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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-10-22

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

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


CONTENTS

  • [01] Peruvian diplomat may be next UN envoy
  • [02] Urgent new taxes approved (and more on the way)
  • [03] Passenger with chest pains airlifted from ship
  • [04] Moses leaves empty-handed
  • [05] When will it come to an end?
  • [06] Hasikos quells doubts about missiles
  • [07] Deputies convinced Britain spied on Nikiforos
  • [08] Carl Lewis star attraction for Radiomarathon this year
  • [09] Overcrowding to force Clerides to pardon prisoners

  • [01] Peruvian diplomat may be next UN envoy

    A SENIOR Peruvian UN official, Alvaro de Soto, is under consideration as Secretary-general Kofi Annan's special representative for Cyprus, diplomats in New York said yesterday.

    De Soto, 56, has been assistant secretary-general for political affairs since January 1995 and in that capacity has been involved in the Cyprus problem.

    He was senior political adviser to the then secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali from 1992 to 1994. He joined the United Nations in 1982 as special assistant to the then secretary-general Javier Perez de Cuellar.

    De Soto is on special leave from the Peruvian diplomatic service, in which he holds the rank of career ambassador, having served as his country's deputy permanent representative to the UN office in Geneva from 1978 to 1982.

    Annan recently named Chilean diplomat James Holger as his acting special representative for Cyprus for an initial three-month period, with the possibility of an extension.

    Holger, who also heads the 1,225-member UN peacekeeping force on the island, was previously deputy director of the Chilean foreign ministry's diplomatic academy in Santiago.

    From 1982 to 1988 he served first as deputy to the UN special representative in Cyprus and later for four years as acting special representative.

    Holger's latest appointment followed the resignation for family reasons of Dame Ann Hercus of New Zealand.

    Annan's original choice to replace her was former Norwegian deputy Foreign Minister Jan Egeland, who helped broker the 1993 Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

    But the Turkish Cypriots declined to approve him, partly because they resent Norwegian restrictions on the import of potatoes from the occupied area.

    [02] Urgent new taxes approved (and more on the way)

    By Athena Karsera

    THE HOUSE of Representatives last night approved three "urgent" government proposals on higher taxes on fuel, four-wheel-drive vehicles, and alcohol.

    Further revenue-raising measures planned by the government include a two per cent increase in VAT, higher road tax, and a bill to tax stock market earnings.

    Finance Minister Takis Klerides had asked that the three measures from the 78 million budget for 2000 be discussed by the Finance Committee and voted on by the plenum immediately in order to avoid profiteering.

    The new law means a 2 cents per litre rise in the cost of both petrol and diesel but, in a nod to environmental awareness, it does not apply to unleaded fuel.

    Because of this increase, the government is also set to up its electricity subsidy by approximately 2 million to help keep bills low.

    Klerides said the government would also give approximately 3 million to farmers as additional relief since the fuel increase affects agriculture by about 2.4 million.

    Twenty-five deputies, including House President Spyros Kyprianou, voted in favour of the legislation, while 22 voted against.

    Also in favour were governing party Disy MPs and most Diko mebers and the United Democrats. Akel and Edek voted against.

    The proposal to raise import duty for off-road vehicles by 20 per cent to a total of 60 per cent was passed with 37 votes in favour. Three deputies abstained and none voted against.

    Car dealers demonstrated against this measure before the plenum session because the new law also applies to second hand vehicles. Their main concern was that an increase would also be introduced later for saloon cars.

    What Klerides called "a small percentage increase" in the tax on alcohol was passed with 40 votes in favour and three abstentions. None voted against.

    The tax rise of 50 cents per litre of pure alcohol, which Klerides said amounts to approximately 13 cents per bottle, will be accompanied by an as yet unspecified reduction in import tax. The minister said that these changes in alcohol duty were taking place to bring Cyprus in line with the EU.

    Before tabling the three proposals yesterday, Klerides discussed them with all parties in the House.

    He emphasised that approximately 17 million would be raised if the three proposals were passed. This figure represents annual revenue of approximately 1.6 per cent of Cyprus' gross domestic product (GDP).

    Klerides maintained that it was crucial that the measures be approved in view of the massive 640 million public deficit which he called "one of the main problems in the Cyprus economy". He said it had to be reduced before it endangered the stability of the country's finances.

    The public deficit is currently approximately 5.6 per cent of the GDP and is expected to remain unchanged for 2000.

    The rest of the 2000 budget, which Klerides also presented to the House yesterday, will be discussed by the plenum later. Further measures include an increase in VAT from eight to 10 per cent. The minister said low-income groups would be subsidised through 15.5 million in government support for housing, welfare groups, large families and charities.

    It will also be proposed that the amount of annual untaxed income be raised from 5,000 to 6,000.

    Klerides said there would also be an increase in road tax and that a bill to tax stock market earnings would be tabled shortly.

    [03] Passenger with chest pains airlifted from ship

    AN ELDERLY German woman was airlifted to safety yesterday after falling ill on a cruise ship off Limassol.

    The Cyprus police helicopter was scrambled, but the actual rescue was made by a British Wessex from RAF Akrotiri when the Cypriot aircraft experienced winch problems at the scene.

    Police told the Cyprus Mail that an emergency message was sent out by the Panama-flagged Vistamar when Ruth Prause, 68, began experiencing chest pains at approximately 11am.

    The police search and rescue helicopter was immediately dispatched to the cruise ship, which was between Paphos and Limassol, but the winch problem meant Prause could not be lifted off.

    The RAF was asked to help, and their helicopter arrived on the scene 15 minutes later.

    Bases spokesman Rob Need told the Cyprus Mail last night that Prause was then flown to Limassol general hospital.

    Police said last night that Prause was in a serious condition in the hospital's intensive care unit.

    The Vistamar had been en route from Turkey to Syria when the rescue took place.

    [04] Moses leaves empty-handed

    By Jean Christou

    U.S. ENVOY Alfred Moses left Cyprus empty-handed yesterday and has no plans to return unless the two sides indicate his presence might be useful.

    Speaking before his departure from Larnaca airport, Moses said he had spent two days discussing methods for a resumption of direct talks between the two sides.

    "We've been discussing the modalities -- an expression of commitment to try and find a solution through negotiations," he said. "We havn't closed the difference there but there has been some encouragement along the way; there have been some moments of disappointment, but we are going to continue our efforts."

    He said both sides had indicated their wish for the efforts to continue and had repeated their commitment to try and find a solution.

    Moses said the US continued to support UN Security Council resolutions and looked forward to starting talks in accordance with those resolutions.

    "This is an on-going process, it's not a one-day or two-day undertaking. It is certainly not a battle of words," he said.

    "We've encouraged both sides to reduce the rhetoric and concentrate on efforts to find a solution."

    Asked by reporters if he intended to return to Cyprus, Moses said the two sides "must first indicate that our presence would be useful".

    "If it would and we think that we can contribute to finding a solution, I'll return," he said.

    The US envoy, who arrived on the island on Monday night, was here to assess the climate for the resumption of direct talks before US Secretary-general Kofi Annan makes a decision on whether to issue invitations to the two leaders.

    Following a day of frantic shuttling across the Green Line on Wednesday, the government branded Moses's visit a failure.

    Moses had three meetings with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and two with President Clerides in less than 24 hours.

    But Denktash repeated his stance that, for talks to resume, his breakaway regime in the north must be recognised. He also wants the issue of a confederation on the negotiating table.

    The Greek Cypriot side rejects both conditions.

    Yesterday, government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said the Greek Cypriot side had repeated to Moses that it was ready to go to talks.

    He said that Moses, despite the many meetings he had with the two leaders, had not relayed anything from one to the other.

    Commenting on the US envoy's reference to 'both sides' although only the Turkish side is refusing to return to the talks, Papapetrou said: "It is understood to be a reference to both sides for tactical reasons and for reasons of maintaining capabilities. This is not the time when one would expect blame to be apportioned to one side or the other."

    The Greek Cypriot side wants the UN Secretary-general to issue the invitations to talks before blame is officially apportioned for any refusal to attend.

    "I do not know what Mr Moses has in mind when he speaks of encouraging signs," Papapetrou said.

    "The Greek Cypriot side would be particularly pleased if indeed this were true and if conditions are soon created for substantial talks for a Cyprus solution."

    British High Commissioner Edward Clay said yesterday his country remained committed to efforts for the resumption f talks.

    "The initiative goes on and we remain committed to it," he said after a meeting with President Clerides. "I know from Mr Moses that (efforts to resume talks) will (continue). He remains engaged and we remain determined to pursue this task we set ourselves."

    [05] When will it come to an end?

    By Hamza Hendawi

    THE ALL-SHARE index of the Cyprus Stock Exchange smashed through the 600-point barrier yesterday to record a new all-time high, leaving everyone pondering anew the burning question of when, if ever, the market's dream-like bull run will come to an end.

    Since January, the index has broken through the barriers of 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 to record gains on the year that stood at an incredible 566.61 per cent after yesterday's close. It finished yesterday at 604.15, up 7.55 points, or 1.27 per cent, on a volume of 23.82 million.

    "This uptrend will continue until something happens to stop it," said Stavros Agrotis, a senior trader with CISCO, the Bank of Cyprus' investment banking and brokerage arm. "New people are coming in to invest after seeing that the market is going up, while others are coming back to buy different papers."

    The latest flurry of assaults on the market's record books began on October 8 and has since pushed the index up by 22.23 per cent. Gains since the market reopened on October 4 after a month-long closure stand at nearly 40 per cent. Of the 14 sessions since October 4, the market closed lower only twice.

    Significantly, the market is continuing its upward movement in the face of a series of improvisations by the exchange to rein in volume while brokerages and public companies grapple with a nagging backlog of unprocessed transactions and dud share deeds.

    But traders say one factor that is currently contributing to the present uptrend is a 2,000-transaction per session limit slapped by the exchange last Friday in a bid to reduce volume. The temporary measure, however, has been reduced to an irrelevance. The ceiling has been breached in the past three sessions during pre-opening trade, a five-minute window that immediately precedes the opening of the session and during which orders entered by brokers are automatically matched by the computer.

    "The system matches them in a matter of seconds," said an exchange official.

    In yesterday's session, for example, traders entered a total of 7,299 orders, of which 4,098 matched. On Wednesday, 7,849 orders were registered, of which 3,932 were successful, while on Tuesday the maximum limit was breached by only 278 transactions. Only last Friday did the session end on the 2,000-transaction mark. There was no trade on Monday due to a technical problem meant.

    The present arrangement has virtually excluded day-trading, an important feature of the market that ensures liquidity and reality checks on prices. It also means that investors wanting to sell and buy must give their orders well in advance to their brokers and that they are unable to adjust their proposed prices in pursuit of a deal.

    This, explains traders, mean that buyers, for example, hike the price at which they are happy to do business in order to ensure that they get what they want. Similarly, sellers provide a lower price to ensure that they offload their titles.

    "This does drive up prices, but that is not the sole reason why prices are going up these days," said one trader. "The banks, especially the Bank of Cyprus, are pulling the market up."

    The Bank of Cyprus, which posted a staggering 50 per cent increase in the first half of 1999 over the same period in 1998, has risen by nearly 3 since the market reopened nearly three weeks ago. Yesterday, it closed slightly up at 12.45 on a volume of 4.3 million. The Popular Bank, another pillar of the Cyprus bourse, closed unchanged at 12.99, while Hellenic Bank notched up 17 cents to close at 5.69.

    [06] Hasikos quells doubts about missiles

    By Martin Hellicar

    DEFENCE Minister Socratis Hasikos appears to have succeeded in quelling the House Defence Committee's doubts about the whereabouts of the TOR-M1 missiles.

    The government says the missiles have been given to Cyprus by Greece in exchange for their bigger cousins, the S-300s, being redirected to Crete. But reports suggested the TOR-M1s had gone straight back to Greece after being unveiled as the National Guard's latest acquisition during the October 1 military parade.

    Despite Hasikos's assurances to the contrary, the committee feared there might be some truth in the reports and asked for a private viewing of the short-range anti-aircraft missiles in their depots.

    Diko deputy and committee member Marios Matsakis even offered to be blind-folded and taken to the missile depot. He could thus be persuaded the Russian-made missiles were on the island without compromising the secrecy of their location, Matsakis argued.

    Relations between the committee and Hasikos reached breaking point after the minister threw out the committee's request, saying the TOR-M1s were not a "tourist attraction."

    Committee member Doros Christodoulides, of Akel, described the minister's attitude as "highly provocative." Committee chairman Takis Hadjidemetriou, of Edek, insisted no minister had the right to stonewall his committee in this manner.

    In an effort to heal the rift, Hasikos agreed to brief the committee on the matter -- behind closed doors -- yesterday.

    If statements the minister and Hadjidemetriou made after the committee session are anything to go by, then doubts have been quelled and everything is sweetness and light between committee and minister.

    "The minister gave us explanations concerning the TOR-M1 missiles. He presented a series of arguments of very substantial character," Hadjidemetriou stated.

    "I can assure you that the majority of the committee have been convinced by the minister's explanations on the presence and security of the missiles," Hadjidemetriou told reporters.

    With Hasikos standing next to him, the committee chairman said good relations between the minister and the committee had been restored. He spoke of a relationship based on "trust."

    Hasikos echoed what Hadjidemetriou had said.

    "I want to assure the people of Cyprus that relations between the defence committee, the Defence Ministry and the Minister of Defence in particular remain steady, we all want co-operation," he said.

    But the minister's verbal assurances were not enough to satisfy everyone yesterday. Matsakis repeated his misgivings about the location of the TOR-M1s, saying he still wanted to see the missiles before he would be convinced their October 1 appearance was more than a fleeting visit for propaganda purposes.

    [07] Deputies convinced Britain spied on Nikiforos

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE BRITISH did indeed spy on this month's Nikiforos military exercise, House Defence Committee chairman Takis Hadjidemetriou stated yesterday, lending weight to relevant reports.

    The British bases and Britain's High Commissioner in Nicosia, Edward Clay, have flatly denied reports that U-2 spy planes and installations at the Ayios Nicolaos relay station were being used to spy on the National Guard.

    The reports, carried first by state television channel CyBC, suggested the British espionage activities had peaked during the National Guard's Nikiforos exercise from October 2 to 7.

    The CyBC stated British Greek-speaking experts had been flown over to the bases to monitor Nikiforos, which was given widespread coverage on local radio and television.

    The House Defence Committee was moved to set aside time to discuss the issue during its session yesterday. The behind-closed-doors committee meeting was attended by Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos.

    Afterwards, Hadjidemetriou said the committee's verdict was that Britain was indeed guilty of spying on the National Guard war games.

    He said deputies had had their worst fears confirmed. Hadjidemetriou characterised the alleged British spying as a "non-friendly action."

    If Britain had wanted access to non-classified information then all she need have done was ask and the government would have been happy to oblige, the committee chairman stated.

    Bases spokesman Rob Need said the spying claims were not based on fact and said he was surprised by Hadjidemetriou's statements.

    "I express my surprise and say that we have not been confronted or presented with any (relevant) evidence," Need told the Cyprus Mail.

    The spokesman commented on the reports of Greek-speaking experts being flown in to the bases. "I can confirm we have more Greek speakers now, I myself am learning to speak Greek. We see this as a courtesy to the majority language on the island of Cyprus being Greek," he said.

    Need has previously stated that U-2s are stationed at Akrotiri base solely in order to monitor Middle East agreements.

    The Defence Minister has implied that British U-2s have been spying on Cyprus for years. Hasikos has added that the national Guard was taking "all necessary measures" to counter this.

    [08] Carl Lewis star attraction for Radiomarathon this year

    By Athena Karsera

    RADIOMARATHON this year celebrates a decade of love and social contribution, with its 10th annual fundraiser boasting the participation of US track star Carl Lewis, the organisers announced yesterday.

    Events during this year's November 1 and 2 Radiomarathon include a 'Love Cruise' to Alexandria, an event at the Presidential Palace and an athletic open-day at Nicosia's Eleftheria stadium.

    At a news conference announcing details of this year's fundraiser, the organisers said top world athletes would be taking part in the athletics event, including American legend Carl Lewis, who hauled in four gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, winning the 100m, 200m, 4x100m and long jump.

    Representatives from the Popular Bank and the CyBC, which sponsor the event, yesterday said the annual fixture had already contributed a lot to assisting children with special needs and that this year's goal was to raise more money than ever before.

    Rodoulla Hadjikyriakou, the chairman of the Popular Bank's Radiomarathon committee, said 7.5 million pounds had been raised over the last nine years.

    "The will to contribute has taken on international dimensions, as Greeks and Cypriots all over the world have embraced the fundraiser," she said.

    Hadjikyriakou added that contributions from the UK and Australia had been especially generous, while efforts in the USA, Canada and South Africa had also proved successful.

    The acting-president of the CyBC, Michalis Stylianou, opened the fundraiser with a personal donation of 100. "We hope to surpass all the previous years' totals. Every donation is important," he said.

    CyBC3 radio head Elli Korai, meanwhile, said that an important part of the fund-raiser's success was the co-operation of other radio and television channels.

    She said that seven television and 15 radio stations in Cyprus covered the event, along with five overseas channels.

    The organisers said 34 kiosks would be operating across the island to raise funds, while eight vehicles would be used by volunteers to collect contributions from more remote areas.

    Last year's Radiomarathon raised more than 1 million for children with special needs and their families.

    [09] Overcrowding to force Clerides to pardon prisoners

    PRISON overcrowding and delays in building new detention facilities will force President Glafcos Clerides to consider releasing "around 70" convicts today, Attorney-general Alecos Markides said yesterday.

    "There will be a submission to the President of the Republic to that effect," today, Markides told the Cyprus Mail. "I think he will (release the 70 inmates)," he said, "because there is no alternative. The prison population is now about 340, whereas the capacity is for 220."

    "It is the fifth time this year we have had to intervene by necessity and free people en masse," Markides noted, because "once again we have (an inmate population of) 100-per cent-plus." Markides said Cyprus did not need a new prison. "It's a matter of some new places of detention within the existing prison for holding an additional 50 to 60 people, something like that, where we may separate convicts with long sentences from others," he said.

    "The fact remains that the building of new places of detention within the prison precinct is delayed beyond imagination. The Public Works Department is very very slow in completing a simple job," he said.

    Markides said he did not know if those who may be released would include Pauline O'Neill, the animal-loving Limassol Irishwoman who was jailed last week for two concurrent three-month terms for overstaying her visa and working illegally in Cyprus.

    Associates of O'Neill's this week told the Cyprus Mail they had bought a plane ticket back to Belfast for her, and were only awaiting her pardon or early release from prison to send her back.

    "I don't know about that," Markides said. "What I know is her case has nothing to do with her care of animals. The fact remains, she was in Cyprus three years illegally."

    "I do not think that I am entitled to intervene so soon after the judgment of the court. But I don't know whether she is included in those who will be released soon because of prison overpopulation," he added.


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