A senior Turkish minister said Ankara should refuse any offer of EU candidacy if entry talks were linked to "irrelevant" issues, such as Cyprus.
In Athens, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said Greece was still undecided on whether to endorse Turkey's candidacy, while in Nicosia the government spokesman said Ankara had to do more on Cyprus for Greece to lift its EU veto.
The comments came before the December 10-11 summit of European Union leaders that may declare Turkey a candidate, and just days before President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash head to New York for proximity talks.
A Greek endorsement of Turkey's European aspirations in Helsinki could help heal wounds opened by a rejection two years ago, though many sceptics already speak of a second class candidacy with little clear prospect of accession talks and onerous conditions.
"Turkey cannot accept candidate status... if as a condition the start of entry talks is linked to irrelevant political subjects such as Cyprus," Sukru Sina Gurel, minister in charge of ties with Cyprus, told Reuters in Ankara.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said earlier in the day that Athens had not decided whether it would back Turkish EU candidacy at the Helsinki summit.
"Our position whether we will say yes or no is still under consideration," Papandreou told a news conference in Athens. "There is ongoing tough negotiation and it will all depend on the EU's final position on Turkey's candidacy."
In Nicosia, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said Turkey had to do more for Greece to accept its candidacy.
"We have made it clear, here in Cyprus and in Greece, that the start of talks is not regarded as substantive development to justify giving Turkey candidate status," Papapetrou said.
Greece is under pressure from Washington and its EU partners to give the green light so that Turkey formally becomes an EU candidate state, but Athens has said it expects a goodwill gesture on Cyprus.
The European Union excluded Turkey from its eastward expansion in December 1997, citing concerns over its poor human rights performance, disputes with member Greece and its continued occupation of Cyprus. The same summit decided to open accession talks with Cyprus.
Turkey hit back by refusing talks on the contested issues and relations with the EU have since been frosty.
Gurel said yesterday he believed the bloc had "learned a lesson" from two years of impasse and would propose a "special candidacy" for Turkey. However, he remained sceptical that the status would match what the country sought.
"They may offer a special candidacy status setting no schedule for the start of entrance talks but instead conditions. Such a proposal will bring us back to the 1963 agreement," the minister said.
Turkey's long-standing bid to join the European club dates back to the early 1960s. Its first official application for full membership came 24 years later. Relations were boosted by a 1996 customs union deal, but the 1997 rebuff cut deep.
For Gurel, an end to the division of Cyprus would help not only Turkey but also the European Union, which is unsure on whether to accept a divided Cyprus.
Gurel recalled that the Cyprus dispute had defied scores of earlier attempts at resolution. December 3 talks under the auspices of UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan should focus on "realities more than clichés", he said.
"It is ours and the Turkish Cypriots' view that Mr Clerides should accept that he does not represent the northern third of the island and will not do so," said Gurel.
"I do not see any chance of improvement in those talks unless the Greek Cypriot side accepts this fact and the third parties acknowledge."
But Athens put the ball back in Turkey's court, blaming Denktash for the lack of progress: "Mr Denktash is an all-negative factor, and anyone who can influence him should do it now," Government Spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters.
Annan has warned against hopes of a quick fix at the New York talks. "This is a complicated and difficult problem," Annan told reporters after meeting Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit in Ankara on Monday. "I think there should not be unrealistic expectations."
THREE MEN were shot and wounded yesterday in an attack thought to be related to continuing gangland violence.
An unknown number of attackers opened fire on 38-year-old Makis Ioannou and brothers Stelios, 26, and Christos Christou, 28, alias Ninjakia (the Ninja brothers)at around 5.30pm in the Ayios Akindinos area of Kyvides village.
Ioannou was hit in the chest and shoulder but is described as being not in danger, while the Christou brothers escaped with minor injuries. All three men are from Limassol.
Stelios Christou, who returned to the scene later with police, reportedly told them that the three were in the deserted area to train their dogs when they were ambushed. They were shot at while still in their car.
A shotgun and an automatic weapon were reportedly used in the attack, although the mens injuries were caused by shotgun pellets.
Makis Ioannou is the brother of George Ioannou, alias Kotsouthkias, who was murdered in January last year outside a Limassol nightclub.
Ioannou had repeatedly expressed fears that his life was in danger, saying he had received threatening telephone calls.
The Christou brothers fled to Australia in May saying they feared for their lives. They were arrested when they returned to Cyprus on July 1, in connection with an attempt to murder Antonis Loizou, alias Sirinas, and Charalambos Charalambous last December in Kolossi.
The two were also suspected of involvement in an attempt to blow up the house of Evanthis Ioannou in Yerasa on January 24 this year.
Police said last night they had questioned several people in connection with yesterdays murder attempts, and that more are expected to be interviewed.
THREE Cyprus Airways unions yesterday called a 24-hour strike for December 11 in a dispute over a pay rise.
CY's largest union Cynika, which represents cabin crew, Assyseka, the engineers union and Sidikek-Peo all agreed to call a strike involving some 1,500 employees unless the company gives in to their pay demand.
The unions want a 2.5 per cent increase and another two per cent in benefits, said Cynika chairman Costas Demetriou. He told the Cyprus Mail he is optimistic the strike will not go ahead because he believes the company will "see sense and pay up".
He said Cyprus Airways had invested the employees' provident fund and made some £7-8 million in profits. "So there would not be any cost to the company to pay the two per cent in fringe benefits," he said.
He said the union would also agree to spread the proposed 2.5 per cent pay increase over three years. But he warned that they will not take no for an answer because semi-government employees have received such a pay rise going back to 1997, the last instalment of which will be paid to them on January 1.
Demetriou said the company had not put forward any counter proposal, which was why the unions had decided to strike on December 11.
He promised their action would not interfere with the peak Christmas season which runs from December 18 to January 9. "Our plan is not to interrupt Christmas traffic," Demetriou said.
CY spokesman Tassos Angelis called the announcement of the strike action premature and regrettable.
"We are in a dialogue with the unions which has not concluded," he said. "We were discussing the issue of a pay rise which we have not rejected."
Angelis said the pay issue was part of an ongoing discussion with the unions on the future of the company which included productivity and cost-cutting measures.
He added that the despite the announcement of strike action the company would continue its efforts to resolve the dispute. "We believe the issue will be resolved in the coming weeks," he said.
Party leaders yesterday appeared cautious on the prospects for progress at next week's UN-sponsored proximity talks.
The leaders were individually briefed by President Glafcos Clerides yesterday morning following his return to the island after a round of contacts in Istanbul and Athens.
Clerides met UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan in Turkey on the sidelines of the Organisations for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and on Monday he met Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in Athens.
House President and Diko leader Spyros Kyprianou was briefed on Monday night immediately after Clerides return to the island. Kyprianou was admitted to the Nicosia General Hospital on Sunday night with respiratory problems. Clerides visited him there.
Speaking after yesterday's meeting at the Presidential Palace, Akel general secretary Demetris Christofias said neither he nor Clerides were optimistic about the December 3 talks bearing in mind recent statements by the Turkish side.
Christofias said proximity talks had run their course, and that it was time for direct negotiations based on UN resolutions.
"The President is very restrained bearing in mind the statements and positions of the Turkish leadership, despite the position of the American side, which I want to repeat is only concerned with Turkey joining Europe."
"We have had assurances since 1974, we have had multitudes of them from presidents of the US, but actions we have not seen."
Christofias said Clerides had not asked the party leaders to join him in New York, but said he believed it would be useful in case the President came under pressure.
Ruling Disy party leader Nicos Anastassiades said the less said about the talks at this stage, the better for Greece, who will be handling the issue of Turkey's possible candidacy in Helsinki on December 10-11.
"If it appears from the start that Denktash's stance is such that the talks will be called off, then the stance of Europe must change too," he said.
He added, however, that if Turkey gained candidate status at Helsinki, then it would be forced to change its attitude on certain issues, including the Cyprus problem.
Socialist Edek leader Vassos Lyssarides said Greece should set other preconditions for Turkey on Cyprus if it was to lift its veto on Turkey's candidacy.
"It would be naive for someone to believe that progress can be achieved in the Cyprus issue between the start of the proximity talks and the Helsinki summit, unless the unexpected occurs and Turkey publicly reconsiders its positions," he said
United Democrats leader and Cyprus' chief negotiator at the EU George Vassiliou said neither Greece nor other EU member states had yet decided their positions on Turkey's candidacy.
"There has been progress in the direction we want," he said, adding that other countries in Europe had taken it on board to ensure Cyprus' accession and the protection of Greece's rights in the Aegean.
Meanwhile, government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said the Greek Cypriot side expected Denktash to go to the talks "in a fresh spirit".
Papapetrou said Annan would be opening the talks in New York, but would then had over to his special representative Alvaro de Soto. He said representatives of other countries would be on the sidelines to facilitate the work of the UN.
It is hoped the talks, which will begin in New York, will move on to Long Island and from there to direct negotiations in January.
"At this phase of the talks, we expect Denktash to come forward in a new spirit, we anticipate that the Turkish side will already have taken the decision to solve the Cyprus problem in the framework of UN decisions," Papapetrou said.
He admitted that recent statements by Denktash did not leave much room for optimism.
"Denktash has always backed views that were tantamount to confederation. The difference now is that he says what he means whereas in the past he presented confederation in the guise of federation," Papapetrou said.
VIDEOTAPE of cars parked in Latsia fields while their owners watched the Omonia-Ael football game in the new GSP stadium on Saturday could help farmers sue the cars' owners for ruining their newly planted crops, a Latsia municipal official said yesterday.
"We have a videotape full of registration numbers" of the vehicles parked in the fields, Latsia Town Clerk Sotiris Messios told the Cyprus Mail.
"We videotaped the whole thing... while the cars were parked there," he said, adding the tape shows "probably hundreds of registration numbers" of football fans' vehicles.
"The only procedure that I know" now to give justice and restitution to the farmers "is to sue the car owners" with the aid of his license-plate evidence, Messios said.
Civil process is the only option left to the farmers, Messios said, because Strovolos police neglected on Saturday to treat the case as one of criminal trespass.
Police refused to come to see the thousands of cars parked in Latsia fields east of the Nicosia-Limassol highway across from the new stadium when he telephoned them, Messios said.
The fields "were just cultivated a few days ago and seeded with barley," Messios said, but they were "completely destroyed" by the football fans' parked cars and trucks.
Strovolos police even refused to take a complaint of criminal trespass from farmer Nicolas Yiallouros, "when he went (on Monday) to the police department to give a statement, because they said it was a civil case," Messios said.
Besides suing the owners of vehicles parked on the newly tilled fields, "I guess (the farmers can do) nothing but protest to the chief of police to protect them the next weekend when there is another game, because every weekend there is going to be another game at the GSP stadium," Messios said.
Fencing off the Latsia fields was out of the question, he said. "You need thousands and thousands of pounds" to protect the 300-400 acres of land in Latsia, alone, from future trespass, he said. And the area around the GSP is not only in Latsia, he added: "it's in Strovolos, too."
Messios said he did not think the farmers could sue either Strovolos Municipality or the central government for failing to provide adequate parking at the new stadium, or better access roads to it.
"It's very hard to prove something like that in Cyprus," Messios said. "I don't know of any similar case before in Cyprus. It's a civil case. The farmer has to sue the trespassers."
Strovolos Mayor Savvas Eliofotou concurred yesterday with Messios' opinion, declaring Strovolos Municipality was "not at all" liable for the damage to the farmers' fields caused by the fans' parked vehicles.
If anyone is to blame, "it has to do with the Town Planning (Department)," he said, for issuing "permits for a stadium with 20,000 seats and asking for only 3,000 or 4,000 parking spaces." On Saturday, some 16,000 fans packed the place.
"I just completed a meeting with the Town Planning Department, the Public Works Department, the police -- all the people involved in this case," Eliofotou said. "I was trying to find a way to reassess this."
"And they insist the regulations are OK, and they cannot control if 20,000 fans decide to come with 20,000 cars. It is not possible to have parking places for all these persons. So I don't see why we would have any responsibility for the cars parking in the fields," he said.
"There are a number of parameters -- poor planning, lack of money, lack of coordination between the various departments involved" -- that are to blame for the GSP mess, Eliofotou said. "It's not up to us to coordinate things" between these departments in planning a major public works project.
"Serious decisions have to be taken by the Ministries involved... (that) should have been taken when they decided to move from the old GSP to the new one," Eliofotou said. "The roads and the overpasses, all of which make up a proper solution... should have been done before allowing the (new) stadium to open."
"The soonest we can have a reasonable and acceptable solution is two years from now, and (at a cost of) around £2 million. But the decision should be taken very soon by the Ministry of Interior," he said, reiterating his charge that the Interior Ministry was to blame for the poor access road design.
Andreas Panayiotou, Permanent Secretary at the Interior Ministry, brushed aside this charge, noting, "everybody blames the Interior Ministry."
Meanwhile, Eliofotou said, those responsible for the stadium's traffic problems "can take some measures to diminish the problem by (using) the police... (to) make some of the roads one-way ... (and) direct people how to come to the stadium, how to leave."
To reduce the risk of fans being killed crossing the four-lane, high-speed Nicosia-Limassol highway to get to the new stadium from the Latsia side of the road (they crossed it in droves on Saturday), Eliofotou said "police should take some measures."
"There is an underpass joining the stadium parking (area) with the area of the Stelios Ioannou Foundation" on the east side of the four-lane highway. "The police should guide the people to use the underpass" to get to the stadium, he said.
But "definitely the (Strovolos) municipality is not paying" for the extra police needed to do this. "I would guess that because the central government is at fault... (for failing) to complete a proper (road) network, they should undertake all the immediate expenses and measures up to the time we can have a proper access" network.
"Definitely the municipality does not have the millions required to complete the road and overpass network," he said. "We don't have the money, and we don't have the responsibility."
At least, this is the attitude that Finance Ministry statistics sug
According to Ministry figures, the total amount currently owed by private individuals and organisations in Cyprus is 50 per cent higher than GDP.
Cypriots are, collectively, in debt to the tune of some £7.6 billion. The GDP (the total value of goods and services produced and on the island) is just over £5 billion.
The vast bulk of this money - £5.16 billion - has been loaned out by commercial banks and the Central Bank.
Cooperative banks have loaned out £2.16 billion. Some £307 million has been borrowed from government agencies, such as the Housing Loans Organisation and the Development Bank.
Almost half the population (299,417 people) is in debt.
Most of this money is borrowed for business purposes. Educational loans are another popular choice, as are loans to buy a new car.
An increasing amount of this borrowed money is being invested on the local stock market. A total of £8.68 billion is currently locked up in shares.
But private individuals and organisations are not the only ones hooked on the borrowing habit. The state budget for 2000 provides for a deficit of £8.72 billion.
INVESTORS yesterday called on the stock exchange authorities to name all listed companies who fail to comply with next Monday's deadline for settling the issue of share deeds.
Almost a third of the market's listed companies have not traded this week because of suspensions and voluntary withdrawals to give the firms time to settle their share deeds by November 29.
But an announcement by investors yesterday accused certain public companies of deliberately delaying the issue of title deeds for transactions that took place before and after September 3.
On September 3, the Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE) announced it would close for three weeks to allow brokerage firms to catch up on a huge backlog in the issue of title deeds to investors.
Now the listed companies have come under scrutiny over the same issue.
Investors warn that after November 29, they will demand the full publication of the number of outstanding documents by listed companies, "so that investors can know which companies are not reliable enough to complete the issuing of titles and avoid them for future transactions".
They are also demanding that strong measures be taken against offending companies.
Over a dozen listed companies, including the three main banks, were not trading yesterday, in an effort to meet the November 29 deadline. Three brokerages were also suspended from the floor.
There was a significant drop in trading volume, from £37.5 million on Monday, to £21.7 million yesterday, with the all-share index closing 0.98 per cent down to 798.56 on some 4,000 transactions.
All sectors finished down, most significantly tourism, which dropped nearly three per cent, and insurance companies, falling just over two per cent.
Investors also face the prospect of a possible government decision to impose a one per cent levy on share sale transactions.
Finance Minister Takis Klerides said yesterday that the issue would be put before the cabinet today after several weeks of delay. The cabinet has not met for three weeks, due to the absence abroad of President Clerides.
Klerides said, once cabinet approval was secured, the issue would go directly to the House of Representatives.
The House Finance Committee is also currently debating whether profits made by investors should be taxed.
STATE plans to build a desalination plant at Zakaki near Limassol came under attack from all sides yesterday.
The House environment committee unanimously decided to demand that the state commission an independent environmental impact study before pressing ahead with building the plant.
Meanwhile, the leader of main opposition party Akel, Demetris Christofias, threw his weight behind a campaign to block government plans for the Zakaki plant.
The Green party -- staunch opponents of desalination -- yesterday released the findings of a survey suggesting scant public support for state desalination plants.
Zakaki residents vociferously oppose plans for a desalination plant on their doorsteps, but the state insists the unit is vital to relieve water shortages.
The House environment committee debated the issue yesterday and concluded state assurances that the plant would not affect the local environment were shaky. The government decision to press ahead with the plant had been based on a preliminary environmental impact study, which was not scientifically reliable, deputies decided.
Deputies agreed to demand that construction plans be shelved until a fresh study was conducted.
Christofias said he had conveyed his own opposition to the Zakaki plant to President Clerides when he met him yesterday to discuss Cyprus problem developments. The Akel leader said Clerides had promised to bring up the issue afresh at the next cabinet session.
Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous has dug his heels in over the Zakaki plant, saying it will be built despite local objections. Themistocleous says desalination is the panacea for the island's drought problems.
One plant is already operational at Dhekelia and there are plans for another three: at Zakaki, Ayios Theodoros and Larnaca.
But the results of an opinion poll commissioned by the Green party make grim reading for Themistocleous and the government.
The survey, conducted by Intercollege, shows only one in five (21.6 per cent) of the population fully backs state desalination plans.
The poll also suggests that only 35 per cent of the population is satisfied with the government's handling of water reserves.
The greens stated in a press release that the poll showed wide support for a more holistic approach to water reserve management, with emphasis on conservation measures.
Intercollege questioned 670 people between October 20 and 25 for the survey.
This absence of public support for desalination, the environmentalists argued, "explained" why the government was in such a "hurry" to "rush through" desalination plans.
"The Green party calls on the Agriculture Minister to take on board the messages of public opinion and to stop his stubborn promotion of the Zakaki desalination unit," the press release stated.
Environmentalists argue that desalination is energy-hungry and therefore polluting, and that water conservation and a shift to less water-hungry agricultural practices are better long-term solutions to water shortage problems.
After a wet September, rainfall last month was only a fifth of average.
A fire engine taking part in the exercise rammed into four cars, injuring three motorists, while trying to get to the scene of the drill.
The casualties, who were only slightly injured, were taken to Limassol hospital.
The exercise, code-named Hippo crates, took place at 11am at the vacant Astir hotel in the heart of Limassol on Anexartisias Avenue.
The drill was a joint effort between the Health Ministry, the police, fire service, and the civil defence.
The scenario envisaged a car loaded with explosives driving into the ground floor of the hotel and exploding, killing five and injuring 15.
Three hooded men armed with knives approached Panayiotis Kasparis' kiosk on Makarios Avenue at 5.30am. Kasparis' son Marios was alone in the kiosk at the time. Two men held him up at knifepoint, while the third took £100 cash and 24 phone cards worth £100.
The robbers then drove away in a white van, which they abandoned in a side road 200 metres from the scene. The car had been stolen the night before.
Police suspect the perpetrators of being Pontian Greeks.
Yesterday's was the third kiosk robbery in 10 days. Masked robbers attacked two kiosks in very similar circumstances in Limassol on November 14, and Nicosia on November 16.
The trainees are incensed by a government decision to deny them, and military academy students, a subsidy granted to others in tertiary education.
The government says the students are already receiving a monthly stipend -- of between £97 and £117 -- and should therefore not get the subsidy, but the protests seem to have won over the House Education committee.
Committee chairman Sofoclis Hadjiyiannis yesterday described the demonstrators' demands as reasonable.
"I believe it is a justified demand; they cannot be left out on any grounds when the other students, who do receive the subsidy, are in the same boat," he said.
Hadjiyiannis said his committee would table a bill before the plenum revoking the subsidy exemptions.
The nursing and forestry students argue that they only get the monthly stipend because they work while in training.