hotel.

    The next Cabinet meeting is set for August 25 at the presidential retreat in the Troodos.

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    Wednesday, July 30, 1999

    [07] Britain to protest after tourist complaints

    BRITAIN is set to make a formal complaint to Cyprus over claims that tourists who have had items stolen from them are being treated as con- artists.

    According to reports in yesterday's British papers, the British government is angry after several tourists claimed they were bullied by Cypriot police into signing false confessions that they were trying to cheat on their insurance.

    The problems began after a spate of false theft claims which culminated in the jailing of three Britons last week. The three were each jailed for a month after they claimed cameras and other possessions were taken from the beach.

    According to British High Commission spokesman Piers Cazalet, "It's understandable that the police and judges get impatient and frustrated because they don't like to see the good name of Cyprus sullied... (and) because Cyprus generally has a low crime rate.

    "However police aren't always good at distinguishing between the few genuine cases they get and the many try-ons. We have had complaints on a number of occasions of heavy-handedness when they suspect people of putting in false insurance claims."

    The reports cited the case of an 18-year-old Belfast man who visited the island with his girlfriend, making his first trip abroad. They said that after his camera and wallet were stolen, he was interrogated for six hours, during which he was assaulted by police, while his girlfriend claims she was harassed and intimidated and finally coerced into signing a confession. The charges against them were later dropped after the intervention of a senior official.

    In another case, a group of 18-year-old Manchester women, visiting the island to celebrate leaving school, had their apartment burgled. They complained they were treated so badly that they ended up in tears, and that police refused to file a report or give the women an incident number.

    An investigation has, however, been promised by Minister of Commerce, Tourism and Industry Nicos Rolandis.

    "We do not want to be unfair to any tourists," Rolandis said. "If they have suffered once by having something stolen, they must not suffer twice."

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    Wednesday, July 30, 1999

    [08] Residents claim circus pulling spectators with false price offers

    By Martin Hellicar

    AN ITALIAN circus currently performing in Ayia Napa is pulling in spectators with false promises of low entry charges, tourists and local residents have complained.

    The 'Roma' circus has been distributing "1 off" vouchers around the tourist resort. The vouchers advertise that tickets cost 7 for adults and 4 for children.

    But, when people arrive at the circus tent, they are informed that tickets cost 10 for adults and 8 for children, disgruntled circus-goers claim.

    An Ayia Napa boutique owner told the Cyprus Mailhow his wife was "taken in" by the "bogus" offer.

    "My three nieces were visiting and my wife thought she'd take them to the circus as she had four 1 off vouchers," the expatriate said. "She expected to pay 6 for herself and 3 for each of the children, a total of 15. But once she got there she was charged 6 for the children and 9 for herself," he said.

    She argued with the ticket-master but he apparently said he could not speak English. "The children were playing-up so she paid and went in," he said. "They overcharged us 12, and they're not just doing it to us but to tourists as well," the shop-owner said.

    He went down to complain to the circus manager, but he said he spoke neither English nor Greek, only Italian.

    Ayia Napa police told the shop-owner to talk to the municipality, who licensed the circus to come to town.

    But trying to lodge a complaint with the Ayia Napa municipality proved a futile exercise, he said.

    The Mailtried to broach the matter of the alleged ticket scam with the municipality but got no response.

    "It's like you coming into my boutique and asking how much a shirt is and I say 20. Then you try it on and say you'll buy it and I tell you its 25," the aggrieved shop-owner said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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    Wednesday, July 30, 1999

    [09] Were crash tourists stoned or not?

    By Andrew Adamides

    BRITISH tourist Danny Smith, 23, may or may not have been stoned when he crashed his car at around 4.15 am yesterday -- at least that's what he told police.

    Smith, and his roommate, David Curry, also 23, were both remanded in custody for five days by Famagusta district court yesterday on charges of possessing drugs.

    When police arrived on the scene of the Ayia Napa crash, which involved Smith and two other tourists, they suspected him of being drunk and gave him an alcotest. However, when this proved negative, they suspected that he might be under the influence of drugs and asked him if he had taken illegal substances, to which Smith replied "Maybe yes and maybe no."

    A search of Smith's luggage at his holiday apartment turned up five grams of cannabis, which Smith said were for personal use. When Curry arrived back at the apartment at 6am, his room was also searched, and a substance believed to be cannabis was found.

    Both went willingly with police, who are investigating claims that the two bought the drugs locally. Smith claimed he bought his from a foreign person who he would recognise if he saw again, while Curry told police he obtained his drugs from a female tourist he met after arrival on the island.

    Smith and Curry arrived on the island on July 20, and were set to leave on August 11.

    Meanwhile yesterday, two men were jailed for two years each for importing drugs with intent to sell.

    Judge Tefkros Economou sentenced Elias Pericles Panyiotarides, 33, a florist from Greece, and Zenonos Theofanous, 26, a builder from Nicosia after the two were found guilty of bringing two kilos of cannabis into the country in 1998. The drugs were found in their possession at Larnaca Airport, and the duo admitted that they had intended to sell the drugs locally. Others are also thought to be involved in the case.


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