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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-06-16

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, June 16, 2000


  • [01] The worst fire since 1974
  • [02] Government claims victory over Unficyp mandate
  • [03] New UN representative arrives
  • [04] Speculator fatigue sees market subside
  • [05] Woolworth share handouts announced
  • [06] Guests late for Queen’s party after being held up by Ledra Palace police
  • [07] Angry rally drivers disrupt Nicosia traffic
  • [08] Denktash issues talks warning
  • [09] Some very close calls

  • [01] The worst fire since 1974

    By Martin Hellicar

    A MASSIVE forest fire raging in the southeastern Troodos foothills since Tuesday was yesterday turning into a disaster of enormous proportions.

    Two people narrowly escaped being burnt alive in their country home outside Vasa Kelakiou yesterday and nuns had to be evacuated from the Ayios Minas convent near Lefkara. This led the government to issue desperate pleas for fire-fighting assistance from Israel and Malta and for more help from Greece.

    Tel Aviv responded swiftly, sending two fire-fighting helicopters and 20 men yesterday afternoon. Greece, having already sent two water bomber planes and a C-130 transport plane loaded with fire-fighting equipment and 50 forest rangers in the morning, promised more help.

    Though the exact extent of the damage is not yet clear, the fire, fanned by strong winds and burning on six separate fronts yesterday, was being described as the worst since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    Several mountain villages were threatened by the advancing wall of fire, which had burnt hundreds of acres of pines, scrub, olives and carobs, engulfing farms and crops.

    Arson was yesterday not being ruled out as a cause for this and over 35 other scrub fires erupting across the island since Tuesday. Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou noted that it was "suspicious" that so many fires had broken out at the same time.

    In the Troodos foothills, fire fighters, assisted by two RAF Wessex helicopters, were stretched to the limit as they tried, for the third day running, to fight the flames and prevent fires re-starting in inaccessible scrub-covered hilly terrain.

    The forest fire began in the Tochni and Kalavassos area on Tuesday and was thought to have been put under control that same day, only for it to erupt again on Wednesday and spread rapidly to threaten Vavla, Layia and Ora.

    Yesterday, the fire found new life, bearing down on Vasa, Asgata, Monagrouli and Pareklishia in the Limassol area and Ora, again, Akapnou, Kato Drys, Lefkara and Vavatsinia in the Larnaca area. A massive pall of smoke hung over the whole area.

    Thirteen fire-engines, 50 firemen, police helicopters, six forest fire trucks, 80 foresters, six earth removers, 50 men of the police rapid reaction squad, hundreds of National Guardsmen, 30 trained civil defence members, game wardens, local villagers and volunteers were involved in fire- battling efforts.

    "We have everyone out... police, civil defence, soldiers and residents. It is terrible," a police spokesman said.

    The massive fire-fighting effort yesterday seemed to have saved threatened homes and no serious injuries had been reported, though 11 National Guardsmen fighting the flames in the Asgata area had to be treated in Limassol hospital for breathing problems.

    But the situation was still not under control last night.

    President Clerides over-flew the scorched area by helicopter yesterday morning and then chaired an emergency meeting at Kato Drys.

    Clerides ordered a redoubling of efforts in order to get the fires under control by nightfall, giving instructions for more soldiers to join the efforts.

    The President hit out at claims - from the Green party, the New Horizons and others - of delays and poor organisation in battling the forest fires.

    "It is easy to criticise when you are not out there, the services are making super-human efforts," he said.

    Defence Minister Socrates Hasikos, who attended the Kato Drys meeting, said the army was ordering four new helicopters which would be capable of helping out with future fire-fighting.

    The Forestry department issued a plea for the public to be especially careful not to start fires. Conditions at the points affected by large fires at 10pm last night:

    Laggias, Larnaca: Still out of control and going towards Oras.

    Vavatsinia, Valvas and Kato Drys, Larnaca: Still out of control.

    Ayios Minas Convent, Larnaca: Under control.

    Chrysohous and Teras, Paphos: Under control.

    Limassol area: Compeletly extinguished.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    Friday, June 16, 2000

    [02] Government claims victory over Unficyp mandate

    By Jean Christou

    NICOSIA claimed victory yesterday over the exclusion of a contentious addendum from the document renewing the UN force in Cyprus, but the Turkish Cypriot side warned that the upcoming proximity talks could be affected.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said Nicosia was satisfied with the dropping of the addendum, but also issued a warning that if the problem arose again, the same course of action would be taken.

    The government objected strongly to the UN's plans to spell out the Turkish Cypriot side's consent to the renewal of Unficyp, alongside that of the Republic of Cyprus – a move seen as indirect recognition of the breakaway regime. It even threatened it would let Unficyp leave the island rather than approve the addendum.

    After two days of uncertainty, the Security Council decided late on Wednesday to approve the renewal of the force minus the addendum.

    The Republic's consent for the presence of the force has instead been sent as a separate letter delivered by Cyprus' representative to the UN.

    Certain conditions were attached to the letter of consent, Papapetrou said, which if violated will result in its automatic withdrawal.

    "The government worked hard to achieve this result," Papapetrou said yesterday. "Any approach which aims for the direct or indirect recognition of the pseudostate will be met with the same tough resistance from our side."

    Although by late yesterday no official response had come out of the north, Aytug Plumer, a spokesman for the Turkish Cypriots in New York said they, and Turkey's ambassador, had already lodged their objections in writing to the UN.

    "It will have implications for the process of negotiations and for Unficyp's function," Plumer said. The third round of UN-led proximity talks on the Cyprus problem is due to begin in Geneva on July 5.

    One western diplomat said the timing of the controversy was bad in terms of the talks and admitted there was some concern over the impact it might have.

    But while the government was claiming a quiet victory, opposition parties urged that the tough talk continue.

    Socialist Kisos leader Vassos Lyssarides said the results of the government's stance on Unficyp were proof that the Greek Cypriot side should adopt a more combative stance in the future.

    "This constitutes a very positive development and proves if you don't ask you don't get," he said. "This should be a lesson about the tactics we should follow if we want results."

    Left-wing Akel leader Demetris Christofias said there was a war going on for recognition of the north.

    "This was a victory for our side but the war has not been won yet. The worst is perhaps yet to come," he said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, June 16, 2000

    [03] New UN representative arrives

    THE NEW UN chief of mission in Cyprus arrived at Larnaca airport yesterday to assume immediate control of the post vacated earlier this week by James Holger.

    Zbigniew Wlosowicz, 45, takes over in the middle of the crisis over the renewal of the mandate for the UN peacekeeping force stationed in Cyprus since 1964.

    An expert in international law, the Polish representative holds a doctorate from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and has been a special adviser on inter-governmental affairs with the UN Development Programme for the past two years.

    He has also served as Poland’s ambassador to the United Nations.

    When Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Alvaro de Soto of Peru as his special adviser on Cyprus late last year, it was also announced that he would take up residence on the island this spring as Annan’s special representative.

    But the Secretary-General has now decided that De Soto should remain in New York as his special adviser on Cyprus, to devote himself full time to the proximity talks due to resume in Geneva next month.


    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, June 16, 2000

    [04] Speculator fatigue sees market subside

    By Michael Ioannou

    SPECULATORS anxious to cash in a quick profit started showing signs of fatigue yesterday as buying interest waned in volatile small caps and investments in blue chip banking stocks started a rebound.

    Investors skimmed 0.5 per cent from the CSE all-share index,but the market had fallen as low as two per cent in mid-session.

    Traders said the market regained lost ground in the last five minutes of trading, after meandering between a low of 502.42 points and a high of 509.83.

    Traded values were also considerably lower at £41.6 million, some eight million less than Wednesday's trading and off a dizzying high of £68 million recorded earlier this week.

    In contrast to most sessions lately, banking stocks commanded a higher stake of investment activity, with 20 per cent of total turnover.

    That sector bucked the downtrend with a 0.5 per cent rise, aided by a five cent increase in Bank of Cyprus, which rose five cents to a last trade of £8.05 on a volume of 406,443 shares.

    Dealers said that bargain hunters swooped in on intraday lows, pushing the market up in its closing minutes.

    "The bourse is not a Sunday school. Investors should know that when they fall into a situation like this (selling) there will be some people ready to make money on their backs," said stockbroker Stelios Bekris.

    Dealers said there were investors who were stuck at high positions, encouraged by the seesaw on small cap stocks that has seen them swinging all week on rumours of takeovers and acquisitions.

    "What we are seeing now is all that air leaving the market," trader Omiros Lyssiotis said.

    Perhaps belatedly, the Securities Exchange Commission yesterday cautioned investors to show extra vigilance in where they took up positions. Decisions should be based on economic fundamentals and not rumours, it said.

    Bekrishad harsh words for speculators who have been dipping in and out of the market."The way to invest is not to see where a stock will open in the morning and close at midday. That is not how things work," he said.

    And with reference to some of the long faces among investors at the market yesterday he said: "The market cannot continue to work irrationally and when it starts to correct people wonder why."

    Small cap stocks Dodoni and Frindlays, which had dominated volumes in the past few sessions and rallied to four-month highs, came down abruptly yesterday.

    Dodoni lost 11.6 per cent of its value to close at 31cents while Frindlays were off 9.2 per cent to a last trade of 54 cents.

    Severis and Athienitis were down 6.9 per cent to a last trade of £3.13. The company announced yesterday it had taken a 25 per cent equity stake in Landmark Financial Services based in Nicosia in a 1,750,000 share equity swap.

    The company also announced it was in the final stages of negotiating a 20 per cent participation in the share capital of a company based in London. The negotiations also concerned the London-based company taking a 20 per cent share in Severis and Athienitis.

    The deal requires consent of the Financial Security Authority of the UK, the Securities and Exchange Commission of the US and the Central Bank of Cyprus.

    Louis in the meantime announced it had acquired its 23rd vessel, the Calypso, at an auction in Piraeus on Wednesday.

    The vessel, which has a capacity of some 600 passengers, cost $14 million. It will start running short cruises between Cyprus and the Greek islands this year, Louis said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, June 16, 2000

    [05] Woolworth share handouts announced

    WOOLWORTH plans to offer shareholders bonus shares and free warrants this summer in a bid to boost the share capital of the group, chairman Nicos Shacolas said yesterday.

    He said the group would offer one bonus share for every three ordinary shares or warrants held. The decision was subject to approval of an extraordinary meeting of shareholders scheduled for July 25.

    The group would also offer one free 1998-2002 warrant for every five shares held. The new warrants were similar to existing ones now traded on the bourse and could be exercised at 65 cents each in November 2000, 2001 and 2002, he said.

    The retail chain had also secured one million shares in affiliate company Christis Dairies and 200,000 warrants in a deal expected to give the firm an additional revenue in excess of two million pounds.

    Christis has plans to apply for a bourse flotation.

    Woolworth posted a net profit of £7.2 million in 1999, jumping from a £1.2 million gain the previous year. The 1999 profits incorporate gains of the Germanos telecoms stores and Webcity software vendors for the first time.

    "Investments over the years started yielding results in 1999 and we can now confidently say this year will be a successful year for Woolworth," Shacolas said.

    He added that its plans with French retail giant Carrefour were on schedule to create commercial centres across Cyprus.

    The construction of the first Carrefour centre would start this year on the outskirts of Nicosia.

    Speaking ahead of an AGM yesterday afternoon, Shacolas said the venture would eventually cover all of Cyprus.

    The Avenue clothing store on Makarios avenue would also be ready to open its doors in October, he said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    <title>Guests late for Queen’s party after being held up by Ledra Palace police</title>

    Friday, June 16, 2000

    [06] Guests late for Queen’s party after being held up by Ledra Palace police

    By Jean Christou

    A GROUP of Britons from the north missed half of the Queen's birthday party on Wednesday night as they were held up for almost two hours by Greek Cypriot police at the Ledra Palace checkpoint.

    The British High Commission had invited the 20 or so residents from the north, along with a group of Turkish Cypriots, to attend the annual party at the High Commissioner’s residence in Nicosia.

    The incident made front-page headlines in the Turkish Cypriot press yesterday.

    Turkish Cypriots were refused permission to cross by their own ‘authorities’, but the two minibuses full of Britons were looking forward to attending the party as they have done in previous years.

    However, when they reached the checkpoint, police produced a letter from an attaché at the Foreign Ministry's Political Affairs Division, saying those who came to Cyprus through an illegal port of entry could not cross.

    This was two days after the British High Commission had submitted its list to the Ministry, and only hours after High Commissioner Edward Clay had cleared the issue with Permanent Secretary Michalis Attalides by phone.

    Turkish press reports said a High Commission representative accompanying the group had tried in vain to convince police there had been a misunderstanding.

    "The trouble was the police could not understand the basic message because of the letter (from the attaché)," a witness told the Cyprus Mail.

    The police requested that the Britons produce their passports to determine who was a "legitimate" visitor (those who had been n the island since before 1974) despite the fact the Cyprus Republic does not recognise the existence of any border with the occupied areas.

    The witness said the High Commission representative even contacted the Foreign Ministry attaché by phone to sort out the problem, but the Cypriot insisted that "rules were rules" and that his understanding from the top was that the usual procedures were to apply.

    "This all went on for an hour and a half," the witness said.

    Eventually, a more senior Ministry official talked to the police officers and the disappointed partygoers were allowed through at around 8.15pm.

    "Police refused to budge an inch until they heard from someone senior," the witness said.

    A Foreign Ministry spokesman told the Cyprus Mail yesterday the usual procedures had been followed. He said he could not comment on what stance had been taken in the past.

    British High Commission Spokesman Jonathan Allen said it was unlikely a formal written complaint would be made to the Ministry.

    "We made representations to the Cyprus government on the day," he said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, June 16, 2000

    [07] Angry rally drivers disrupt Nicosia traffic

    By Rosie Ogden

    TRAFFIC was brought briefly to a standstill in central Nicosia yesterday morning as a convoy of rally cars drove through town to submit a petition to Cyprus Sports Organisation (KOA) headquarters demanding recognition for the Cyprus Motorsport Drivers’ Association (Sosak).

    Thirty rally cars and service vehicles, accompanied by numerous supporters in family saloons took part in the protest.

    The demonstration had been scheduled to take place last week, and was called off when the Cyprus Automobile Association (CAA) indicated it would be willing to agree to Sosak’s demands for greater representation in motor sport in Cyprus. The CAA’s failure to sign the relevant document, however, led to accusations that they were playing for time. "We offered them a solution last week" said Sosak President Andreas Tsouloftas. "They gave us a verbal acceptance and then didn’t sign."

    Sosak want recognition from KOA as a Federation. "All other sports in Cyprus have their own Federations, with the attendant benefits," said one of the drivers. "We just want to be like other sportsmen."

    Sosak says it will recognise the CAA as the Cyprus representative of the sports international governing body the FIA, but they want the CAA to transfer the powers of the sporting committee to the federation, so that it can organise the local championships.

    Feelings are running high because the international Cyprus Tour rally is scheduled for this weekend, and OFA, the Nicosia club that has organised the event for the last 15 years or so, accuses the CAA of hijacking the rally.

    Sosak is boycotting the Tour, which counts towards both the Cyprus and Middle East

    Championships, and their gambit seems to be paying off – at the last count there were just 13 entries for the rally, seven of them from foreign drivers chasing Middle East Championship points.

    It seems likely that at the start of the Cyprus Tour tomorrow there will be another demonstration by Sosak, who will probably outnumber the competitors. "We want the organisers, the FIA observer and the competitors to understand how strongly we feel about all this," said Tsouloftas, who maintains that there is still time for matters to be settled, but insists Sosak will not back down. "If the CAA don’t agree to join the Federation, we will approach the FIA for full powers over motorsport in Cyprus" he said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, June 16, 2000

    [08] Denktash issues talks warning

    By Jean Christou

    STUNG by a UN Security Council snub involving the renewal of Unficyp’s mandate, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash last night did not rule out withdrawing from the upcoming Geneva talks.

    "Everything can be considered," Denktash told reporters last night after almost 24 hours of what one diplomat described as a ‘deafening silence" following the Security Council’s decision late on Wednesday to drop a contentious addendum to Unficyp’s six-monthly renewal mandate.

    Denktash warned that the UN-led proximity talks slated to begin in Geneva on July 5 would certainly suffer because of the exclusion of Turkish Cypriot consent to the presence of the force on the island.

    "It is unavoidable that this decision will have a negative impact on solution efforts. It is a grave mistake," he said.

    He said he would discuss the issue with UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan's special envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto who arrived on the island last night and is expected to meet Denktash this afternoon in occupied Nicosia.

    De Soto made no statements other than to say the talks would be going ahead as planned.

    But Denktash described the UN decision as "unacceptable" and said he would make a "new and comprehensive evaluation" of Turkish Cypriot relations with Unficyp.

    The Cyprus government had objected strongly to the UN's plans to spell out the Turkish Cypriot side's consent to the renewal of Unficyp alongside that of the Republic of Cyprus.

    This was seen by the Greek Cypriots as indirect recognition of the breakaway regime and unacceptable to the government, which even went as far as to threaten to send Unficyp packing.

    Pulling out of the talks was the number one option being considered by the Turkish Cypriot side, mainland Turkish papers reported yesterday.

    English-language Turkish Daily News (TDN) said the breakaway regime in the north was weighing up its options following the Security Council's approval of the Unficyp renewal without its consent.

    Option one also includes cutting off all contact with the Greek Cypriots until equality has been established between the two sides, TDN said.

    The second option was to continue proximity talks and express deep dissatisfaction with the failure of the UN Secretary-general to live up to his promises. This option also includes a proposal to restrict the movements of Unficyp in the north.

    TDN said Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash had spent all day yesterday weighing up the options suggested by his aides.

    `Prime Minister' Dervis Eroglu, in Ankara for a medical check-up following a recent heart attack, was cautious and refused to "talk off the top of his head".

    Sources told TDN the most likely option was withdrawal from the talks because the Security Council's decision had inflicted a crisis of confidence between the Turkish Cypriots, the UN and the rest of the international community.

    The same sources said Denktash had only agreed to attend the talks after the UN, Washington and London assured him that the Turkish Cypriots would be treated on the basis of equality. He considered the inclusion of the addendum as a demonstration of that new policy.

    Ankara was also angered by the development, the Turkish papers said, but was yesterday holding its tongue.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, June 16, 2000

    [09] Some very close calls

    THOUGH yesterday's fire-fighting efforts saved threatened homes and no serious injuries had been reported, there were some very close calls.

    Around midday, at Vasa Kelakiou, in the Limassol district, two people were trapped in their country home, about a kilometre outside the village, as the flames moved in.

    Firemen and police, assisted by helicopters dumping water from above, managed to break through the ring of fire around the home to get the people to safety. The home was gutted, as were several other isolated country homes.

    The incident came close on the heels of a young child being rescued by a British Bases helicopter after falling down a cliff on his way to help fight the fire.

    Young Tassos Anastassiou, whose exact age could not be confirmed by police, spent five hours waiting to be rescued.

    His father Michalis complained that the police had not sent a helicopter on their own to rescue the child when his cries were hear at around 9.30pm, an hour after his fall.

    "My child went to help with the fire and they wouldn't send any help," he said, while his mother Marina added, "If it had been an adult they would have sent 10 helicopters."

    Anastassiou was taken to Limassol general hospital and diagnosed with a fractured knee and bruising all over his body, he was kept in for further treatment.

    Vasa Kelakiou residents had spent the whole of Wednesday night in the open, fearful of being caught in their beds by advancing flames.

    In the Larnaca area, the Ayios Minas convent near Kato Drys, had to be evacuated as it was encircled by flames. Fifteen of the convent's 17 nuns were rushed out but two insisted on staying behind as firemen battled to save the monastery.

    The fire was eventually kept at bay while one nun said, "I feel as though the fire is in my heart. I have never seen anything like this."

    At Asgata, in the Limassol hills, the fire closed in on an army camp. National Guardsmen laboured for hours in searing heat to cut firebreaks through the scrub and save their camp.

    A number of the national guardsmen were rushed to Limassol General hospital with breathing problems while one mother complained that help did not arrive soon enough.

    Crying, Zooula Agrotou said: "We can't take it any more. Our children are in there. Please send ambulances, send helicopters…send anything."

    In between fighting the flames, Vavlla and Laggia residents Nicos Nicholaou and Lambros Charalambous said that the fires reminded them of the 1974 Turkish invasion, while Charalambous added, "Everything has been destroyed. It's like a Biblical destruction."

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