|Friday, 23 February 2024
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-10-19
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
 Chaos as stock exchange grounded by technical problemBy Hamza Hendawi, Business Editor
THE CYPRUS Stock Exchange, now something of a mythical place where dreams and nightmares strangely mix, yesterday descended into farce when a protracted technical problem meant not a single share changed hands.
For two long hours, traders and investors waited for dealing to kick off, only to be disappointed. After three false starts and many pleas for patience from an exchange official, everyone decided that enough was enough and left. The losses suffered by the traders and investors were estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands and, understandably, no one was amused by the waste.
Exchange officials said the problem was technical, but could not be more specific. Some brokers, however, said they suspected the system had caved in under the pressure of the vast number of orders entered into the system in the 15 minutes of pre-opening trading.
Because of a 2,000-transaction ceiling imposed since Friday by the exchange, brokers arrived at the floor earlier than usual yesterday to enter their entire log of orders in the hope of executing as many of them as possible.
Some brokers, perhaps angered by the breakdown and the frustration of a morning wasted, suggested things at the exchange had gone from bad to worse and that closing the market again to solve its outstanding problems may no longer be such a painful decision to take.
"Unfortunately, the problem now facing the market this time leaves us little choice but to take the painful decision of closing it for a few days," said Neofytos Neofytou of AAA United Stockbrokers.
Others said yesterday's breakdown would most likely recur today since traders would now be entering into the system two days of orders.
"It is ridiculous," said one broker who could not hide his anger at what he viewed as the incompetence of the market's authority to run the exchange.
"Every day we seem to have a story here: one good, one bad," said another.
But, if the exchange chairman Dinos Papadopoulos is to be believed, help may on the way. He told a television interviewer last night that an expert from the company which sold the bourse the system was expected to arrive on the island in the small hours of the morning to deal with yesterday's breakdown.
A television report later said the expert was expected to work through the night with Cypriot technicians to solve the problem.
The final decision to abandon the exchange shortly after midday yesterday was made by the brokers. Angry and frustrated, they had by then endured three false starts which saw them man their work stations only to see the system fail to kick off.
The 2,000-transaction ceiling introduced last Friday is temporary and may last for 15 working days. But reports last night suggested that the number of transactions allowed per session would gradually be increased and that a new plan to settle problematic transactions bogging down the bourse would come in force today.
The chronic backlog problem has forced the bourse to close for more than five weeks on three separate occasions since late July. The closures tarnished the market's image but appear to have done little to undermine investor confidence. The all-share index rose by nearly 30 per cent since it reopened on October 4 after a one-month closure, taking to about 500 per cents gains on the year.
 Government wants deadline for talks invitationBy Jean Christou
THE GOVERNMENT wants a UN invitation to talks issued as soon as possible but at the latest by December 15, spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday.
And if the Turkish side refuses to accept the invitation, UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan should clearly apportion the blame in his next six-monthly report on the Unficyp mandate, Papapetrou said.
The Greek Cypriot side wants the talks to be resumed before the EU Helsinki summit at the beginning of December, when Turkey is expected to be granted candidate status.
But all the indications are that this will not happen. The latest UN and G8 resolutions called for talks to resume in the autumn but contacts last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly resulted in Turkey hinting it might move on the Cyprus issue only once it receives EU candidacy in Helsinki.
"The Secretary-general has the obligation to move within the spirit of the resolutions and the government believes Mr Annan will do this and that the invitations will be sent without further delay because the spirit of the resolution, although it does not refer to a timetable, obviously speaks of resuming talks in the autumn," Papapetrou said.
"In spite of the fact that invitations to talks should have been sent in October, no one can claim that he (Annan) is not in line with the resolutions," Papapetrou said.
However, it is unlikely that the Turkish Cypriot side, which wants talks held on a 'state-to-state' basis, will return to the table before Helsinki.
"It is obvious that the UN Secretary-general is trying to overcome some obstacles set by the Turkish side. We believe that there should be a specific date for this waiting to end," Papapetrou said.
"If the other side imposes conditions and does not attend negotiations, then the Secretary-general should apportion responsibility."
The government spokesman said the situation should become clearer over the next few days after US presidential envoy Alfred Moses completes his tour of the region. Moses arrived in Cyprus last night with US State Department Coordinator Thomas Weston for talks with the two leaders.
The two envoys have already visited Ankara and Athens.
Following his meeting with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Moses said a positive climate was building for a settlement but that Washington was not seeking to impose any plan or solution on the island.
He said improved Greco-Turkish relations and Turkish aspirations to join the EU had set the stage for a possible solution.
"The present situation in Cyprus is not acceptable," Moses said. "The settlement on Cyprus should begin now." But he added: "We are not here to impose any plan or solution."
Papandreou echoed Moses's comments and called on both sides to sit down and work out a settlement.
"We believe at this time there will be true steps after many years of waiting and many disappointments," he said.
Weston also stressed that the sides directly involved must lead the efforts. "We're not here to impose any planned solution," he said. "We're here to listen and be supportive."
Following the envoys' meetings in Ankara last week, Turkish papers reported that the message they had received called for recognition of the political equality of the breakaway state in the north.
Turkish daily Milliyet said Moses had informed Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit that Ankara should contribute towards the creation of a favourable atmosphere.
Turkish officials told the envoy that efforts to find a solution would not yield results before the issue of the Turkish Cypriot side's status was resolved.
Ecevit said proximity talks could be considered if the necessary ground was prepared, while Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash repeated that four-way talks involving Turkey and Greece could be considered.
The Greek Cypriot side has rejected both these options.
 Tourists stranded as pilots refuse to stand inBy Jean Christou
CYPRUS Airways (CY) has launched an investigation into why pilots left nearly 300 British tourists stranded in Cyprus and in the UK for more than 24 hours.
The incident last Wednesday proved to be a major embarrassment for the company, which, with the CTO, was jointly hosting a promotional event in Manchester on the same night.
"We were trying to promote Cyprus and Cyprus Airways as reliable," a company source said yesterday, adding that all of the local Manchester newspapers had found out what had happened.
"It was really embarrassing."
The problem started at Larnaca airport, when the co-pilot on the 7pm Larnaca-Manchester flight fell ill and a colleague on call refused to go on duty because the return flight would have eaten into her day off the following day.
"The company promised her another day off in lieu and she said she would ask her union (Pasipy)," the CY source said. "Then she said the union told her not to do the flight. There was no other option but to cancel the flight."
The 186 passengers due to travel to the UK were then taken to a hotel in Larnaca, and finally left the next morning on the London flight, which was rerouted to Manchester to drop them off.
But that flight was unable to collect 100 Manchester tourists waiting to come to Cyprus on the return leg of the cancelled Wednesday night flight.
The company therefore asked the next London flight, captained by Pasipy chief Chris Christodoulou, to re-route to Manchester to pick up the tourists. "But he refused," the source said.
"He didn't claim to be tired because that would have meant he should not be flying at all."
The source said Christodoulou told the company his maximum flying time of 11 hours and 15 minutes would be exceeded if he flew on to Manchester. CY say the total he would have flown on that flight would only have totalled seven hours and 40 minutes -- "three hours below his maximum," the source said.
CY tried in vain to arrange hotel accommodation for the 100 stranded tourists in Manchester, and were forced to take them to nearby Liverpool. At this point, 11 of the passengers said they would not fly at all, the source said. The remaining passengers were eventually flown out to Cyprus on Thursday.
"A delay of 24 hours and a tour around half of England just to come to Cyprus," the CY source quipped.
CY spokesman Tassos Angelis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday an investigation into the incident had been launched, the first stage of which would involve Christodoulou having to explain his refusal to fly on to Manchester.
"He will be called to give the facts," Angelis said. "If there is a prima facie case, the investigation will move on to the next stage."
Christodoulou was not available for comment yesterday, and Pasipy spokesman George Charalambous was abroad.
Speaking on behalf of Pasipy, Iraklis Fourlis told the CyBC the issue had been discussed at an emergency meeting of the union on Sunday night.
CyBC quoted Fourlis as accusing the company of bad planning, and saying what had happened was a result of a series of actions by the company, of which Wednesday's was "the straw that broke the camel's back".
He said pilots were ready to discuss all issues with the company and had even prepared a proposal to reduce the airline's costs, something that would help make the company competitive.
CyBC quoted Angelis as rejecting the accusation of lack of planning.
 Government promises new measures to stamp out permit scamsBy Martin Hellicar
THE GOVERNMENT yesterday promised unspecified new measures to combat apparent widespread top-level abuse of the work and residence permits system.
With big names already kicking their heels in police lock-ups, both the Justice Minister and the Government Spokesman yesterday vowed there would be no let-up in a probe into an alleged permits scam.
Immigration chief Christodoulos Nicolaides has been remanded in custody on suspicion of accepting bribes to "fix" permits for foreigners, including cabaret artistes.
Limassol police Sergeants Efstathios Theodorou and Demetris Himona have been remanded on suspicion of issuing fake permits for artistes.
Pambos Anastassiades, twin brother of Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades, is also being held on suspicion of involvement in similar scams.
The arrests are the result of an ongoing probe by three senior police officers into allegations that members of the force and others in positions of power have been abating underworld prostitution rackets by providing permits for cabaret dancing girls.
Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday that new measures aimed at preventing abuse of the permits system would be announced soon.
"The government is studying the whole situation and will announce specific measures soon," Papapetrou stated, adding that he would not divulge details till after the police investigation was completed.
Papapetrou repeated that the government was determined to see that no stone remained unturned in the effort to get to the bottom of the permits scam.
Justice minister Nicos Koshis yesterday said the police investigation was "cutting to the bone" and would be extended.
He said more officers could be arrested as investigators put other areas, including the airports, under the microscope.
"We are determined to cut out the cancer and get rid of the rot in the police force so that it can function normally," Koshis said.
For his part, Nicos Anastassiades repeated his determination to see all guilty parties brought to justice, even if they be his relatives. But the Disy leader spoke mostly of his irritation with the media for mentioning his name so "persistently" in connection with the alleged scam.
He repeated that he saw no reason why his name should be brought up all the time just because his twin brother was suspected of breaking the law.
 Defence Ministry insists TOR missiles are still in CyprusBy George Psyllides
THE MINISTRY of Defence yesterday denied allegations that the TOR-M1 missile systems, presented to the public in a blaze of publicity during the October 1 Independence Day parade, are no longer on the island.
In a statement, the Defence Ministry dismissed the reports as rumour, and insisted that any weapon systems delivered to reinforce the defence of Cyprus remained on the island.
The ministry was responding to reports that the Russian-made short range anti-aircraft missiles had been shipped back to Greece after the parade.
Rejecting the allegations, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou insisted yesterday the missiles were still in Cyprus. "These reports are absurd and lack foundation," he said.
Asked why the Government did not allow the inspection of the systems so the rumours could be laid to rest, Papapetrou said that such suggestions lack seriousness.
"Military installations are not tourist sites for anyone to walk in and inspect the weaponry," said Papapetrou.
However, House Defence Committee member, Akel deputy Doros Christodoulides, treated the ministry's statement with caution, suggesting the government's past record gave little reason for confidence.
The government last year repeatedly insisted the long-range S-300s would be deployed in Cyprus despite Turkish threats and intense international pressure. They were eventually diverted to Crete in an embarrassing climbdown. The TOR-M1s have been billed as partly plugging the air-defence gap left by the cancellation of the S-300s.
"If the minister is lying," Christodoulides said, "then it is yet another deceit at the expense of the Cypriot people. But I want to believe that the minister is telling the truth this time."
But another defence committee member Disy deputy Antonis Karras maintained that only the trucks carrying the missiles had been returned to Greece. The trucks were not the property of the Republic of Cyprus, said Karras, so they had been returned to their rightful owners, he added.
He said each missile system was mobile and autonomous and did not need the trucks on which they had been brought from Greece in order to function properly.
 Roads claim three lives in as many daysBy Athena Karsera
ANOTHER traffic death yesterday brought to three the number of fatalities in a bloody 36 hours on the roads.
Twenty-nine-year-old Dimos Panicos Michael was killed, and four others injured in an accident on a road feeding the motorway roundabout near Erimi in Limassol.
Four cars were involved in the horrific accident at the Mesa Yeitonia-Ayios Fylaxios roundabout, bringing rush hour traffic to a complete standstill for more than three hours from 7am.
Police said the accident occurred when Michael drove into oncoming traffic as he was about to join the roundabout. His vehicle overturned and collided with a police car.
Michael, who was not wearing a seat-belt, was hurled through the windscreen and died instantly.
A pick-up truck behind the patrol car veered into the other lane to avoid the crash and collided with a van.
Van driver Antonis Nicholaou and pick-up truck driver Demetris Cantonis were both injured and kept in Limassol general hospital for treatment.
The policemen involved, Alexis Christophis and Panayiotis Pelopidas, were slightly injured and released after receiving first-aid.
Police said all four vehicles were completely destroyed in the accident.
Yesterday's accident came after the deaths of British soldier Jeff Graig on Sunday and Paralimni fireman Andreas Spyrou on Saturday.
Graig, 40, was killed instantly when the motorcycle he was driving along the Larnaca to Nicosia highway went off course, crashing into a ditch.
Police said that, because of the high speed at which Graig had been travelling, the crash helmet he had been wearing proved ineffective in protecting him from fatal head injuries.
He had been riding with two friends, also driving powerful motorcycles, when the accident occurred at approximately 8.10am on Sunday.
Graig was stationed at Ayios Nicolaos in the Dhekelia Soveregin Base Area.
Spyrou, 55, died while travelling on the Paphos to Polis road near Stroumbi village at approximately 8.15pm Saturday.
According to police, the accident happened when Spyrou's vehicle collided with a truck driven by Stephanos Loizou, 50, and burst into flames.
The fireman was trapped in the wreckage, and his colleagues were only able to retrieve his body once the flames had been put out.
Loizou was seriously injured and his son Andreas, 15, slightly injured in the accident. Both were taken to Paphos hospital for treatment and were yesterday said to be in a stable condition.
A police spokesman said yesterday investigations were continuing into the exact circumstances surrounding all three accidents.
 Three held after cocaine seizureAN ENGLISH Cypriot father and son and a British woman were arrested yesterday after police found what was believed to be 77 grammes of cocaine in their possession.
Harry Panayi Theocharous, 35, his son Stephen Theocharous Brennan, 18, and 29-year-old Penelope Emma Wright were arrested after a police search at Theocharous' Paphos home turned up the drugs.
According to a police report, two small bags of a white powder believed to be cocaine with a street value of approximately £10,000 were found.
Police also found a paper towel containing what they believe to be traces of cocaine and implements used in drug-taking such as teaspoons and home-made pipes.
In addition, the search uncovered stubs from hand-rolled cigarettes believed to have contained cannabis.