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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-07-26

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Wednesday, July 26, 2000

CONTENTS

  • [01] Many investors panicking as market hits new low
  • [02] The only thing rising on the market is the tension
  • [03] Post Office chief wants to be free to compete
  • [04] Geneva talks continue with marathon Denktash-De Soto meeting
  • [05] Klerides confirms Milosevic probe
  • [06] Police probe ‘man overboard’ report
  • [07] Greens welcome Turkish decision to put off building nuke plant
  • [08] Bomb blasts Limassol man’s car
  • [09] 56 in ‘court’ after riot
  • [10] Bases to help save Zambian wildlife

  • [01] Many investors panicking as market hits new low

    By Michael Ioannou

    Share prices were battered to new year lows yesterday as panic selling gripped the bourse anew from retail investors scrambling to make a quick exit and cut their losses.

    The all-share Cyprus Stock Exchange index plunged 4.9 per cent to a close of 363.69 points, its lowest point in the past fifteen months.

    Disappointed brokers, who were at a loss to explain the precise reason for the continuing rout, took comfort in the fact that turnover was significantly lower than Tuesday by five million pounds at 16.4 million.

    "If it had been higher we would have been really worried. That would be a real run" an analyst at a Nicosia brokerage said.

    The benchmark &lt;CYPR&gt; index closed 18.22 points weaker, but the descent gained momentum only on the last 45 minutes of trading. The market opened some two points lower. A lukewarm attempt at rebound in the closing minutes of yesterday’s session could not be sustained.

    Traders say battered investor sentiment and a crash crunch is a key factor for the downfall, and said that selling had taken on panic proportions.

    Fears that the rout would continue was keeping potential buyers at bay, they said.

    "There is panic among investors. They are rushing to sell at any price either because of pressure over their financial situation or because they can’t remain calm," trader Katia Constantinidou of Severis and Athienitis was quoted as telling Reuters news agency.

    Many have borrowed to invest on the market, either from brokerages or commercial banks, and those loans are now being called in.

    Commercial banks are not giving any more loans for bourse investments on central bank instructions, which is anxious financial institutions stick to credit expansion targets.

    On its part, the central bank has dismissed suggestions the downfall was the result of a liquidity squeeze. It is however adamant that a bourse cannot be built on borrowed finds.

    "There is plenty of liquidity in the system," central bank governor Afxentis Afxentiou told state radio yesterday.

    In a sign that resentment was running deep and what is viewed to be connected to the bourse’s performance, pranksters issued threats on Monday night that a bomb was planted at Afxentiou’s Nicosia home.

    The calls were made to Sigma TV and Machi newspaper. Police dispatched to Afxentiou’s residence searched the premises but did not find anything suspicious.

    Brokers were critical of the fall, and said that many blue-clips had fallen to ridiculously low levels.

    "I can’t imagine any professional broker advising clients to sell at these levels," said stockbroker Costas Hadjigavriel.

    Traders say a small number of investment companies are still sitting on huge amounts of money amassed in private placements earlier this year. "The problem is the investment companies and institutional investors," Hadjigavriel told reporters.

    The market, which rose almost 800 per cent in 1999, has lost more than 40 per cent since the beginning of the year.

    Commercial stares led decliners with a 7.5 per cent drop, while industrial stocks fared better than most with a 2.12 per cent decline.

    Heavyweight banking stocks dropped 4.6 per cent with all four banks in the sector pummeled down to new year lows.

    Bank of Cyprus were off 28 cents to a close of 6.59, Popular Bank shot down 41 cents to 9.40 and Universal Savings were down 12 cents to 3.38.

    Only Hellenic Bank managed to stay afloat, dropping one cent to 2.14 on 130, 883 shares traded.

    Laggards strongly led advancers 84 to 21 with 13 issues unchanged on 118 traded. Thirty-four issues hit new year lows.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    Wednesday, July 26, 2000

    [02] The only thing rising on the market is the tension

    By Athena Karsera

    TEMPERS were running high at the Cyprus Stock Exchange yesterday with many investors refusing to be photographed and preferring to remain anonymous when asked to comment on the seemingly unending downward spiral of share prices.

    "Stop filming us. Where were you when we were going to the bank? Now everybody will think I’m sitting at the Stock Exchange all day losing money, "one highly irate investor shouted at camera crews

    "Are you here to take our pictures or to do a proper story?" asked another. "You should have told us you were coming so we could shave..."

    One investor simply brushed the Cyprus Mail away when asked for comment, and even those who did agree to talk insisted on remaining anonymous.

    "It’s the investment companies and government which are to blame," one bitter investor said, and accused investment companies of tying up the money of their clients. "What are the people supposed to do now their money is trapped? In my opinion there is too little government control and there are too many investment companies."

    He questioned how companies on the floor "could be valued at tens of millions of pounds when the island’s entire worth is only £4 billion. What are these companies’ incomes anyway?"

    The investor said that he believed the only salvation for the Stock Exchange would be for a large company, "such as the Bank of Cyprus", to enter the floor of an international Stock Exchange "This would rejuvenate interest and raise share prices again," he believed.

    "The fat cats have achieved what they set out to do -- get their hands into the poor man’s pocket," he said.

    Another said, "It’s too soon to say what will happen, but one thing is for sure -- there is no social support. Some groups are taking advantage of others and no one, not the government, not the House, seems willing to stop them."

    One man in his eighties asked the price of the shares he held in a well- known investment company, and when he was told he left the Stock Exchange building, shoulders bent in resignation.

    The only thing rising during yesterday’s hour and a half of trading was the tension, with frequent exclamations of "I can’t believe it!" and "What’s happening?" and in one case "This is it. I’m finished."

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Wednesday, July 26, 2000

    [03] Post Office chief wants to be free to compete

    By Martin Hellicar

    POST OFFICE chief Vassos Vassiliou is issuing a plea for the service to be released from the "shackles" of state control, claiming this is the only way local post offices can survive in the face of growing private sector competition.

    "Trying to compete with private companies while remaining as a government department is nothing but utopia," Vassiliou told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    Communications Minister Averof Neophytou is also pushing for the service’s privatisation. He said on Monday that competition from private courier services had left post offices with "nothing to do but sell stamps".

    Vassiliou yesterday gave his full backing to government plans to turn the Postal Services into a joint stock company with the state as the sole share- holder.

    He said privatisation would force post offices employees to abandon the go- slow attitude that he admitted was sometimes a problem.

    "Attitude takes a long time to change, but without these (privatisation) changes, attitude will never change," Vassiliou said.

    Neophytou has also pointed the finger at "inefficiency" in the postal service.

    Despite the minister’s promise that no jobs would be axed after privatisation, post office employees yesterday vowed to fight privatisation. Civil servants’ union Pasydy said the minister’s reference to inefficiency was an affront to postal workers and warned of possible strike action. "The postal services section stresses that it will dynamically oppose plans to privatise post offices and will not tolerate insults to its members and their being blamed for problems not their own making," Pasydy said.

    The cabinet has already approved a proposal to turn the Postal Services into a joint stock company.

    The pleas from the minister and director of postal services are directed at the House of Representatives, which would have to approve a relevant bill before the sector can be privatised. The government does not enjoy a majority in the House, and left-wing opposition parties are staunchly anti- privatisation.

    Local post offices do not enjoy a reputation for prompt efficiency. Many private courier firms have set up shop in recent years, robbing post offices of almost most all their parcels business.

    Vassiliou set out his privatisation stall for the Cyprus Mail yesterday:

    "The danger is that we already have 30 private companies active in the postal services sector – they are coming up like mushrooms."

    These firms have a huge advantage over the Postal Services, Vassiliou said. "Given that these companies are private, they can work with greater autonomy and flexibility when taking decisions, making investments, hiring staff and securing equipment. We are a government department: to do something similar we have to negotiate public service procedures, which are time-consuming not only in Cyprus but the world over -- this is our Achilles’ heel."

    All this would change if the service became an independent joint stock company, he argued.

    The state, as the sole shareholder, would get a certain proportion of the profits and the remainder would be for the Post Offices board to do with as it saw fit.

    Vassiliou said he was competent his service would rise above the competition if released from state control.

    "We have certain advantages over the private sector: we are the only ones who cover the whole of the island, we have 50 post offices in all of Cyprus and 700 postal agencies. We also have the know-how and experience. We are, after all, among the oldest government services, operating since 1878."

    He promised post offices in remote villages would not be closed in a post- privatisation cost-cutting drive. "The first obligation of the postal services will always be to provide a universal service," Vassiliou said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Wednesday, July 26, 2000

    [04] Geneva talks continue with marathon Denktash-De Soto meeting

    U.N.-LED proximity talks on the Cyprus problem continued in Geneva yesterday with the Secretary-general’s special adviser Alvaro de Soto meeting Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    President Glafcos Clerides, meanwhile, is set to see de Soto today after a meeting scheduled for yesterday was postponed for undisclosed reasons.

    Speaking after a lengthy meeting yesterday, Denktash said that he and de Soto had begun elaborating on ideas the UN executive submitted to the two sides. "We discussed them for three-and-a-half hours," he said.

    Without elaborating, he said that the Turkish Cypriot side had responded to these thoughts, which de Soto put forward shortly before the talks adjourned on July 12.

    Denktash said that his meeting with de Soto, which he described as "very good", had satisfied him.

    The Turkish Cypriot leader said that he did not know when de Soto would call on him again. "He has listened to us and will invite us again, but we don’t know when."

    The proximity talks resumed on Monday after a 12-day break with de Soto saying he would be hearing reactions to his suggestions from both sides.

    All the party leaders, bar Diko president Spyros Kyprianou, have accompanied Clerides to the talks for the first time since they resumed in New York late last year.

    They said that they had travelled to Geneva because the current situation in Cyprus warranted the trip since their presence would send a message of determination for meaningful negotiations.

    Diko yesterday said that it did not believe House President Kyprianou’s presence in Geneva was necessary at this stage, but that he would go to Geneva as soon as he felt he should be there.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Wednesday, July 26, 2000

    [05] Klerides confirms Milosevic probe

    By Noah Haglund

    FINANCE Minister Takis Klerides confirmed yesterday that the International Court of Justice in the Hague has launched a probe into alleged illegal financial activity and bribery by Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic in the Republic of Cyprus.

    Klerides said that officials from the UN’s judicial wing have already visited the island, and he added that the chairman of the Court of Justice would arrive in Cyprus shortly on a confidential mission.

    "I do know that the International Court is carrying out investigations to collect information on whether there are or have been any violations of the law in Cyprus," said Klerides of the multi-national probe, which was first reported in Phileleftheros newspaper yesterday.

    He refused to say whether any non-disclosure restrictions had been lifted on Milosevic and his son Marko, and when asked if the investigation had been extended to local banks, he replied that only the International Court of Justice could answer these questions.

    In May last year The Times newspaper reported on rumours that Milosevic was channelling money to South Africa via middlemen in Cyprus, Israel and other countries.

    These rumours were fanned after Milosevic’s son Marko was spotted in South Africa shortly before the Nato air strikes began.

    Last May the Cyprus Central Bank revoked the licence of Beogradska Bank, the oldest offshore banking company on the island, because its "liabilities outweighed its assets".

    It was reported at the time that strong evidence existed Beogradska Bank was controlled by President Milosevic.

    Central Bank officials were unavailable for comment yesterday.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Wednesday, July 26, 2000

    [06] Police probe ‘man overboard’ report

    A UKRAINIAN crew member disappeared from the Larnaca-bound ship Sea Bell in international waters near the Greek island of Icaria last Saturday and is feared drowned, the ship’s captain told police after docking.

    Captain Alexander Striznak, 36, told Larnaca police that on Saturday 38- year-old Sergei Oykin disappeared, and that he had probably fallen into the sea.

    When the crew realised that Oykin had gone, they informed the open band broadcaster Radio Cyprus, which passed on the news to authorities in Greece.

    The Greek maritime authorities gave instructions that the captain was to continue on course to Larnaca.

    Capt. Striznak said Oykin had been feeling psychologically unwell 24 hours before he disappeared.

    The boat is now docked at the Larnaca port where police performed a full search without result. An investigation into Oykin’s disappearance is now under way.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Wednesday, July 26, 2000

    [07] Greens welcome Turkish decision to put off building nuke plant

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE THREAT of radioactive pollution from Turkey lifted yesterday, as Ankara announced the indefinite postponement of controversial plans to build a nuclear power plant at Akkuyu Bay, north of Cyprus.

    Environmentalists in Cyprus, Turkey and elsewhere have campaigned against the plant for years, claiming its location in an earthquake zone raised the spectre of a nuclear disaster waiting to happen.

    The local Green party in Cyprus welcomed the decision yesterday, despite Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit making it plain that the Akkuyu project was not being shelved on environmental grounds.

    He dismissed greens’ concerns as unfounded.

    Speaking after an Ankara cabinet meeting, Ecevit said Turkey would wait for nuclear technology to improve and for the country’s finances to stabilise before taking another look at the Akkuyu nuclear power plans.

    "It would be wrong for us to abandon building a nuclear power plant, but it would be right to delay it for a while and wait for new technology in this area," the Turkish premier said.

    He cited a report by Turkish power authority TEAS, which noted that the Western world was moving away from nuclear power. Germany last month agreed a plan to shut down its nuclear plants soon after 2020.

    Ecevit added that the multi-million dollar cost of an Akkuyu plant would throw Turkey’s IMF-backed economic reform package off track.

    The Turkish treasury had refused to guarantee the project.

    Long-delayed tenders for the plant have now been cancelled.

    "The cancellation of the Akkuyu tender does not mean we have abandoned nuclear energy; once the (economic) stability programme has reached its aims, nuclear plants will come back on to the agenda," Ecevit said.

    He said the next generation of nuclear reactors might have a longer working life, and expressed a hope in the future of nuclear fusion technology. But representatives of the bidding consortia said the decision to scrap the tender could deter bidders from any future Turkish nuclear power project.

    US firm Westinghouse Electric Co (a unit of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd), Canada’s AECL and Franco-German Nuclear Power International (NPI) competed to build the $2.5 to $4.5 billion plant.

    Turkey first sought bids for an Akkuyu plant in 1997 and repeatedly delayed a decision on a winning tender.

    George Perdikis, spokesman for the Cyprus Green party, said the postponement of the Akkuyu plans was "good news", but added that environmentalists would remain on guard against a possible resurrection of the nuclear plans.

    Experts had repeatedly warned that the Akkuyu site, less than 100 miles from Cyprus on Asia Minor’s south coast, was too close to the Ecemis fault line.

    A study by the Greek Ministry for the Aegean warned that an accident at an Akkuyu plant would almost certainly lead to Cyprus being blanketed in nuclear fallout. Greens also expressed concern about ‘routine’ radioactive releases during operation of a nuclear power plant.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Wednesday, July 26, 2000

    [08] Bomb blasts Limassol man’s car

    A HOMEMADE bomb went off under a bank employee’s car near the Ayios Nicolaos roundabout in Limassol at 3.50am yesterday.

    The device had been made from a domestic gas cylinder. The blast destroyed the Toyota Selica belonging to 27-year-old bank employee Charalambos Gogotsis, which was parked on the pavement outside his home on Chrysanthos Mylonas Street.

    One resident on the street said he had never heard anything like it: "My wife and I were woken by the blast -- I’m sure the whole of Limassol heard it."

    Police cordoned off the street until midday yesterday as they combed the area for evidence.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Wednesday, July 26, 2000

    [09] 56 in ‘court’ after riot

    A TURKISH Cypriot ‘court’ yesterday heard charges against 54 people detained on Monday after bursting into the ‘parliament’ building in protest at a banking scandal in the occupied north.

    Witnesses said the 54 faced charges of "damaging state property" after they burst into an empty chamber on Monday shouting slogans, scattering papers and demanding the regime’s resignation.

    Protesters outside overturned a vehicle and threw eggs, plastic bottles and stones at the building.

    Eight suspects were ordered held in custody for another day and the rest were released pending a final verdict, Reuters news agency reported.

    The custody extension for the eight stemmed from "a need to calculate the damage to the parliament building as well as official cars parked nearby during the protest," Reuters was told.

    The protesters were angry about a delay in payments to depositors at six banks taken under ‘state’ administration.

    Some 200 people staged a sit-in protest yesterday in front of the office of ‘prime minister’ Dervis Eroglu, demanding the release of those held.

    They said they would to keep up their action until the last person was released from custody.

    The demonstrators described Monday's incidents as an attempt by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to gain sole control of his internationally isolated ‘state’ by stirring up trouble.

    They said the events were "a rehearsal for a coup" and that "the Denktash regime,

    which has its hopes set on chaos in our country, is preparing a coup".

    Speaking in Geneva yesterday, where UN-led talks with the two sides on the island are

    being held, Denktash called for calm and said he would resign if he was the cause of the unrest, noting that "nobody should think that I am looking to escape my responsibilities".

    By Jennie Matthew

    A NICOSIA woman who is reported to have more than 100 cats and several dogs in her home has been given a month to clean up her act or be taken to court on charges of cruelty to animals and public nuisance.

    To local residents Chloe Sophocleous is a neighbour from hell, but to sympathisers she’s just an animal lover doing what she can.

    Sophocleous lives with her retired policeman husband and their two daughters Elena and Voulla in a seemingly peaceful house in Lakatamia. But behind the flower-lined fence, the feline inhabitants are reported to be running wild.

    Neighbours say her one hundred plus cats have riddled the area with fleas, caused the entire street to smell, and at midnight, when they are allowed outside, they run into their houses, get on to their roofs and make a lot of noise.

    She and her two daughters apparently sleep in shifts so they can keep a 24- hour watch over them.

    "Two days ago, one of the cats died,"said one of the neighbours. "They buried it in a funeral in the back garden. They were crying and wearing black," she said.

    But Toulla Poyadji, president of the Cyprus Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CSPCA) says that local residents kill the cats when they catch them.

    "They (the Sophocleouses) are frightened. They have every right to protect their animals. I don’t believe there is a bad smell. Cats don’t spread diseases -- they are inside the house and in their garden. They can’t harm anyone," she told the Cyprus Mail.

    The Sophocleous family will not let anyone near the house, however. Yesterday morning a pest-controller from Lakatamia municipality arrived to spray the area with insecticide.

    Chloe and one of her daughters screamed at him to go away, frantically shutting doors and windows and hiding behind the curtains. The police were called and one officer arrived, but Sophocleous refused to let him into the house. But she did finally consent to the house exterior being sprayed.

    The CSPCA can’t understand what all the fuss is about. Poyadji says there is no evidence of cruelty in this case, and she accused the neighbours of exaggerating: "There were not 100 cats -- there were nearer 30," she said.

    But Poyadji is unable to confirm this -- she has been barred from entering the house by the Sophocleous family.

    On May 31, local residents sent a letter of complaint to the municipality and the police.

    District Veterinary Officer Zinonas Hadjizenonos told the Cyprus Mail yesterday: "We visited the woman, with an inspector from the municipality, about 20 days ago," said. "She did not co-operate with our efforts and so she must go to court."

    He said Sophocleous "keeps the cats cruelly in small cages. They are infected with lice that are contaminating half of Lakatamia with parasites."

    A Lakatamia policeman who visited the house six months ago put the number of cats at nearer 30 than 100.

    But Hadjizenonos insisted that the cats’ continual breeding means the problem has reached titanic proportions.

    The neighbours are outraged by what they say has been a growing problem for 12 years. Now they see the courts as offering the only solution.

    "I can’t put up with this any more. I’m fed up with it, she won’t let the municipality in, even for the sake of our health," said one local resident who wished to remain anonymous.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Wednesday, July 26, 2000

    [10] Bases to help save Zambian wildlife

    A TEAM from the British bases in Cyprus is heading for Zambia to help conservationists struggling to save wildlife.

    Fifteen engineers from RAF Akrotiri will set off for Zambia under the leadership of Captain Nick Weller to help repair water pumps, vehicles and other equipment.

    The expedition will join forces with the David Shepherd Conservation Foundation (DSCF) and the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) who have been working in the area for the past 30years.

    In the ’60s there were over 4,000 black rhinos and 250,000 elephants. The population has been reduced by 90 per cent as a result of illegal trade. There are approximately 20 rhinos and 250 elephants left in Zambia.

    The DSCF and ZAWA have been working against the poachers and to offset the effects of civil wars in the region to secure a safer future for all endangered animals in Zambia, which also include lions, leopards and cheetahs.

    Over the past ten years Shepherd has secured over 335,000 pounds in support of the cause, which the British contingent in Cyprus has come to embrace.

    Captain Weller says his soldiers were chosen because of their unique abilities such as working in a hot climate and the training skills to teach the existing crew how to maintain repaired equipment.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail


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