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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-07-23

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

July 23 , 2000


  • [01] Russia says ‘nyet’ to tourism in the north
  • [02] US Embassy linked to Hizbollah arrests
  • [03] Knifeman suspect arrested at port
  • [04] G8 talks of ‘historic opportunity’ in Cyprus
  • [05] Clerides backs down over leak letter
  • [06] ‘Paramilitary case’ colonel may be charged
  • [07] Andry takes her anti-smoking battle to court
  • [08] Bent ones aren’t European

  • [01] Russia says ‘nyet’ to tourism in the north

    By Alexander Bratersky in Moscow

    THERUSSIAN government is clamping down on tourist companies that operate tours to the occupied north of Cyprus, on the grounds that they do so in breach of the country’s political sanctions against the self-declared ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’.

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairsin Moscow has senta letterto the RussianState SportCommittee, which oversees the tourist industry, warning it to put a stop to activities by a smalltravel agent called Kumir-Tur that sends touriststo the north.

    The letter, addressed toone-timeState Sport Committee chairman Boris Ivanuzhenkov, andsignedbydeputy foreign ministerAlexander Avdeev, urges the organisation to "take effectivestepsagainst Kumir-Tur and othertourist companies which actcontrary to ourpolitical line in issues relating to Cyprus".

    But Kumir-Tur company director Natalya Sevastyanova is sticking to her guns. "This letter hasno legal justification, sincewe don’t send touriststo the Turkish Republicof Northern Cyprus, we sendthemto theterritory of north Cyprus," she said.

    Anyway, Sevastyanova added, ticketsto the ‘TRNC’ are sold at the Moscow branch of Turkish Airlines.

    Her company was investigated by representatives of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce and as a result it has removed its website advertisementfor tours to the north of Cyprus.The firm also organises holidays for Russians to Italy,Spain and Turkey.

    Sevostyanovahas called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to publish an officialprohibition relating to the north of Cyprus and circulate it to all Russian tourist companies who market the destination.

    The Foreign Ministry picked up on the holidays after officials from the Russian Embassy in Nicosia respondedtoone Kumir-Tur’s advertisements, which was published in the Russian women’s magazine Lisa.

    There are thought to be around 10 Russiancompanies that send tourists to the north, despite the fact that the Russian government recognisethe Republic of Cyprus as the only legalgovernmenton the island.

    Moscow touristoperators bill Cyprusas the third most popular tourist destinationamong Russian tourists,after Spain and Turkey.

    "It is nota very importantdestination, but it has attributes which some companies are making money on," said one Moscow tourist operator, who preferred to remain anonymous. "Seriouscompanies won’t getinvolved while political questions are unresolved," she added.

    But Sevastyanova is dismissive of the political connotation. "There isno need for politicsto be involved," she said. According to her 1,000 Moscow tourists have visited north Cyprus in the past few years, while the number of holidaymakers from other Confederation of Independent States (CIS) countrieslike Azerbaijan and Belarus was much larger.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    July 23 , 2000

    [02] US Embassy linked to Hizbollah arrests

    THE U.S. Embassy in Nicosia has been linked to Operation Smoke Screen – an undercover operation to thwart fund-raising operations in the US for the Hizbollah group in Lebanon.

    In an affidavit unsealed by the federal court on Friday, it is alleged that a US government official working at the American Embassy had been bribed to issue US visas to some members of a group of 18 people arrested in pre-dawn raids on homes and businesses in North Carolina and Michigan.

    The suspects are alleged to have supplied money and night vision devices to Hizbollah by trafficking in contraband cigarettes across state lines, Reuters news agency reported.

    They have been charged with conspiracy to violate immigration laws, conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes and money laundering, North Carolina US Attorney Mark Calloway said in Charlotte.

    Operation Smoke Screen began 3 1/ 2 years ago as a probe into cigarette smuggling after an off-duty North Carolina deputy sheriff spotted a group of people loading thousands of dollars worth of cigarettes into cars with out-of-state licence plates outside a discount cigarette outlet.

    The group allegedly took cigarettes from North Carolina, where taxes are assessed at 5 cents a packet, to Michigan where the tax is 75 cents, and made a profit by selling at the higher price.

    Federal agents say a vanload of cigarettes smuggled out of the Carolinas to states where higher taxes are assessed could yield $8,000-$10,000 per trip.

    The case evolved into an international investigation based in large part on information from several confidential sources who infiltrated the group, according to the affidavit filed in federal court.

    One of those sources told federal agents the group met weekly at the home of the group’s apparent leader, Mohamad Hammoud, or other members to discuss Hizbollah activities and listen to speeches.

    The confidential source told federal agents he was present when Hammoud "put aside for Hizbollah several thousand dollars in cash, representing the proceeds from trafficking in contraband cigarettes. The funds to be sent to Hizbollah also consisted of donations solicited and collected by Mohamad Hammoud from individuals who support Hizbollah."

    Described as a ‘designated foreign terrorist organisation’ by the US, the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hizbollah led the battle against the 22-year Israeli occupation of south Lebanon. The Israeli army withdrew in May.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    July 23 , 2000

    [03] Knifeman suspect arrested at port

    A SYRIAN suspected of attempted murder and his brother yesterday joined a third brother in police custody following their arrest on Friday night.

    The suspect had been on the run since a Wednesday night stabbing incident in which a man was seriously injured. He was eventually apprehended at New Limassol Port’s passenger lounge at 10pm.

    His brother was arrested two hours later on suspicion of harbouring someone he knew was wanted for questioning and with helping him to escape. Limassol District Court remanded both for eight days. A third brother, arrested on the night on the stabbing, is already in custody.

    The incident occurred during an argument over money between the suspect, the brother arrested on Wednesday, and two other Syrians.

    The suspect allegedly attacked all three men with a large knife, seriously injuring Ferras Ebdegul in the chest and inflicting a lighter wound on Bassem Chreban’s arm.

    Ebdegul is still in Limassol hospital where doctors describe his condition as serious but stable.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    July 23 , 2000

    [04] G8 talks of ‘historic opportunity’ in Cyprus

    THE Group of Eight (G8) called upon the parties in Cyprus "to take the historic opportunity that now exists to intensify the negotiations" between the two communities.

    The seven industrialised countries and Russia said in a statement on regional affairs issued during their annual meeting, taking place this year in Okinawa, Japan, that talks on the Cyprus problem should "strike the compromises needed to reach a just and lasting settlement that protects the fundamental interests of both parties in an undivided Cyprus, giving full consideration to relevant Security Council resolutions."

    Expressing the hope that decisive progress will be made in the current round of proximity talks on the Cyprus problem that resume in Switzerland tomorrow and those to come in the months ahead, the G8 also noted that "the failure of the two parties to resolve their differences and end the division of Cyprus remains a matter of serious concern" to them.

    They also recalled the declaration issued at their last meeting in Cologne calling for resumption of comprehensive negotiations under UN auspices on a Cyprus settlement, and commended the UN Secretary-general for convening proximity talks between the parties "to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement".

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    July 23 , 2000

    [05] Clerides backs down over leak letter

    Staff Reporters

    TWO political party leaders were yesterday deliberating whether to accompany President Glafcos Clerides to Geneva for tomorrow’s resumption of the UN-led proximity talks on the Cyprus problem.

    By late afternoon both Akel and Diko had failed to decide whether a statement by Clerides yesterday was enough to make amends for a letter he sent to National Council members on Friday, saying they were being held responsible for the leaking of a confidential document.

    In that letter, Clerides said that National Council members must have been responsible for a leaking a document outlining UN special envoy Alvaro de Soto’s suggestions on a Cyprus solution to the press. The letter also said that Clerides would think seriously before passing on such sensitive information in the future.

    While all the party leaders had been all set to accompany Clerides after this had been agreed at the National Council meeting earlier this week, the letter caused outrage, with all the party leaders except ruling Disy’s Nicos Anastassiades saying that they would seriously consider not accompanying the president.

    Kisos and the United Democrats changed their stance yesterday following a second statement by Clerides, in which he stressed that he had not targeted party leaders in his letter and had not meant to offend them. The president also gave assurances that he did not intend to keep the National Council in the dark.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    July 23 , 2000

    [06] ‘Paramilitary case’ colonel may be charged

    By Athena Karsera

    The Attorney-general’s office has announced that enough evidence has been gathered against a National Guard colonel found by a military investigation to have tampered with documents for him to be prosecuted.

    In a statement late on Friday, Alecos Markides’ office said that having studied the evidence submitted on the charges against Colonel Loizos Fessas, it has "come to the conclusion that the evidence collected is sufficient to warrant charges being pressed against him".

    Fessas gave a colleague documents allegedly proving the existence of a ‘paramilitary’ group within the National Guard, accused of keeping tabs on the political persuasions of army officers. The colleague passed these on to a deputy who made the issue public.

    The announcement said that charges of "attempted or premeditated illegal possession of or obtaining of military secrets, taking action or demonstrating behaviour that goes against military discipline and attempting to disrupt order and discipline in the military" could be pressed against the colonel.

    It continued that the Attorney-general’s opinion would be passed on to the Chief of the National Guard and Military Court for a decision on whether further action will be taken.

    The case was brought to light in May by Akel deputy Costas Papacostas, who said the papers had been given to him by army colonel Avraam Marangos and that the ruling Disy party was behind the group.

    The documents outlined the structure of the group, naming retired high- raking officials as its leaders. Fessas has since admitted drafting one of the documents but said he did so only to better illustrate how the alleged group operated.

    Disy has categorically denied forming such a group, dismissing the issue as a sham.

    A Defence Ministry investigation into the issue has, meanwhile, found no evidence that such a group ever existed.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    July 23 , 2000

    [07] Andry takes her anti-smoking battle to court

    By Athena Karsera

    A NICOSIA company may be forced to pay a settlement of up to £25,000 in a precedent-setting lawsuit filed against it by an anti-smoking former employee.

    Andry Olymbiou left a highly paid job in April after her complaints of being subjected to passive smoking fell on deaf ears. She then staged a week-long hunger strike outside the House of Representatives, saying she was determined to take her case as far as the European Courts if she had to.

    While a hearing date has not yet been set, Olymbiou’s lawyer Christos Triantafyllides earlier this month submitted the lawsuit to Nicosia District Court, demanding compensation of between £5,000 and £25,000 for his client.

    The lawsuit also requests a court proclamation that the company forced Olymbiou to abandon her job against her will and best interests, and that the company broke the law on smoking.

    Olymbiou recently told the Sunday Mail she was not proceeding with the lawsuit for the sake of the money: "The most important thing for me is for a precedent to be set so that other people don’t have to go through what I did," she said.

    Olymbiou said she was not against smokers, but she did expect them to respect her rights and her health. She added that her husband and son smoked but showed consideration for their family’s health and did not indulge in the habit at home.

    Olymbiou began her approximately £1,000 per month job as a development manager at the company on November 1, 1999, and while currently employed elsewhere she has not been able to find a job of the same calibre as the one she left.

    Her anti-smoking drive was not the first time Olymbiou hit the headlines. She was widely featured in the media in 1990 when her fund-raising efforts put thousands of pounds towards setting up an adoption programme from Romania to Cyprus.

    "We are all put on this earth to offer something," Olymbiou told the Sunday Mail, "Some of these children were ten or more years old when they were adopted, and now they are married with families of their own. It’s a beautiful thing."

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    July 23 , 2000

    [08] Bent ones aren’t European

    By Melina Demetriou

    ONLY straight cucumbers qualify for ‘admission’ to the European Union, at least according to one newspaper report yesterday.

    The Council of Ministers decided at its last meeting on Friday to set a number of criteria regarding the export of goods to the Union in order to harmonise Cypriot policies with the acquis communautaire, Alithia reported.

    One of those criteria provides that a cucumber classified as ‘extra’ or ‘1’ must be straight if it is to be exported to any European Union member state.

    The height of the curve in the vegetable cannot exceed 10 per cent of the cucumber’s total length. EU candidate cucumbers also need to be well- developed, well-shaped and without any flaws, with experts blaming any shape defects on poor seed development.

    Cucumbers are not the only Cypriot produce that will have to meet certain standards if they are to compete in Europe. The Council of Ministers has in its possession a 100-page brief setting out the specifications that different fruits and vegetables must comply with if they are to be welcomed into the European fold.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

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