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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-02-09

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Wednesday, February 9, 2000


  • [01] We'll meet again: New York, May 23
  • [02] Hard drug addictions triple in 1999
  • [03] Savvides speeding up ambulance service reform
  • [04] Turkish Cypriot asylum seekers ‘part of a plot to flood Limassol with gypsies’
  • [05] Market trends suggest flight to quality
  • [06] Armed robber raids BoC branch in Salonica
  • [07] CyTA introduces bus phones, plans cruise phones
  • [08] Work on desalination plant began before permits were secured, officials admit
  • [09] Released snakes ‘are no danger’

  • [01] We'll meet again: New York, May 23

    By Martin Hellicar

    DESPITE little evidence of progress, President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash have agreed to attend a third round of proximity settlement talks in New York, starting on May 23.

    The two sides expressed guarded optimism on the last day of the second round of talks in Geneva yesterday. Both Clerides and Denktash said they were pleased with the way the talks had gone but gave no further details, belatedly respecting a news blackout on statements about the talks that had been imposed by UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan.

    Alvaro de Soto, the UN mediator for the indirect talks, told a news conference the settlement process was "on track" but gave no clues as to whether he had managed to narrow the gap between the two sides.

    The mediator said the recent thaw in Greco-Turkish relations was among "external" factors "which dig ground for hope".

    The Geneva round "did not involve negotiations", De Soto said.

    The two sides went over their positions on the basic aspects of a settlement with De Soto. The UN mediator said he will visit Cyprus next month, before the next round of talks.

    De Soto cautioned against excessive optimism: "It would be naive to expect a comprehensive settlement in the course of the next round of talks. This is likely to take considerable longer."

    Despite the official news blackout, Clerides and Denktash bickered constantly in public during the Geneva talks. But De Soto said the exchange of accusations between the two leaders had not disrupted the talks behind closed doors.

    The Turkish Cypriot leader caused a storm of reaction in the government- controlled areas last week by saying he had tabled a demand for recognition of his breakaway occupation regime during the talks. The reaction grew more heated when the UN Secretary-general did not deny that the Denktash demand was being discussed.

    When he opened the second round of proximity talks on January 31, Annan forecast a settlement within a year, but Denktash, 76, and Clerides, 81, were giving nothing away yesterday.

    Clerides expressed "guarded optimism", but said nothing more.

    "We are pleased with the course of events," was Denktash's comment.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2000

    [02] Hard drug addictions triple in 1999

    THE NUMBER of people seeking help for cocaine and heroin addiction tripled in 1999, indicating the problem was reaching serious proportions, an anti- drug group warned yesterday.

    Bishop Chrysostomos of Kiti, president of the board of the Centre for Drug Information and Treatment of Addicts (Kenthea), yesterday said a significant number of young people had become dependant on two or three daily doses of hard drugs.

    Speaking at a news conference announcing a three-day convention entitled ‘Cyprus Against Drugs’, Chrysostomos said he was concerned about the situation.

    He said all indications showed there was increasing use of hard drugs, that intravenous use had become commonplace and that the number of cocaine and heroin addicts had tripled in 1999.

    "The Open Therapy Society for Dependents, treated 48 people for use of various illegal substances in 1998. Of these, 27 used heroin or cocaine. In 1999, the number of people who asked for help rose to 144, and 86 of these used heroin or cocaine. In one year the number of people using these substances has tripled."

    Youth Organisation president Andreas Taliadoros told the news conference that drugs "are now in our homes" and said one small Nicosia rehabilitation community alone housed 17 heroin addicts under the age of 25.

    "In 1994 the number of people who went to the public sector and voluntary services to ask for help for heroin dependence was zero, in 1995 it was two, in 1999 they passed the 100 mark."

    The seminar, to be held on February 11, 12 and 13, is organised by Kenthea in conjunction with the University of Cyprus and the Youth Organisation.

    It will be held in Greek at the University. More information can be obtained at 02-315768.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2000

    [03] Savvides speeding up ambulance service reform

    By Anthony O. Miller

    HEALTH Minister Frixos Savvides yesterday denied reports from government sources that poor ambulance response to the Troodos minibus crash that killed seven people last month spurred him to speed-up moves to bring a paramedic ambulance service to Cyprus.

    But Savvides confirmed that he was hastening the creation of an independent paramedic ambulance service, and reorganising government hospital emergency rooms throughout the island.

    The Troodos crash of an overloaded bus - licensed for 24 people, but carrying 36 - left seven dead and 26 injured when it hit a concrete barrier at the bottom of "death bend" hill.

    Savvides noted it took "24 minutes after the call" for the first ambulance to arrive from Kyperounda village Hospital. The next ambulances, which had to come from Limassol, took "40 minutes" to get there, he said.

    "Considering it was a Sunday and the traffic was very heavy at that particular time... we didn't do badly," Savvides said. But he admitted: "We could do a lot better."

    Deputy Marios Matsakis, himself a doctor, disagreed. He said the Troodos minibus crash "was a very small mass disaster, and yet the system failed abysmally. And it should be a lesson to us all," he said, ridiculing the ambulance service as "prehistoric."

    Savvides last October promised to open a paramedic training school this September and have its first graduates in urban ambulances by mid-2001, and throughout Cyprus by 2003.

    Yesterday Savvides said he had advanced that timetable so that the first paramedic attendants will be in ambulances "before the end of the year."

    Andreas Kouppis, ambulance services director and long a paramedic advocate, agreed that the emergency response to the Troodos crash had not been a total disaster. But he admitted it was not adequate.

    "This (accident) escaped from us because we were not well organised. You have all these problems if you do not have a well organised ambulance service," he said.

    "If you have a centralised ambulance service... (and) a control room, you know how many ambulances you need, which ambulances you are able to move... and you are able to respond early," he said.

    Kouppis' eight-year, £5 million plan to create an independent paramedic service has been languishing in the Finance Ministry's Planning Bureau for at least five years for lack of official interest in funding it.

    Former Planning Bureau Director Symeon Matsis in 1997 refused to budget funds for the independent paramedic ambulance service that Kouppis - and now Savvides - want, lest it require hiring more civil servants and a erecting a new building for it.

    Most ambulances are now based at urban hospitals. They have no permanent attendants; hospital nurses are dragooned into riding in them when an emergency call comes in. And their drivers' skills count little more than having a driver's license.

    A 1994 World Health Organisation (WHO) study damned the current ambulance system and urged a paramedic one replace it by 1995. A 1996 study by a British paramedic consultant concluded that, two years on, none of the WHO report's recommendations had been implemented.

    "The most important thing" to correct the shortcomings, Savvides said, "is we have to make the ambulance service independent (of state hospitals). It has to stand on its own."

    Finance Minister Takis Klerides yesterday called "wrong" the notion "that the Planning Bureau still has the views of Mr Matsis in 1997" opposed to funding an independent paramedic service.

    He noted he was a new Finance Minister, there was a new Planning Bureau chief "and there is a different Council of Ministers as well - plus the obligation vis-à-vis the European Union and accession" to upgrade the island's emergency responses.

    "Unless I see a complete plan, I'm not saying no, I'm not saying yes," Klerides said, "because I have to see it to approve it." The Council of Ministers would also have to approve it, he added, but did not seem averse to Savvides' long-term plans.

    Kouppis said "the main reason" Cyprus' road-wreck fatality rate was one of Europe's highest per capita "is we do not have a proper paramedic system, and the casualties are not properly treated at the scene or transported" to hospital.

    "If we move to a proper paramedic system, maybe we will save up to 20 per cent of deaths due to road traffic accidents. This is what happened in other countries," he said.

    Matsakis pledged to force the issue in the House of Representatives' Health Committee and Plenum.

    "We know that lives have been lost, and are being lost and will be lost because of the total inadequacy of the ambulance service in Cyprus," Matsakis said.

    "The ministers, themselves, admit we have a definite need to improve the service. They have been talking about it. I have been talking about it. All the ministers of health have been talking about this. And we are still talking about the same issues," Matsakis said.

    "I can't believe (President Glafcos Clerides) is not aware of the dreadful state of the ambulance service in Cyprus," Matsakis said. "I put the blame entirely now on the president of Cyprus himself. It is his responsibility. People are dying, because the president is not taking any action now."

    The former state coroner added: "On Thursday I will raise the issue (in the Health Committee) and say it is of the utmost importance that it comes before the House now."

    While Matsakis acknowledged Savvides' pledges of quick action to improve the ambulance service, he dismissed them as "a lot of hot air. So far we have seen nothing," he said, adding: "I want to see action."

    Wednesday, February 9, 2000

    [04] Turkish Cypriot asylum seekers ‘part of a plot to flood Limassol with gypsies’

    THE UN may be leading talks aimed at re-uniting the island, but, according to right-wing daily Machi, the Turkish side is meanwhile busy hatching a plot to "take over" Limassol and Paphos.

    In its lead story yesterday, Machi gave a sinister interpretation to the recent arrival of a number of people from the north seeking refuge in the government-controlled areas.

    The paper said it had seen a "confidential report in government hands" which detailed a Turkish plan to flood Limassol and Paphos with Turkish "gypsies".

    "A plan for conquering the free areas using asylum seekers, who will progressively flood the Limassol and Paphos districts, is being put into action by the secret services of the pseudostate in co-operation with Ankara," Machi reported.

    Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and Ankara wanted to send large numbers of Turks, "mostly gypsies", over from the occupied areas to create ghettoes in the government-controlled areas, the paper claimed.

    The long-term Turkish plan, the paper claimed, was to scupper Cyprus's EU accession plans.

    Machi explained how this would be done: "At a later stage, and after a number of years have passed, these Turks who will flood the free areas will appeal to European Courts to gain citizens' rights if the Republic does not do so willingly."

    "Later, when Cypriots are called to decide about EU accession in a plebiscite, they (the Turks in the free areas) will receive instructions from Turkey to short-circuit accession."

    The government was concerned about this Turkish plan but was keen not to create panic and was therefore playing down the importance of the arrival of people from the north. Indicative of this, Machi suggested, was Justice Minister Nicos Koshis comments that it was hard to determine whether persons arriving from the north were Turks or Turkish Cypriots.

    Seven people crossed from the occupied areas on Friday, bringing the total number of such refuge-seekers since November to 50.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2000

    [05] Market trends suggest flight to quality

    By Michael Ioannou

    THE CYPRUS stock market was unchanged yesterday after failing to keep a grip on strong gains in early trade, inching less than two basis points higher.

    Setting off with strong gains of two per cent, profits were gradually eroded as profit-taking crept into intraday trades.

    The trend was expected after a 6.3 per cent surge in prices on Monday, brokers said.

    The benchmark CSE index was left with daily gains of 0.18 per cent as it gradually climbed down from a high opening of 655.01 and dipped to a low of 637.25 before closing at 637.80.

    Volumes were again on the high side at £29.2 million. The liquidity level suggested that some institutional investors were active, said traders.

    "Not all of them are on the market, at least not the new ones. We know that Demetra has been buying into banks," said one analyst referring to the Co- Op investment company.

    Trading in recent days was seen as reflecting the start to a flight to quality since not all stocks were heading in the same direction. But traders also said that positive news on the corporate front would help prop up the market in the near term.

    Banks were flat yesterday after Monday's spectacular 8.8 per cent jump. Bank of Cyprus climbed 14 cents to £10.19 in anticipation of its February 17 results.

    But one stock that did raise a few eyebrows was Popular, which was off 32 to £15.40.

    Popular had showed the strongest advance in Monday's trading as investors discounted news of a spin-off of Laiki Investments, its brokerage subsidiary.

    However, news that existing Popular shareholders would be getting two free shares and one warrant in the new venture -- a gesture seen as exceedingly generous by some market players -- had not been known to the broad market since the decision was announced after the bourse closed on Monday.

    When Popular executive chairman Kikis Lazarides was queried at a news conference yesterday about the drop, journalists got the following deadpan answer: "No comment".

    Irrespective of the share's behaviour yesterday, traders said the Laiki Investment results were much better than expected, and bode well for the results of other financial groups.

    Hellenic, which dominated trading on Monday after buying from the Laiki camp, was off 14 cents to £4.27, on a turnover of 435,628 shares.

    "Banks have a dominant role on the market and we are expecting some good results from them... the Popular Bank announcement is excellent and this has changed the psychology of the market," said Yiannos Athienitis of Severis and Athienitis.

    Insurance stocks spearheaded yesterday's rise with a 7.5 per cent jump as Minerva Insurance climbed 35 cents to £5.55 and Liberty Life added 23 to close at £2.91.

    Laiki's Apollo Investment Fund topped volume ranks with 895,700 shares changing hands and closing at £1.50, nine cents higher.

    * Popular Bank chairman Kikis Lazarides said yesterday his bank had no intention of relinquishing any part of a 35 per cent stake in Universal Life, the firm which was de-listed last week because of problems in complying with equity spread regulations.

    It was not their problem, Lazarides told a news conference to announce the bank's new corporate identity.

    "We have an investment in Universal Life... some others came along and because the others came along they want us out. Well we are not leaving," he said bluntly.

    There have been rumours flying on the market for days that the reason a takeover bid for UL fell through was because Laiki and BOC -- the other major shareholder -- refused to relinquish their hold over the insurer.

    Severis and Athienitis Financial Services mounted their bid for UL last month, but had to withdraw it on instructions of the Central Bank.

    Lazarides said the bank planned a massive refurbishment of its branch network in coming months.

    It's name would also be changed from Cyprus Popular Bank Group to Laiki Group, he said.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2000

    [06] Armed robber raids BoC branch in Salonica

    AN ARMED robber yesterday stole four million drachmas (around £7,000) from a branch of the Bank of Cyprus in the Greek city of Salonica.

    The attacker entered the branch at the crossing of Vasilisis Olgas and Kimis Streets at around 9.20am and threatened staff and customers with a gun.

    The man, who was wearing a crash helmet, demanded the money from the cashier before leaving with 3,800,000 drachmas in cash and 200,000 drachmas in foreign currency.

    Witnesses said the man escaped on a moped he parked outside the bank.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2000

    [07] CyTA introduces bus phones, plans cruise phones

    THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS Authority (CyTA) has installed two card phones on tourist buses, it was revealed yesterday.

    CyTA's head of public relations Rita Karadjia told the Cyprus Mail the phones had been installed as part of a pilot programme to test their feasibility.

    "We haven't advertised the phone at all and the company using them in two of their buses also agreed not to advertise having them."

    Karadjia added that the tourism company, which has not been named, had not been selected for any particular reason and that several others had since shown interest in having the phones installed on their buses too.

    She said the phones operated on a satellite network system as they were almost constantly on the move.

    She said the same system was used for phones in remote areas like National Guard camps or children' summer camps.

    Karadjia also told the Cyprus Mail that CyTA was considering installing the phones on cruise ships.

    The bus phones are expected to be widely introduced in the spring.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2000

    [08] Work on desalination plant began before permits were secured, officials admit

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE HOUSE environment committee was yesterday appalled to hear that construction of a desalination plant at Larnaca had begun without Town Planning department permission.

    Larnaca deputies Andreas Mouskos of Diko and Doros Christodoulou of Akel charged that Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous had given the go ahead to start work on the island's second desalination unit even though the necessary permit had not been given.

    Not only had the Town Planning department not said yes, but the necessary relaxations to planning laws had not been secured from the cabinet, the two opposition party deputies claimed.

    The desalination plant, going up near the Larnaca salt lake, has since secured both permits.

    But the acting director of the Water Development Department, Christos Marcoulis, admitted to deputies that the Minister had given instructions for the project to go ahead before permission had been given.

    The Larnaca municipality has already secured a court injunction against construction of the plant.

    But a technicality has allowed building work to continue. The injunction was rendered useless because it states that the government must stop work on the plant, and does not preclude the contractor from continuing work.

    The injunction case is to be re-examined by the Larnaca District Court starting today.

    The environment committee yesterday came out against the decision to move the location for the desalination plant from Kalo Chorio, some 5 km from Larnaca town, to the salt lake area next to Larnaca airport.

    Mouskos and Christodoulou noted with disapproval that the House plenum had approved plans for the salt lake site despite the contrary advice of experts.

    Representatives of local green groups said the plant would have a "massive" environmental impact. Construction of the unit would destroy one of the island's most important wetland sites, they claimed.

    Larnaca mayor George Lycourgos agreed, describing the salt lake as a "superb" biotope.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    Wednesday, February 9, 2000

    [09] Released snakes ‘are no danger’

    By Athena Karsera

    THE PAPHOS Veterinary Services yesterday sought to reassure the public that 12 snakes freed from a Kouklia snake park on Monday were no cause for concern.

    A senior official, who declined to be named, told the Cyprus Mail that the park owner had set the reptiles free where he had found them, nowhere near residential areas.

    He said that while the deadly Blunt Nosed Viper was among the snakes released, all had been returned to their natural habitat and people need take no more than the usual precautions.

    The owner of the Kouklia reptile farm freed the snakes after being charged with neglect by the Veterinary Services on Monday.

    He was accused of keeping the snakes in unsuitable conditions and operating without the Services' permission.

    The issue came to the Services' attention after a British tourist posted damning images of the farm on the Internet, condemning the way the reptiles were being kept.

    Speaking to Ant1 on Monday, Mark Elliot, who recently visited Cyprus with his wife, said: "What we found horrified us because some of the animals were dead. And those animals that were alive were in empty cages and tanks with no food in some case with no water. And no shelter."

    But the veterinary official said yesterday the owner had said the snakes were hibernating, not dead, and that this was why he had not put food or water in their enclosures.

    Ant1 said on Monday that its reporters had gone to Veterinary Service head Pavlos Economides with the story; Economides was then shown calling Paphos' chief veterinary officer Ramon Papadopoulos and saying, "Since you found that these premises are unsuitable and since it is functioning without our permission, it seems there is no other course of action but his (the owner's) criminal prosecution."

    Papadopoulos immediately pressed charges against the owner at Kouklia police station but by the time the Ant1 crew got to the snake park, its occupants had been set free.

    There was no comment from the owner yesterday.

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