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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-03-01

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Wednesday, March 1, 2000


  • [01] Annan's adviser De Soto flies in to get to know the island
  • [02] Denials all round on troop pullback report
  • [03] Neophytou vows tough action on the roads
  • [04] Market in steep decline
  • [05] Deputies call for action over copper mine
  • [06] Foundry still running despite government pledges

  • [01] Annan's adviser De Soto flies in to get to know the island

    By George Psyllides

    SPECIAL Adviser on Cyprus o the UN Secretary-general Alvaro De Soto arrived late last night for a one-week "familiarisation visit".

    Speaking to reporters at Larnaca airport, De Soto said his visit was not aiming to further the proximity talk process, and he added that he would not be discussing any confidence building measures either.

    "The purpose of my trip here is primarily and essentially to familiarise myself with the island," De Soto said. The proximity talks took place in New York from December 3 to 14 and in Geneva from January 31 to February 8.

    They are due to resume in New York on May 23, though the date is subject to confirmation.

    The Peruvian diplomat is scheduled to tour the island, including the Turkish- occupied north for an on-the-spot briefing about the situation there.

    De Soto was today spending his first day at Nicosia international airport, now Unficyp headquarters, for meetings and briefings. Tomorrow e is expected to visit the occupied Karpas peninsula, and Apostolos Andreas monastery on its eastern tip. The monastery is one of two religious sites to be repaired following a UN- sponsored agreement announced in January. The other site is the Mosque of Hala Sultan in Larnaca, which De Soto will also visit.

    On Friday he will visit the mixed Greek and Turkish Cypriot village of Pyla, and then Dherynia, in Famagusta district, where he will attend a medal parade of the Austrian UN contingent.

    De Soto will survey the ceasefire line by helicopter on Saturday, and on Monday morning he will be received by President Glafcos Clerides. Later on Monday he will meet Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    Next Tuesday De Soto will visit the Green Line in Nicosia and then the occupied, albeit largely deserted town of Varosha, in Famagusta district. Before departing the island on Wednesday evening he will hold a news conference at the Ledra Palace hotel in the buffer zone in Nicosia.

    De Soto will subsequently visit Ankara and Athens for talks with foreign ministers Ismael Cem and George Papandreou.

    Wednesday, March 1, 2000

    [02] Denials all round on troop pullback report

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE REPORT was intriguing. According to ANT1 television, Turkish forces were withdrawing from their buffer zone positions in preparation for a hand- over of occupied territory after a settlement.

    But confirmation for the report - aired on the private channel's main Monday night news bulletin - was distinctly thin on the ground yesterday.

    ANT1 had shown fuzzy footage of what it said was major Turkish troop movements in the north and new Turkish army camps being built a good few miles back from buffer zone. The Turks were moving north to positions behind what would be a new dividing line after a settlement, ANT1 concluded.

    It is widely expected that the Turkish side will return some territory as part of any settlement. ANT1 seemed to be suggesting a solution was round the corner, despite the apparent lack of progress in proximity settlement talks.

    The station cited "US diplomats" as its source for the report.

    The US embassy in Nicosia declined to comment on the television report yesterday.

    The UN was similarly silent on the issue.

    "We do not comment on troop activities," was all Unficyp spokesman Charles Gaulkin would say.

    Foreign diplomats in Nicosia were more forthcoming, on condition of anonymity.

    While not dismissing the possibility of such troop movements altogether, the diplomats cast serious doubt on the accuracy of the ANT1 reports.

    "I have heard nothing at all of such plans," one diplomat said. "There is no information of this happening or being planned," the diplomat added.

    Other observers suggested the ANT1 footage could simply be of Turkish troops undertaking routine manoeuvres or post rotations.

    The Government Spokesman, Michalis Papapetrou, was asked about the ANT1 report during his daily press briefing yesterday. He denied the report.

    "The government has no information concerning the information transmitted about movements or concentrations of troops to a degree where they relate to efforts for a solution of the Cyprus problem, as reported," Papapetrou said.

    If the government did have any information about troop movements in the north, it would not make it public, Papapetrou added.

    The spokesman went on to say that even if the report was accurate, this would not mean a solution was near.

    "I want to clarify that for the government, the movement of troops for a few miles left or right or up or down does not solve the problem. To solve the Cyprus problem, foreign troops must leave Cyprus."

    ANT1 itself yesterday followed up its original report by telling viewers it had been "inundated" with phone calls from foreign diplomats seeking further information about the story.

    ANT1's was not the first report suggesting preparations were being made for a settlement.

    Earlier this month, Turkish Cypriot newspaper Kibrisli reported that the UN had launched a project to construct roads bridging the two sides of the divide.

    Unficyp dismissed the report.

    Wednesday, March 1, 2000

    [03] Neophytou vows tough action on the roads

    By Athena Karsera

    THE COMMUNICATIONS Ministry today begins strict checks for overweight trucks and overloaded school buses.

    Minister Averoff Neophytou said yesterday he would be personally involved in the process.

    He said 16 inspectors and 26 weighing experts would be on the roads to weigh trucks and check buses and other forms of public transport.

    "A report will come to my office the next morning saying how many inspections were carried out, how many trucks were weighed, how many violations were uncovered and how many charges were made. And this has to be done on a daily basis."

    Neophytou said the situation in Cyprus was such that nothing less would do. "If we really want to put an end to the curse of fatal accidents, we do not have much choice."

    The minister said trucks would not only be weighed at known weighing stations, but that mobile units would also be used. "We can have effective checks outside quarries, outside brick manufacturers, outside cement manufacturers. When we want to do something there are ways."

    On the inspection of buses, Neophytou said the 16 inspectors would be more than enough to cover all the buses used to carry school children. "When you go outside a school at 7.15am you can check 50 buses as they come and when you go at 1.15pm outside another school, the same person can check another 50 buses, (to check) how many students they put in."

    The minister said paperwork would no longer be a legitimate excuse for inspections not being carried out.

    "I heard today that the inspectors were saying, `But Mr Minister if we are out in the streets inspecting what will happen to the files?' Let the files wait. Priority should be given to road safety"

    He added there would be no letup in efforts to improve road safety: "We started engine checks (on public vehicles) by the Inspections Department, we already finished the tanker trucks, in April we will be finishing the buses and we will start on the taxis."

    Neophytou said the law should be made stricter and higher fines introduced for traffic offenders.

    "We have to introduce new laws, to become more strict. I was told that someone was booked 17 times for carrying excessive loads and paid £10 or £15 each time. If he got an extra profit of £20 and £30 for every extra load, he will break the law 100 times a day. The cost to the violator has to increase."

    The minister said all issues connected to traffic safety would "pass under a microscope and I will be informed on them. I canít carry on seeing Cyprus as the third worst country in Europe in terms of fatal traffic accidents."

    Stricter checks on trucks have been on the agenda since a runaway lorry killed six people in Paphos last year. The lorry was overloaded.

    Earlier this month, eight people were killed when a bus smashed into a concrete barrier on its way down from Troodos. The bus was overloaded.

    Neophytou also said yesterday he was determined to put airport taxis in order and warned that any drivers who did not comply with regulations should look for work elsewhere.

    Earlier this year, the Communications Ministry arranged for drivers to wait in rank and serve customers on a first come first serve basis.

    "The policy is being implemented, (even though) there are some (drivers) who do not want to comply. I want to warn them once again that as soon as the 13 special constables are appointed... (they can) find somewhere else to work. The few who want to play the wise guys and tyrants will have to face up to the efficiency and decisiveness of the Cyprus government."

    Wednesday, March 1, 2000

    [04] Market in steep decline

    By Michael Ioannou

    THE CYPRUS stock exchange came under strong pressure yesterday as the benchmark index lost 1.3 per cent, strongly testing the key 600 point support level.

    Briefly piercing that point 15 minutes before the trading session ended, the general index was thrown into steep decline from some low bid prices posted, which pushed the index to as low as 597.05.

    A sudden upsurge in the last two minutes pushed the market back up to 600.08, which was its closing level, eight points lower than Monday.

    Floor traders said investors were by and large resisting selling pressures, but there were others who had opted to exit to grab shares in new issues.

    Electrical suppliers Pierides Electrical, wholesale cable suppliers with seven retail outlets, hold a initial public offering for shares between March 1 and 3.

    There were also reports of a private placement of Chris Cash and Carry, the Limassol supermarket, over the same date.

    "People have got this wait and see attitude. Many of them don't want to get out because they think that once the new investment firms start spreading money around itíll just be a matter of time before the market goes up and they make a profit, or cut their losses," said an analyst at a Bank- controlled brokerage.

    That explains the relatively low volumes of £14-17 million, which the market has been turning over daily since early last week. Yesterday, traded value reached £15.3 million, on 3,007 deals.

    A majority of brokers still feel that the market has scope for climbing, especially when the investment firms start positioning themselves on the market.

    Declining stocks outpaced advances 73 to eight, while seven were unchanged on a total of 88 securities traded.

    The slide among the seven sectors was broad-based but more pronounced among smaller cap commercial stocks, which shed 3.16 per cent, and investment shares, which were down 2.7 per cent.

    Banking stocks and insurance shares outperformed the general market, declining just 0.9 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively.

    Bank of Cyprus shares were down seven cents to £9.28 and Popular were off seven to £14.75. Hellenic Bank sank 12 cents to £3.65. Louis Cruise Lines kept its lead as the stock most actively traded with some 512,348 shares changing hands, closing four cents lower to £2.60. Bank of Cyprus were the second most actively traded, with 287,000 shares exchanged.

    In terms of net gainers, the 1999/2001 bonds of Cyprus Trading Corporation yielded the highest return of the day, climbing 47 cents, while Agros Warrants came second with a 25 cent jump.

    Net losers included Sharelink 99/2000 warrants which came down £1.95, and Severis and Athienitis, which had 48 cents snipped off their price.

    Wednesday, March 1, 2000

    [05] Deputies call for action over copper mine

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE HOUSE Environment Committee has called for immediate action to stem the impact of copper extracting operations on the remote Morphou area village of Katydata.

    The committee yesterday went down to see the workings at the site of the 3, 000-year-old Skouriotissa mines, and to check out local villagers' claims that the operations are polluting their environment.

    An Australian-Greek mining consortium has recently re-opened mining operations at the Skouriotissa mines, next to Katydata in the northern Troodos foothills. Oxana Resources and the Hellenic Mining Company (HMC) are using large volumes of acid to extract copper from the low-grade ore left behind after hundreds of years of extraction from the site. The process involves the use of a weak sulphuric acid solution, which is sprayed onto the ore in special bays sealed with plastic to prevent leakages.

    HMC insist their Skouriotissa operations enjoy a clean bill of health, and the director of the government Mines Service, Erotocritos Anastassiades, agrees.

    But Katydata villagers beg to differ.

    Acid fumes and dust from the consortium's operations were affecting their crops and threatening their health, they told deputies yesterday. Seepage from the operations was poisoning their water, villagers claimed.

    They showed deputies orchards they said no longer produced fruit because of the pollution.

    The villagers are particularly concerned about fumes drifting from a storage dam built near their homes to receive the liquid waste from the extraction operations.

    Katydata residents complained that the government was doing nothing to protect their environment. They threatened to take "dynamic action" if things did not change.

    Deputies gave a sympathetic hearing to the villagers, declaring that the impact from the extraction operations were obvious.

    HMC representatives accompanying the committee members argued that all necessary measures were being taken to minimise environmental impact.

    The company men said they would welcome any independent study on the matter, confident it would prove them right.

    According to Mines Service director Anastassiades, two impact studies have already showed that the extraction operations are not polluting the local environment.

    "Measuring instruments were unable to record anything," Anastassiades told the Cyprus Mail when the issue first hit the headlines late last year. This, he said, showed levels of pollutants were too low to show up, and thus totally safe.

    Proper safety precautions were observed during the extraction operations, the government official insisted.

    Wednesday, March 1, 2000

    [06] Foundry still running despite government pledges

    By Anthony O. Miller

    IT HAS been almost three weeks since the Marios & Andreas foundry in Ergates was to have closed by government order; three weeks since blood tests were to have begun to confirm that residents - as an earlier test shows - are blood-poisoned from its emissions.

    On January 20, the Council of Ministers ordered the foundry closed for six months, effective from February 10, so the blood-tests could begin, and new equipment could be installed to bring the foundry's emissions levels well below tough EU standards.

    It also approved £144,000 to cover the costs of the medical tests on the Ergates villagers and authorised the Labour Ministry to negotiate indemnification of the foundry for income lost during the closure.

    Finally, it said that any compensation to individuals for physical damage linked causally to the foundry's smoke should be discussed between the foundry's owners and the Finance Ministry.

    But despite all this posturing, nothing has happened. The factory is still up and running; it has never closed, one of its owners, Marios Petrou said yesterday. And indications are that Petrou is unwilling to settle for the level of indemnification the government wants to pay him for the six months it might close.

    Then there is the blood testing. The Health Ministry has not yet come up with experts satisfactory to it to do the testing of Ergates villagers to validate two series of tests done by epidemiologist and public health physician Dr Michalis Voniatis.

    His tests showed Ergates residents have five times the cadmium and nearly three times the lead in their blood as Nicosia residents do. He and other physicians also suspect that dioxin is in their blood - and in the vegetables grown around Ergates village - from the toxic emissions in the foundry smoke.

    Voniatis' tests show Ergates residents have brain, kidney and pancreas and lung cancer many times the national average, and twice the Cyprus rate of leukaemia; 33 per cent of Ergates children were found to have chronic lung problems that Voniatis blames on the foundry smoke.

    Tender Board red tape threatened to delay approval of the money for the blood testing, but the board has since assured the Cyprus Mail it will do all possible to expedite approval of the funds.

    Besides the foundry's refusal to close, the single problem in the way of the Cabinet's solutions is that the Health Ministry has been unable to find foreign scientists able to test the villagers and the soil and air around the village and in the foundry itself for cadmium, lead and suspected dioxin from foundry smoke.

    The Environmental Movement Greenpeace referred the Cyprus Mail to some British experts at the weekend, but they were only able to test soil, air and equipment for such toxins as lead, cadmium and dioxin.

    Zakaki villager, Bernadette Charalambous, an activist against the Nemitsas foundry's smoke in her village, said yesterday that Nemitsas, too, was running full-tilt, with "both chimneys pouring smoke."

    Savvides has said that as soon as the blood tests on Ergates villagers are completed, he planned to order identical tests on the villagers of Zakaki, who are complaining of illnesses due to the Nemitsas foundry's smoke.

    Many of the school children of Zakaki village have had to go to hospital after complaining of nausea from the Nemitsas fumes.

    Savvides has pledged that if he is able to prove damage to human health caused by toxins in the smoke of either foundry, he will close them down. So far, without the proper experts in tow, he has been unable to do this.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

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