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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-10-15

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

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


CONTENTS

  • [01] Immigration boss suspended over fake permits scam
  • [02] Top doctor goes on trial on bribery charges
  • [03] Hotelier accused of pimping
  • [04] More effort needed to bring Cyprus into line with EU
  • [05] Government rejects four-party talks suggestion
  • [06] Bank robbery suspects released
  • [07] Holger: Annan won't call talks if he feels they won't succeed
  • [08] Hellenic expected to return from split at 5
  • [09] Cat-loving Irish woman jailed without a lawyer
  • [10] House votes to postpone refugee elections
  • [11] School children treated after foundry leak
  • [12] Officials 'preparing to ship seal to certain death'
  • [13] Bases anger as choppers answer marine distress signal in downtown Limassol

  • Friday, October 15, 1999

    [01] Immigration boss suspended over fake permits scam

    By Martin Hellicar

    IMMIGRATION chief Christodoulos Nicolaides was yesterday suspended after police unearthed evidence which could link him to a network providing fake permits for foreign cabaret artistes. Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said the executive director of the Immigration department, Nikos Vakanas, was also being relieved of his duties for a three-month period.

    Christodoulou said police chief Andreas Anggelides had recommended the two top civil servants be suspended pending completion of a police probe into an alleged work and residence permits scam.

    The minister also said Nicolaides and Vakanas may have been guilty of receiving bribes and indicated the two could eventually face criminal charges.

    "The (police) chief judged that it was necessary to suspend the Immigration chief and the executive director of the same department, concerning whom initial evidence has turned up that could implicate them in cases of illegal residence and employment of foreigners in Cyprus," the minister said yesterday.

    "The offences under investigation... are criminal offenses. Furthermore, there are claims about possible bribe-taking," Christodoulou stated at a 1.30pm press briefing.

    Three top police officers were recently appointed to probe claims that members of the force and others in positions of influence abetted underworld prostitution rings by participating in a network furnishing cabaret artistes with fake permits.

    Christodoulou said the police chief had informed him of his two subordinates' possible misdemeanours in a letter he received on Wednesday.

    He said Anggelides wanted to ensure Nicolaides and Vakanas were in no position to influence investigations.

    But the minister also said the two could be back in their offices before their three-month suspension was over - if investigators cleared them.

    The director general of the Interior Ministry, Andreas Panayiotou, has been appointed acting Immigration chief.

    Earlier in the day, the government was hotly denying allegations that President Clerides himself was linked to a fake permits scam.

    The astonishing claims were made live on state television on Wednesday night by the former organisational secretary of governing Disy, Andreas Tsangarides.

    Tsangarides is one of a number of prominent figures under investigation for alleged involvement in the permits scam.

    He alleged Clerides had, during a top-level Disy meeting, described a top immigration officer as "difficult." Tsangarides said what the President had meant was that the officer refused to bend the rules to serve those in power.

    "The President of the Republic never, but never, intervened towards or partook in any deals concerning such issues," was the response from Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou.

    Papapetrou lambasted Tsangarides for seeking to defend himself by tarnishing others.

    "The President is not about to make any statements at this juncture concerning the manner in which persons under investigation chose to defend themselves," he said.

    The spokesman also attacked the media for giving air-time to Tsangarides.

    "The question that has to be asked is how, during an ongoing investigation, time is given to such persons to make statements and comments in the media. I think there are certain rules in every civilised society, and they must be applied in Cyprus too," Papapetrou told his daily press briefing.

    Tsangarides also levelled accusations at both Christodoulou and his predecessor, Dinos Michaelides. He said they were guilty of issuing "hundreds" of fake permits.

    Michaelides quit his post in the face of persistent - if unproven - corruption allegations. These included charges that he had accepted bribes to arrange permits.

    Christodoulou denied Tsangarides's allegations yesterday, saying he was "surprised" by his outburst.

    Tsangarides also told state channel CyBC that senior Disy members routinely tried to secure favours from the immigration department.

    Tsangarides denied involvement in the permits scandal, saying he was the victim of a slur campaign.

    At the House labour committee yesterday, Diko deputy Nicos Pittokopitis made his own "revelations" concerning the securing of fake permits for foreign women.

    The Paphos deputy said many local men were getting involved in "illegal" relationships with foreign women and then turning to underworld networks to secure permits for them to stay.

    "Many, who have established illegal relationships with Russian, Ukranian and Moldovian women and women of every creed, race or origin, have got them permits and passports through these networks so they can keep them and stay in Cyprus in the most blatant manner," he said.

    The outspoken deputy said he had forwarded his suggestions for dealing with the matter to the government but had got no response.

    Friday, October 15, 1999

    [02] Top doctor goes on trial on bribery charges

    THE TRIAL began in Larnaca yesterday of a senior ophthalmologist at Nicosia's Makarios Hospital, who is accused of accepting bribes.

    Michalis Constantindes, who was head of the ophthalmological unit at the hospital, has been charged with taking a bribe of 2,000 on October 10, 1998 from Andreas Vorkas, director of a private company in Larnaca, in exchange for two of the company's machines being installed at the hospital.

    Constantinides' lawyer Efstathios Efstathiou asked the court to drop the charges against his client.

    He said the charges didn't stick because Constantinides was not a member of the central tenders committee which is responsible for approving supplies for the hospital.

    But state prosecutor Charalambos Nicolaides said the accused had acted with intent and committed the crime without any encouragement.

    He said the fact that the charge sheet did not refer to the central tenders committee did not mean he could not be charged. All the prosecution had to prove was that he had received the 2,000, he said, and the law did not require him to be a member of the tenders council to exert his influence.

    Judge Nicos Santis agreed with the prosecution. He said there was no evidence before the court saying the accused had to be a member of the tenders committee in order to face such charges. The trial continues today with witnesses for the prosecution.

    Friday, October 15, 1999

    [03] Hotelier accused of pimping

    A LARNACA hotel owner was remanded for two days yesterday on suspicion of pimping.

    Her arrest came following a police sting operation.

    The Larnaca court heard police had given marked 10 notes to a hotel customer to have sex at the hotel with a woman who was suspected of using the premises for prostitution.

    According to investigating officer Antonis Kakouris from Larnaca CID, police found three of the notes in the possession of a woman from Belarus who was staying at the hotel, and one note at the reception desk.

    Hotel owner Rebecca Kazamia, 56, was arrested on suspicion of pimping and taken to court yesterday.

    Kakouris said Kazamia and her daughter claimed the money was theirs, but he produced for the court photocopies of the notes that police had given to the man involved.

    Friday, October 15, 1999

    [04] More effort needed to bring Cyprus into line with EU

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria for accession to the European Union, but the island has still only adopted 15 per cent of existing European standards, the EU Commission's progress report on the island's accession bid has revealed.

    The report says that although Cyprus' functioning market economy should be able to cope with the competitive pressures within the bloc, serious imbalances exist in the area of economic growth.

    "Recent growth has depended upon domestic rather than external demand and there is increasing evidence of macroeconomic and financial imbalances," the report, released on Wednesday, said.

    It specifically mentions the serious deterioration of both the current account and the fiscal account, coupled with the unsustainable growth of stock market valuations. These are causes of concern, but it is expected the successful passage of the government's tax proposals will help reduce domestic demand, bridge the fiscal deficit and ease pressure on the current account, the report says.

    Cyprus also needs to renew its efforts in the areas of structural reform and deregulation. Progress towards privatisation has been slow and needs to be speeded up.

    "The removal of the nine per cent interest rate ceiling is long overdue and needs to be removed at the earlier opportunity," the report said.

    "Cyprus has made very little progress in further alignment with the internal market acquis since the last regular report. There has been no new legislation in the area of standardisation and the adoption of a new law regulating this area is urgently needed. So far Cyprus has only adopted 15 per cent of existing European standards."

    The report also said that while involving certain short- term costs, "the integration of the north of Cyprus would improve the growth aspects of the island and enhance its attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment."

    In other areas, transport is lacking as far as legislation is concerned, particularly in the area of marine safety.

    "The work undertaken to establish better safety standards has yet to show its effects. Although already decreasing, the detention of vessels is well above the community average of six per cent," the report said.

    As far as the environment is concerned, little visible progress has been made and the government needs to pay particular attention to the allocation of sufficient budgetary and administrative resources to this sector. The Veterinary sector also needs more stringent controls.

    The report commended parliament for its impressive efforts to pursue an intense legislative programme, noting an important number of harmonisation bills had been tabled and a number adopted.

    But the Commission said progress needed to be made in the area of immigration and asylum. It said there had been reports of ill treatment of asylum seekers by the police and cases of two wrongful deportations.

    Friday, October 15, 1999

    [05] Government rejects four-party talks suggestion

    By Jean Christou

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday rejected any notion of four-party talks on Cyprus which would involve Greece and Turkey, although the Turkish Cypriot side has indicated it would favour such an approach.

    Both Foreign Minster Yiannakis Cassoulides and Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said that if Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash was ready for talks, there was always the framework set out by UN Security Council resolutions.

    The resolutions call for a resumption of talks without preconditions, something the Greek Cypriot side says it is ready to comply with.

    Denktash has in the past said he would not return to the negotiating table unless his breakaway regime was recognised as a state.

    However, Denktash said on Wednesday he might agree to talks if the US invited Turkey and Greece to the table as well.

    "I am aware through the press that (US President Bill) Clinton will call for a four-way meeting," Denktash told Turkish Cypriot television. "If there will be this sort of invitation, we will appraise it as a course of action, as an exercise, and I think we will be able to think positively."

    Denktash said there were still major obstacles to any talks -- in particular his own status at any meetings.

    "How will he (Clinton) do this? Will the Greek Cypriot and the Greek side accept? Will Turkey accept? If he makes a call to us what will we be called?" he said.

    Papapetrou said the government would not facilitate Denktash's "spasmodical moves", which he said were aimed at avoiding the responsibilities set out for the Turkish side by the UN resolutions and by the international community.

    He stated categorically that the government rejected any idea of a four-party meeting before or after negotiations.

    US President Bill Clinton's special emissary Alfred Moses and State Department Coordinator Thomas Weston were due in Ankara yesterday for talks with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit.

    The US envoys are due on the island next week following their visit to Ankara and Athens.

    Friday, October 15, 1999

    [06] Bank robbery suspects released

    A COURT yesterday set free three men arrested shortly after Wednesday's armed robbery of Limassol's main Popular Bank branch.

    The Limassol District court yesterday threw out a police request for remand orders for three unemployed Limassol men arrested in connection with the 60,000 raid.

    The court said police had not presented enough evidence to justify extending the three men's stay in custody.

    Two masked raiders got away with 57,750 in cash after bursting into the Popular Bank on Athens Street and threatening bank employees and customers with a sawn-off shot-gun.

    The robbers made their get-away on an off-road motorbike. The bike was found abandoned down a cul-de-sac in central Limassol about two hours after the 10.30am raid.

    Renos Kyriacou, 37, Yiannakis Athanasiou, 35, and Michalis Louka, alias Sclutch, 38, were arrested shortly after.

    The court heard yesterday that the three were denying any involvement in the heist, but that no-one had corroborated Kyriacou's alibi for the time of the raid.

    Police also told the court that two people had, in written statements to police, testified that Kyriacou had been planning a bank raid with the other two suspects.

    But the court said this was not enough evidence on which to remand the three.

    After their release, the three suspects stormed out of the court shouting insults at police.

    Police said investigations into the bank raid were continuing.

    The court also heard that police had not located the 57, 750 taken by the robbers or the weapon used.

    Wednesday morning's raid was witnessed by many people on a crowded Athens street. Unconfirmed reports suggest the raiders dropped their loot as they ran from the bank, but came back for it, threatening to shoot a by-stander who tried to stop them.

    The bank had had security cameras fitted two days before the robbery.

    Friday, October 15, 1999

    [07] Holger: Annan won't call talks if he feels they won't succeed

    By Jean Christou

    U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL Kofi Annan will not issue invitations for direct talks if there is a chance they may fail, his new envoy and Unficyp Chief of Mission said yesterday.

    Speaking after his first meeting with President Clerides, Chilean diplomat James Holger said the timing of the talks was very important and did not rule out the possibility that they would be held at the beginning of next year, and not this autumn as had originally been thought.

    The Greek Cypriot side had hoped invitations for talks might be issued this month, but Turkey is trying to have negotiations delayed until the EU summit in Helsinki in December when it hopes to secure candidacy to the bloc.

    Ankara has hinted it may soften its stance on Cyprus if candidacy is assured.

    Holger, who has taken over in an acting capacity in the role of special envoy and Unficyp chief until a permanent representative is appointed, said the EU summit and the OSCE meeting in Istanbul next month would both have a bearing on the Cyprus problem.

    "If Annan has not called for talks already, it is because he does not want to schedule talks, to initiate a new round of talks just for the sake of doing so," Holger told reporters after his meeting with Clerides.

    "In other words he wants the talks to succeed".

    Holger said he had come to Cyprus with no specific instructions from the Secretary-general because consultations were under way aimed at re-energising the negotiating process.

    "There is intensive movement aimed at having talks convene before the end of the year," Holger said, but he added that "we should be realistic" and not expect the talks to take place this year, "but shortly afterwards".

    "The idea is to keep the negotiating momentum going," Holger said, adding that Annan did not wish to convene talks that were likely to fail.

    "Since this has happened in the past, it is fair to say it could happen again. The ground has to be prepared for talks to be convened and to take off and the timing of talks is a very important element."

    Holger said there were several options open for the talks, including shuttle talks, proximity talks and direct negotiations, and called for people to be "imaginative".

    He warned there were many obstacles preventing the talks from taking place and said the negotiating process would be long because the Cyprus question was not an easy one.

    Friday, October 15, 1999

    [08] Hellenic expected to return from split at 5

    Shares soar on highest volume since reopening

    By Hamza Hendawi

    SHARE prices rose yesterday to their fifth successive record close. At 31.77 million, volume was the highest since the market reopened for business on October 4 after a four-week closure.

    The all-share index closed at 543.51, up 2.40 per cent on Wednesday's close.

    The banks carried the day as usual with dealing in their titles accounting for more than 50 per cent of trade. The Bank of Cyprus, the market's locomotive, is fast closing on its pre-closure levels of 13- plus, finishing the day up 26 cents to close at 11.85. The bank's 1999- 2003 warrants was also up, by 42.50 cents, to close at 9.78.

    Interest in the Bank of Cyprus titles were boosted by news on Wednesday night that the bank was expecting to list on the larger Athens Stock Exchange by February or March next year. An extraordinary meeting of shareholders on Wednesday night also ratified a proposal to waive their right to participate in a new rights issue scheduled for later this year in Greece to meet Greek requirements for an Athens listing.

    The Popular Bank, fast approaching its pre two-for-one share split in the summer, notched up 39.50 cents to close at 12.37, while its 1993-1999 warrants appreciated by 62 cents to close at 21.50.

    Trading in the two banks' titles, together with the small Universal Bank, accounted for about 53.0 per cent of trade, or 15.04 million. The banks' share of the market is likely to be boosted today, when the Hellenic Bank returns to the market after its four-for-one split. Hellenic's fully-paid shares were last traded on September 3, which is also the day before the market closed for a month to allow brokerages to clear a backlog of administrative work. The share closed on that day at 15.42, but traders expect it to open today at as high as 5 apiece.

    The traders believe Hellenic's fundamentals are slightly weaker than those of the Bank of Cyprus and the Popular Bank, but that it will gain in value so long as the market's bullish run continues unabated.

    This bull run has sent share prices soaring by nearly 500 per cent since the start of the year.

    Nicos Shacolas, meanwhile, announced yesterday in a news conference that his Cyprus Trading Corporation was expected to get a listing on the Athens Stock Exchange around March next year.

    He said the company posted half-yearly pre-tax profits of 2.75 million compared to 702,000 in the corresponding period of 1998 on a turnover of 32.71 million, up from 29.75 million.

    Separate profits from trading on the stock market, he added, amounted to 35 million. CTC closed 30.50 cents up yesterday to close at 3.40, almost at par with Shacolas' other retail chain, Woolworth, which closed yesterday at 3.41, slightly down on Wednesday's close.

    Woolworth, also heading for an Athens listing next year, posted a turnover of 20.42 million in the first six months of 1999 and pre- tax profits of 4.35 million. Shares of both Woolworth and CTC have been steadily increasing in value since the market reopened on October 4.

    Friday, October 15, 1999

    [09] Cat-loving Irish woman jailed without a lawyer

    By Anthony O. Miller

    "THE IRISH girl" was sent to prison this week after being busted on Monday night by six Cyprus police officers, Michael Robb, owner of the Blue Horizon pub in Limassol, said yesterday.

    On Tuesday, Pauline O'Neill, 34, was convicted in Limassol District Court of working without a permit, and staying on an expired visa. She was given two three-month prison sentences, which will run concurrently. On Wednesday she started serving her time in Nicosia Central Prison.

    From arrest to prison, O'Neill never had a lawyer, according to Robb and to both court and prison records. Robb said he had tried to get her a lawyer, but the police kept misdirecting him whenever he tried to learn her whereabouts, he claimed.

    O'Neill waited tables in the Blue Horizon and did a little cleaning after the pub closed, Robb said. "She was very good with customers, very nice." And "she was respectable," not a fast-lane fixture of the Limassol cabaret scene. "The only thing she lived for was her cats," he said.

    Indeed, O'Neill was "a passionate animal-lover," said Kyriacos Kyriacou, a friend and Green Party member. He said her life centred on her 10 cats and a dog. She was working so she could afford the food for them, he said.

    "She made nothing, 8 to 10 a day, enough to pay the rent and feed the cats and dog," added Robb, who like Kyriacou, was incensed at how O'Neill was treated by the police. "It took six people to arrest her?" Robb asked.

    "I went to see her in jail," Kyriacou said. "She was crying. She was in a cell with more than 20 women. It was all open, no door on the toilet."

    O'Neill came to Cyprus five-odd years ago, "fell in love, and stayed. Whether he left her, or she left him, I never knew," Robb said. A woman friend said she thought O'Neill had patched over the pain of the broken romance by collecting her cats.

    Now in prison, with no lawyer or outside contact, "the poor girl thinks that we've left her alone," Robb said. "They wouldn't let me talk to her," when he phoned the prison, he said.

    It was the same for Nicosia lawyer Phillip Yioupas, who volunteered to look into O'Neill's case yesterday, and tried to contact her last night in the prison.

    Yioupas, too, was offended that O'Neill appeared to have been railroaded into prison without having had a lawyer defend her at her trial. "It's against a lot of things," he said.

    "Yes, she was illegal," Robb said, "but they don't treat criminals this way. It's not as if she killed somebody."

    Robb said he was paying some teenage girls to look after O'Neill's flat and feed her dog and cats each day.

    He said he tried to interest Irish Consul Steffi Stephanou in O'Neill's plight, but "he was not really interested in it. He kept putting me off."

    Robb said he was willing to pay for a lawyer for O'Neill, and "I'll pay for the flight" back home to Ireland for her, he added, if somehow she can be released from prison and simply deported. "But they won't let me talk to her," he said.

    Friday, October 15, 1999

    [10] House votes to postpone refugee elections

    THE HOUSE of Representatives plenum yesterday approved a controversial postponement of the first ever elections for the Pancyprian refugee committee, Pep.

    The polling deferral comes after Election Service officials pointed out weaknesses and gaps in the Pep voting procedure approved by the plenum not so long ago.

    Polling had been set for November 14, but deputies of all parties except Akel yesterday evening voted for a postponement.

    Deputies for opposition Akel claimed governing Disy only wanted to put off the elections because of the Clerides government's current low standing with voters.

    The vote to postpone came after a lengthy and often heated plenum debate.

    Deputies voted down an Akel proposal that the refugee committee convene for an emergency back-room session to iron out the voting procedure problems and let polling go ahead. An Akel amendment to the Pep elections law, designed to allow polling on November 14, was also thrown out.

    Shortly before the final vote on whether to postpone, Akel spokesman Nicos Katsourides directed a humorous jibe at the Disy benches opposite: "You won't be able to postpone the parliamentary elections, you

    Friday, October 15, 1999

    [11] School children treated after foundry leak

    By Martin Hellicar

    FORTY-SEVEN primary school children had to be treated in hospital in Limassol yesterday following a suspected leak from a foundry near their school.

    One child was kept in hospital and the other 46 released after receiving treatment for breathing problems.

    Hospital officials said high levels of noxious ether gas were later detected in the air near the Zakaki primary school. They pointed the finger at the nearby Nemitsas foundry.

    The 47 children and one of their teachers suffered breathing problems, dizziness, headaches, stomach pains and burning throats. They were all treated in Limassol hospital's first aid department shortly after 1pm. One youngster was kept in because his blood pressure had shot up.

    Ten adults from the houses near the foundry also sought hospital treatment after developing similar symptoms.

    The Limassol hospital District officer, Andreas Pederis, said a health inspector had rushed straight to the Zakaki school to identify the source of the problem.

    Pederis said the inspector had detected "increased" levels of ether in the atmosphere round the school. The inspector said the poisonous gas could have come from the chimney of the Nemitsas factory, Pederis said.

    Further tests are to be carried out.

    Local residents complained that yesterday's was no isolated incident. They had to live with routine toxic emissions from the foundry, they claimed.

    Factory management denied there was any pollution problem. The metal works had been operating in the area for 30 years without a glitch, management insisted.

    This is the second foundry on the island to make pollution headlines recently.

    Residents at Ergates, outside Nicosia, claim heavy metal emissions from a foundry near their village are responsible for the alarmingly high incidence of cancer and breathing problems in their locality.

    Friday, October 15, 1999

    [12] Officials 'preparing to ship seal to certain death'

    By Anthony O. Miller

    BRITISH marine-biologist Alan Knight yesterday said he feared Veterinary Services Department Director Pavlos Economides planned to let the Russian owners of the starving sea lion at Ayia Napa Marine Park (ANMP) ship the animal out of Cyprus, thereby condemning it to almost certain death.

    "I think he's going to export it," Knight told the Cyprus Mail by telephone from London. "He's now saying the animal is being fed the correct diet, and he wants to get it out of the country as soon as possible."

    Indeed Economides told the Cyprus Mail as much yesterday.

    Economides said ANMP staff had "started feeding the sea lion with mackerel," its proper food, and added: "I believe the sea lion will get back to its (proper) weight."

    "Of course, we have asked them (its handlers)... to move it," Economides said. "I was informed that they brought a Russian expert, named Costas something, and he was looking after the animal. Our position is that the animal must get out of Cyprus."

    This dismayed Knight: "I think it would die if it's moved, " said Knight, operations director of Britain-based International Animal Rescue and chairman of British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

    Knight, fellow marine-biologist David Higgs and veterinarian Dr James Barnett flew from Britain at the weekend and examined the Stellar Sea Lion. They said it was starved nearly to death.

    Knight said the animal was so malnourished that "its growth has been stunted; the size of its flippers to its body is so huge that something's happened. So this animal's possibly been in a very bad condition for a long time."

    "Now if the animal survives -- wherever they're going to move it -- it's going to go into exactly the same conditions as we find in Ayia Napa Marine Park," he said.

    Knight deplored Economides' refusal to seize the sea lion under Cyprus law and move it to safety, especially since Ocean Aquarium in Ayia Napa has offered to take the animal and try to nurse it back to health.

    "We've been down there and seen all the equipment they have, and to be honest with you it's the best rescue facility we could ask for," Knight said. Added Higgs: "They care about the animal (at Ocean Aquarium). There's genuine motivation there. I think it's important" to the animal's survival.

    But this was not enough for Economides. Yesterday he again justified not seizing the sea lion and taking it to Ocean Aquarium on grounds his vets had to make sure the facility was properly equipped.

    Not only that, but "now he wants Dr Barnett to produce another official document -- this is the third one -- explaining that all the pool sizes are wrong (at ANMP) according to EU standards," Knight said.

    "He's making us jump through hoops, forward, backwards. He's putting fire around the hoops and making us jump through hoops of fire now. He's dragging his feet. He doesn't want to do what he can do, which is take the animal away. And it really upsets me," he said.

    Economides' refusal to act is all the more puzzling, since he admits: "I have sent my vets down there... and since they have been feeding it wrongly, etc., now we have the evidence for which we can take court action and confiscate the animal."

    Asked why he did not act, he replied: "Before we do that, we must have a solution of what to do with the animal. We are practical people. We are not going to move it and not have anywhere to take it."

    Reminded that Ocean Aquarium had offered to take the sea lion, Economides replied: "We are working on this matter, and we have it as a priority... We are very sensitive about this. Of course we are going to look into the whole matter from the legal point (of view)."

    But the bottom line, according to Knight, is simple: "The Alaskan Sea Lion Rescue Centre (said) this animal needs intensive care. It doesn't just need some quiet re-feeding; it needs intensive care if it's to survive. If it's moved anywhere, apart from a rehabilitation centre like Ocean Aquarium, then the animal will certainly die."

    Friday, October 15, 1999

    [13] Bases anger as choppers answer marine distress signal in downtown Limassol

    By Jean Christou

    BRITISH bases authorities saw red after their rescue choppers answered a marine distress beacon which it later transpired was coming from dry land, right in the centre of Limassol.

    In an announcement issued yesterday, the bases said the incident had been a total waste of their limited manpower and rescue resources and could have drawn them away from a real emergency.

    "They (rescue teams) have to assume that all distress signals are real until they prove otherwise," the bases announcement said. "Their resources and false alarms such as the activating of a marine distress beacon in the centre of a city divert capability from there it may genuinely be needed."

    According to the bases, at midday on Tuesday a Wessex helicopter from 84 squadron RAF detected a marine distress beacon transmitting. A second helicopter was subsequently launched to begin searching for the beacon which appeared to be coming from near Limassol but ceased transmitting before it could be located accurately.

    The same afternoon, an incoming aircraft from the UK arriving at RAF Akrotiri detected another distress beacon transmitting and yet another Wessex was dispatched. Once in the area, the helicopter was able to pinpoint the transmissions as coming from the vicinity of Woolworth's on the town's Makarios Avenue.

    Bases spokesman Rob Need said distress beacons were not only used by large vessels but also by yacht owners. He said the beacons, known as EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacons), could be as small as a Walkman and were on sale in many shops in Limassol. "We suspect someone was trying to sell one and was demonstrating how they work," he said.

    Because the chopper pilots had assumed the first signal was coming from the sea, they had flown some 30 miles south of Akrotiri searching for a vessel in distress but found nothing.

    Need said the Cyprus police were aware of the incident and said the bases wanted to stress that their resources could not be stretched limitlessly.

    Indeed, on the same day two Wessex helicopters had to be deployed to put out a in the Troodos mountains. Cyprus fire services called on the airborne facility to fight a fire on steep and inaccessible terrain south east of Alassa village.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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