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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-11-26
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From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
 ‘Cyprus problem and EU bid are related’By Athena Karsera
ANY decision taken at Helsinki should promote progress on the Cyprus problem and bring the island closer to the European Union, the Greek Foreign Minister said yesterday.
Speaking after a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart yesterday during an official visit to the island, George Papandreou said that Cyprus could not help but benefit from the summit.
"Everyone's efforts are on the Cyprus problem and Cyprus' EU accession, which for me are not two separate things," Papandreou said adding that those who saw the issues as separate underestimated the importance of Cyprus' accession.
"Cyprus accession is the first and most important new development we've had in the last 25 years," he said to the assembled Greek and Turkish Cypriot journalists.
To the 16 Turkish Cypriots who had travelled to the free areas especially to hear Papandreou's comments, he said "I cannot call you compatriots, but I can wish you are soon EU members with your compatriots, the Greek Cypriots."
Papandreou said the path to accession could not help but promote a viable solution to the Cyprus problem and said his government expected willingness from Turkey. "Turkey's desire to become part of Europe should be shown in practice," he said.
He said that the Cyprus problem was not just a Greco-Turkish problem, adding that the two countries could have true rapprochement only if the issue was addressed and resolved.
Calling on the Turkish Cypriots not to miss out on an opportunity to become part of the European Union, Papandreou reminded them that they would then be eligible to financial aid, be represented in EU institutions and become the Union's link with Turkey and the Islamic world.
Earlier, speaking on his arrival in Cyprus yesterday --, his first visit in the capacity of Foreign Minister -- Papandreou said that regardless of whether Greece vetoed Turkey's status as a candidate country during the upcoming Helsinki EU summit, his country would always be ready to support Cyprus.
"Either with a yes or with a no in Helsinki, and our position is not decided on as yet, our stance is that our battle will be at Cyprus' side," he said.
He stressed that Greece had not decided on its response. "I have come to Cyprus precisely because there are two important developments looming, the bi-communal talks and the EU summit in Helsinki."
"I am also here to ask for everyone's help in the difficult negotiations we have before us. A negotiation, a battle important for the interests of Hellenism, in Helsinki."
On his part, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said that Papandreou was visiting the island so that opinions could be exchanged further on the issues decided on during President Glafcos Clerides' recent meeting with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
He said there was little chance that Cypriot and Greek relations would become strained before the summit. I would like to state that there can be no gulf between the opinions of Athens and Nicosia. We are in the same boat and we will continue to sail in the same boat for the good of our national goals. We may exchange concerns and opinions but in the end we are on the same path."
The summit may see Turkey being accepted as a candidate country for EU accession. The country's main obstacle to candidacy is a possible veto by EU member Greece.
Proximity talks between Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash are expected to begin on December 3 in New York under the auspices of the UN.
Papandreou will today be received by Clerides and meet with party leaders. He will leave Cyprus this evening.
 Bomb scare prompts stock exchange evacuationBy Jean Christou
A BOMB scare at the Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE) yesterday put a stop to proceedings only ten minutes into trading.
The market suffered another blow in the afternoon when the CSE announced that 22 of the bourse's 53 listed firms would not be trading from Monday due to a series of suspensions and voluntary withdrawals.
The news is unlikely to please investors, who enjoyed only 10 minutes of trading yesterday on an already diminished market.
The bourse's six-story building on Nicosia's Griva Dhigenis Avenue was evacuated at around 10.40am after an anonymous telephone caller said a bomb would go off at 11am.
Although the CSE believed the call was a hoax, trading was suspended, much to the disappointment of investors who milled around outside the cordoned-off building.
CSE director Nontas Metaxas expressed the hope it was just "a bad joke" and thanked police for their quick response.
Officers assisted by sniffer dogs searched the building but nothing was found.
Koulla Theophanous, the employee who took the call, said it was made by a man who spoke good Greek. She said he asked to speak to someone in authority.
"I asked him what it was in connection with and who he wanted to speak to, and he said to me that in 20 minutes the building would blow up, and then he hung up," she said.
Outside, some traders complained of the lack of security at the CSE, which uses a private firm on the trading floor but not elsewhere. Others speculated over who might have been responsible for the threat, suggesting aggrieved investors or someone who wanted trading halted for some dubious reason.
Referring to this speculation, Metaxas said there had been nothing special about yesterday's dealings, but added the incident was regrettable at a time when there was already such a backlog in transactions. "This has taken us a step backwards," he said.
Yesterday afternoon's announcement of further suspensions only added to the problem.
Fourteen listed companies, almost one third of the total, were already on suspension or withdrawal in order to settle their backlogs by November 29.
Six of these companies, including Bank of Cyprus and Popular Bank, are expected to return to trade on Monday, but others have been added to the list of suspensions and voluntary withdrawals, bringing the new total to 21.
Newly-suspended firms who will join the eight others who failed to meet the deadline, and who will not be allowed to trade until their backlogs are cleared, include investment companies Athena and Apollo, Cyprus Airways, Libra Holidays and Salamis Tours. Three firms, Claridge Investments, Amathus Navigation and Leda Investments, have asked for a voluntary suspension, while Louis Cruise Lines has asked for a two-week suspension ahead of a five for two share split.
In recent months, investors have seen three shutdowns by the bourse and the suspension of brokerages and listed companies over backlogs in issuing title deeds.
Investors also face a one per cent levy on the sale of shares, which was approved by the Council of Ministers on Wednesday and tabled to the House of Representatives yesterday. The move will earn the government £50-55 million in revenue a year on daily trading volumes of £20 million.
In yesterday's ten-minute trading, the all-share index rose 0.16 per cent, closing at 797.59 points on a volume of £9.23 million. All sub-sectors rose, except for insurance, which dropped 1.29 per cent.
Brokers said that, judging by the first few minutes, trading had looked set to reach the same levels as Wednesday, when volume reached £21.5 million. "It was set to be a quiet day," one said. "So I don't believe the bomb scare was a plot to stop the course of any particular share".
 Foundry owners bring emission levels downBy Anthony O. Miller
THE THREAT of closing the Marios & Eleni foundry in Ergates, source of heavy-metal and other toxic pollution, forced its owners to do in 24 hours what months of Parliamentary and public protests have failed to achieve: repair the foundry to bring its emission levels within the limits allowed by Cyprus law.
On Wednesday, Markides filed criminal charges against the Ergates foundry for allegedly violating its permit's terms by emitting smoke with a heavy-metal particle level above the allowed limit.
Also on Wednesday, Markides pledged to seek a court order halting all foundry operations producing heavy-metal particle smoke levels higher than the 300 milligrams of particulate per cubic metre of air allowed.
This limit is six times the 50mg per cubic metre allowed by European Union law. Before the House Environment Committee got Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas to press the foundry, its smoke contained 1,000mg of metal toxins per cubic metre of air -- 20 times the EU-accepted level.
"The criminal case goes on because the illegality was already committed," Markides said yesterday. That illegality concerned "pollution of the atmosphere... (by) emitting fumes in far greater quantities than those permitted."
By making the sudden repairs that lowered its particulate level, the foundry "has complied with the law, and that clearly is an obstacle to an injunction," Markides said. "But the (criminal) offence has not been compromised. It is still an offence," he added.
The Labour Ministry had a duty to conduct last-minute tests at the foundry, he said, since "they would have gone and sworn an affidavit before the court... to allege that unless an injunction was issued," the foundry would keep breaking the law.
"Therefore it was their duty up to the last minute to check whether he was still breaking the law. Otherwise how could they have sworn an affidavit today," Markides explained. "It would have been ridiculous (to have acted) otherwise," he added.
As Markides' press release concerning the injunction was issued, some 100 Ergates village children massed outside the House of Representatives to dramatise their plea for the government to halt the emission of toxic lead, cadmium and dioxin in the foundry's smoke.
The Marios & Eleni foundry in Ergates has for months been a cause célèbre in environmental circles, the House Environment Committee and the media.
In all that time, the foundry never made a single attempt to clean up its heavy-metal emissions; only Markides' threat of an injunction -- which would have shut down profit-making operations -- appeared to move it to this action.
Edek deputy Demetris Eliades, chairman of the House Environment Committee, and new Health Minister Frixos Savvides have both accepted the results of an epidemiological study by Dr Michalis Voniatis linking Ergates foundry smoke with shockingly high levels of many types of cancer and lung diseases in the village.
Voniatis' study shows 33 per cent of Ergates children suffer from chronic breathing problems linked to the foundry smoke. Voniatis also blamed the foundry's smoke for a rate of brain, kidney and pancreas cancer in Ergates nearly three times the national average; a lung cancer rate 50 per cent above the Cyprus average; and a leukaemia rate twice the national average.
By contrast, Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas, whose ministry has jurisdiction over industrial pollution and its environmental effects, dismissed Voniatis' study outright.
 The Irish tourist, the taxi driver and the cabaretsBy Jean Christou
POLICE are investigating how an Irish tourist was charged £4,000 for a night on the town in Limassol and allegedly had his life threatened when he refused to pay up.
Irish consul Stephanos Stephanou said yesterday the tourist had lodged an official complaint with the Irish Foreign Ministry, who have asked for an investigation.
Tourist Daniel McGovern from County Cavan in Ireland went out for an evening in Limassol on the night of October 24-25, allegedly falling into the clutches of an unscrupulous taxi driver who gave him an expensive tour of Limassol's nightlife including a £200 fare at the end of the night.
"It appears the taxi driver brought him to these clubs where he was ripped off," Stephanou said.
"It's impossible and disgusting for anyone to ask for such a sum of money from a customer."
The taxi driver, whose name is known to the authorities, took McGovern to a cabaret where he was presented with a bill of £1,700, which he paid by credit card. A second club that the taxi driver allegedly took him to charged him £1,100, which he paid on a second credit card. Both cards have already been billed.
Stephanou said that when it came to a third club, McGovern refused to pay.
"When he refused, they took him to a room and threatened his life," he said. "He was scared, so he paid and then he was free to go." He did not receive an itemised bill from the clubs but he did manage to hang on to any receipts he was given.
Stephanou said that the next day, McGovern went to file a complaint with local police, who allegedly refused to take a statement from him. "He was sent to CID in Limassol and was told it would be investigated," Stephanou said.
Having returned to Ireland and hearing nothing from Limassol police, McGovern lodged an official complaint with the Foreign Ministry in Dublin, which has asked Nicosia to look into the case.
Contacted by the Cyprus Mail in Ireland yesterday, McGovern said he would rather not comment on the incident.
 Wounded men shot back, police tell courtTHREE Limassol men wounded in a suspected gangland shootout on Tuesday were yesterday remanded in custody for four days on suspicion of illegal possession of ammunition.
Police yesterday told the court that they now believed that Makis Ioannou, and brothers Stelios and Christos Christou, alias Ninjakia (the Ninja brothers), had exchanged fire with their assailants at a remote area near Kivides in the Limassol district.
Police told Limassol court that they had secured a verbal statement that the three had in fact returned fire with an automatic weapon, which they later hid somewhere in the area.
Police investigators said the statement was supported by the discovery in the trio's car of a shell and a bullet from an automatic weapon.
Police yesterday had searched the suspects' houses, and scanned the Kivides area where the shooting occurred in search of the weapon.
The three suspects refused to make any statements to the court, insisting they had gone to the remote area for a ride, and had never returned fire, as they had no gun.
Police are understood to have questioned 15 people in connection with the attack so far, but have made little progress in identifying the assailants.
Police believe the shooting incident is part of an ongoing turf war between underworld gangs struggling for control of the lucrative cabaret and drug circuit.
 Cyprus and Israel plan defence dealCYPRUS and Israel are involved in a "mutual effort" to set up a military cooperation deal, Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos revealed yesterday.
Such negotiations between Nicosia and Tel Aviv have been rumoured for a while and the National Guard recently purchased patrol boats from Israel. But this is the first official confirmation that any form of military agreement between the two countries is in the offing.
Hasikos said the fact that Turkey already had a military pact with Israel did not preclude Cyprus from seeking military cooperation with the Jewish state.
"In the context of wider cooperation with other countries, and especially neighbouring ones, why should not Cyprus go ahead with such defensive and political agreements with Israel?" the minister commented.
Speaking after a closed session of the House defence committee, Hasikos said there was, as yet, nothing specific to announce. "There is nothing for signing at the moment," the minister said.
He said a delegation of Israeli representatives was expected on the island soon for further discussions on the issue.
Hasikos declined to comment on whether Greece might be party to any military cooperation deal with Israel.
Cyprus and Greece signed a joint defence dogma pact in 1993.
 Deputies call on pharmaceuticals chief to resignTHE HOUSE Watchdog committee yesterday called for the immediate resignation of the director of the Pharmaceutical Services, Eftichios Kkolos.
The committee was discussing Auditor-general Stella Yiorkadji's unflattering references to the Health Ministry's drug supply section in her latest report. Debate inevitably turned to the recent scandals of the disappearance of Erythropoetine kidney drugs from state stores and the purchase of overpriced medicines by the state. Both cases are under investigation.
Outraged deputies pointed the finger at Kkolos as responsible for the apparently chaotic state of affairs at the Pharmaceutical Services.
"If I were in your shoes, Mr Kkolos, I would call the Health Minister tonight and resign," committee chairman Christos Pourgourides told Kkolos during yesterday's highly charged session.
The director of the Health Ministry, Achilleas Padjinakos, did not do Kkolos any favours. He told deputies of the existence of "difficult obstacles" within the ministry.
In her 1998 report, Yiorkadji notes that the Pharmaceutical Services are failing to meet the drug demands of hospitals and other medical centres. She adds that medicines are often bought shortly before they expire while the service's stores are stacked with unsuitable and expired drugs.
 Left-wing unions reject CoLA plansUNIONS and the government are set on a collision course over the cost of living allowance (CoLA).
Left-wing unions yesterday rejected outright a government proposal for changes in the way that CoLA is calculated.
The government is proposing that increases in indirect taxation not be included when computing CoLA.
Finance Minister Takis Klerides -- who is trying to push VAT increases through the House -- has described the proposed new system as fair.
But in a joint statement yesterday, unions Peo, Deok, Oelmek, Etyk and Poas described this proposal as an effort to "scrap" CoLA.
"We are totally opposed to this thinking, because CoLA does not raise employees' wages. What CoLA achieves is the maintenance of the buying power of wages. Therefore, the non-inclusion of any increases in the prices of products undermines the buying power of wages," the unions stated.
The unions already have the full backing of main opposition party Akel, setting the stage for a showdown with the government over CoLA.
 Millennium baby seats on offer in accident prevention bidIT'S A bit late to try now, but if you have one of the first 100 babies to be born in Cyprus in the new millennium, you can claim a free car baby seat from the police.
Starting next week, police are launching a fresh road safety campaign. The week-long crusade will focus on safe transport of infants in cars.
Police are keen to avoid repeats of last month's tragic accident in Paphos, when a two-year-old boy died after falling out of the back door of his parents' moving car.
As part of the safety campaign, the Popular Bank has bought 100 state-of-the-art car baby seats to be offered to the parents of the first hundred babies born after December 31.
The crusade will also include television and radio advertising and lectures and seminars on road safety.
Cyprus has one of the highest road death rates in Europe.
 Morning tremor shakes LimassolA MINOR earth tremor, measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale, was felt in Limassol and other areas at 7.18 yesterday morning.
The government Seismological centre stated the tremor was an aftershock from the 5.8 Richter earthquake that rocked Limassol on August 11 this year.
The epicentre of yesterday's brief tremor was at Yerasa, outside Limassol -- the same as for the August quake.
No damages or injuries were reported from yesterday's tremor.
It was felt mostly in high buildings in Limassol, but also in other areas, including Nicosia.
The August earthquake caused extensive damage to buildings, though serious injuries were avoided.
In the wake of the summer quake, and two major earthquake disasters in Greece and Turkey, the government announced a major building restoration plan.
Quake-proofing work is to focus on ageing refugee estates in Limassol, Larnaca and Nicosia. The government has vowed to spend £50 million over the next five years.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999
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