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

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>


  • [01] British step up efforts in Tsiakourmas case
  • [02] Kyprianou denies 56,000 phone bill claim
  • [03] New threats against Koshis?
  • [04] Pharmaceutical price cuts delayed by harmonisation backlog
  • [05] How Britain tried to hide Akrotiri nukes
  • [06] CyTA under fire over Internet rates

  • [01] British step up efforts in Tsiakourmas case

    By Jean Christou EFFORTS continued yesterday for the release of Greek Cypriot contractor Panicos Tsiakourmas from the north.

    "The British are concerned about this case and are making a lot of moves on the diplomatic and political fronts but we continue to regard them responsible and they should try and find ways to secure his immediate release," Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday.

    British High Commissioner Edward Clay, who met President Glafocs Clerides yesterday, said his main concern was Tziakourmas' well being and that of his family.

    "We make our efforts with those key objectives in mind," Clay said.

    Tsiakourmas, 39, who is diabetic, was abducted from his car within the British Sovereign Base (SBA) of Dhekelia as he went to pick up his Turkish Cypriot workers near Pergamos on December 12. He is being held in the north pending `trial' on February 25 for alleged possession of 1.5 kilos of cannabis.

    Tsiakourmas was taken in retaliation over the arrest of Omer Tekoglu, a Turkish Cypriot from the mixed village of Pyla, held by Cyprus police on suspicion of possessing two kilos of heroin following an undercover sting operation. Police say he was arrested outside the UN-controlled buffer zone village, but the Turkish side he was illegally arrested inside the village and are seeking a direct swap, a move the government has ruled out.

    A spokesman for the British High Commission said Clay met with the Administrator of the Bases, Air Vice Marshall Bill Rimmer, earlier yesterday, and will see Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides to discuss the situation.

    "Now we have to take stock of what is going on but it would be wrong to advertise what we are doing," spokesman Jonathan Allen said.

    "There are options available to us and we are considering what we may or may not do, but at the moment we evaluate the situation."

    UNFICYP Senior Adviser Wlodzimierz Cibor told the Cyprus News Agency that the UN continued to facilitate visits by Tsiakourmas' wife and family to the north. The next visit is scheduled for tomorrow.

    Cibor said the UN was investigating ways to ensure Tsiakourmas' immediate release.

    Referring to Tziakourmas' health, Cibor said the results of a thorough test showed everything was within normal limits, except his glucose level, which was up.

    "Our doctor considers that his general health and mental state is good, under the circumstances," he said, adding that Tsiakourmas had requested and was receiving a special diet.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    [02] Kyprianou denies 56,000 phone bill claim

    By a Staff Reporter THE OFFICE of House President Spyros Kyprianou yesterday denied reports that 56,000 had been paid on phone bills during Kyprianou's stay in the United States and Britain for heart surgery last year.

    On Monday, Alithia reported that taxpayers had paid for 56,000 worth of phone calls made last January from Cleveland, where Kyprianou underwent heart surgery, and between February 12 and March 15 from London, where he received treatment after complications.

    In addition, according to Alithia, Kyprianou has requested from the state to cover the accommodation costs of his wife, which totalled 6,000.

    Meanwhile the costs for Kyprianou's treatment, which were also covered by the taxpayer, add up to 98,000, the paper said.

    But in a written response to Alithia yesterday, Kyprianou's office denied the state was ever called to pay so much for phone calls during the House President's stay abroad.

    Citing official House information, the statement said the calls charged by Kyprianou amounted to $2,173.23 from Cleveland and "only" 1,479.48 sterling from London.

    The statement argues the calls had been necessary since Kyprianou wanted to be kept informed of developments concerning the Cyprus problem and the House.

    The decision to refer Kyprianou abroad for treatment had not been a personal one, the statement said, but had been made by his Cypriot doctors who concluded that the operations could not be carried out on the island.

    Reports that the issue had been discussed by the cabinet could not be confirmed, although government sources told the Cyprus Mail the matter would be discussed in a later session.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    [03] New threats against Koshis?

    By a Staff Reporter THE Government yesterday remained tight-lipped over alleged threats against the life of Justice Minister Nicos Koshis, but denied suggestions his job might be on the line.

    Media reports on Monday said threats had been made against Nicos Koshis, prompting police to beef up security around the minister.

    It is the second time that reports have emerged of alleged threats against Koshis from suspected members of the underworld.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou yesterday declined to comment on the claims.

    In April last year, similar reports forced British police to take draconian security measures after being tipped off on a suspected plan to assassinate Koshis.

    The minister was in the United Kingdom, where he had been attending a Diaspora gathering.

    The government said at the time that the British and Cypriot authorities had intelligence about plans to kill the minister during his visit.

    Papapetrou, meanwhile yesterday denied that ruling DISY had asked for the replacement of Koshis, adding the government was satisfied with his work.

    The same reports were dismissed last week by President Glafcos Clerides, who described them as "fantasies".

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    [04] Pharmaceutical price cuts delayed by harmonisation backlog

    By Jenny Curtis HEALTH Minster Frixos Savvides said yesterday that patients would probably have to wait another year before they could expect to pay less for their medicine.

    Savvides had originally hoped to get a bill through the House to break importers' legal `stranglehold' on supplies by the autumn of 2000, but said yesterday that preparations for entry into the EU had caused substantial delays.

    At the moment the bill it is being examined on legal points by the Attorney- general's office, but the department is so busy studying other bills relating to EU accession that it has been unable to forward it to Parliament as quickly as it had hoped.

    "The whole process has been very difficult," Savvides confessed. "I am frustrated but I know we must appreciate the hundreds of other bills the office has to study as part of our harmonisation with the EU and I cannot blame them."

    He added he was confident the bill would be approved by parliament:

    "I can't guarantee they will give it their backing, but in my opinion they have no choice. Whether we like it or not the law must change - something has to be done, because it is not fair that people living in Cyprus should be paying so much more than their neighbours."

    Currently the prices of some drugs and medicines in Cyprus are more than double those in Greece and in many cases are higher than in the UK. Such discrepancies have resulted in some people stocking up on supplies at foreign airports.

    Savvides says the new bill will open the market by breaking the lock on drug imports enjoyed for years by some 50 members of the Cyprus Association of Pharmaceutical Companies. He believes fresh competition will reduce checkout counter charges by at least 50 per cent.

    One of the main reasons why drugs are so much cheaper in Greece is because it is the only European country that still subsidises production of pharmaceuticals. Cyprus cannot import Greek-made drugs because multinational pharmaceuticals have their own agents here.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    [05] How Britain tried to hide Akrotiri nukes

    By Jenny Curtis A NEW study to be published this week detailing Britain's nuclear deployment at Akrotiri during the cold war has reignited public anger over attempts to conceal the arsenal from the Cyprus government.

    Extracts from the study to be published by the Chicago-based Bulletin of Atomic Scientists were printed in the Sunday Times on December 31, confirming that tactical nuclear weapons were deployed at Akrotiri as early as 1960. The fact of the deployment has been known in recent years, as British records were opened to the public in line with the Public Record Office's 30-year-rule, but the study by nuclear historian Richard Moore highlights the web of secrecy surrounding the presence of the weapons.

    "The documents not only describe various British deployments but also the lengths to which London went to keep its allies unaware of covert weapon movements," Moore's study says. It adds that in one 1960 memorandum, an official at the Air Ministry insisted that all those involved maintain their silence. "All possible measures should be taken in Cyprus to conceal the arrival and storage of nuclear bombs," wrote the official, "whether they be inert or drill or the real McCoy."

    President Clerides last year admitted there was a time when the government had some indication that nuclear weapons were probably on the bases, but that he knew they had since been removed, a fact yesterday confirmed by Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou: "We certainly had our suspicions that there were nuclear weapons on the island during parts of the sixties and seventies, but the British refused to confirm whether they were here.

    "It makes us very anxious to think they were being kept on the island and I don't think it is acceptable for the people of Cyprus to have been treated this way."

    He added he was confident there were no such capabilities here now, but reiterated the fact that the government was both worried and annoyed that they were brought to the Republic without their knowledge or permission.

    Military experts, however, suggest it would have been hard to conceal the weapons as a large number of Cypriots had access to the bases and it would have been hard to hide the presence of Vulcan nuclear bombers, an extremely conspicuous and widely recognised aircraft.

    Conceived in 1948 and used by the RAF between 1956 and 1984, the Vulcans are approximately the size of a Boeing 737. According to sources at Jane's Defence Weekly, they were based at Akrotiri between 1969 and 1975.

    The new study says discussions about the development of the British base at Akrotiri as a permanent home for Canberras, light aircraft able to drop nuclear bombs, began as early as 1956, coming to fruition after independence in 1960, when part of the base was prepared for 16 Red Beard tactical nuclear weapons. The following year, permanent storage facilities for 32 Red Beards were opened at nearby Cape Gata.

    Moore says that by the end of 1962 facilities had been upgraded to handle heavier nuclear bombers, and that "we can assume Britain had a full low- altitude nuclear bombing capability in Cyprus at that stage."

    Captain Rupert Greenwood, a spokesman for the British bases, said yesterday he could neither confirm nor deny whether there was once a nuclear presence on the island: "We are unable to comment on any issues about nuclear weapons."

    "This story comes up this time every year, with the release of more government archives," said Jonathan Allen, a spokesman for the British High Commission, adding Britain followed a strict "never confirm or deny" policy when it came to discussing nuclear matters. However, he pointed out anyone was free to visit the MOD website, which clearly states Britain no longer has any airborne weapons as part of its strategic nuclear deterrent, and that the only nuclear weapons it does have are on its four nuclear submarines.

    However, Cyprus can at least feel reassured it was not alone in having nuclear weapons stored on its soil without its consent, as Moore's study shows they were similarly deployed at British bases in Singapore.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    [06] CyTA under fire over Internet rates

    By a Staff Reporter THE UNITED Democrats yesterday lashed out at the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA), claiming the semi-government organisation had broken the law and was "playing around with numbers" regarding rates charged for connection to the Internet.

    A recent law passed by the House determined that connection fees to the Internet should stay at 1.3 cents per four minutes, but CyTA instead introduced a pricing scheme charging 2 cents for every six minutes and 10 seconds, claiming that it all works out to the same thing.

    "With this move, CyTA has shown what a profit-driven organisation it is," UD deputy Giorgos Christofides charged yesterday.

    "They have changed the pricing scheme so that every time you log on to the web, you are automatically charged fully for the six minutes. Considering there are thousands of people out there who use the Internet, for CyTA this means hundreds of thousands of pounds of extra revenue."

    "But the real issue is that CyTA has not implemented the law as it was passed by the House," he said, adding that the organisation was making technical excuses to force through its new scheme. "This," Christofides said, "is totally unacceptable."

    CyTA deputy general manager Fotis Savvides yesterday countered the accusations. He said CyTA had recently proposed to the House Communications Committee a pricing scheme of 2 cents for four minutes, and that this proposal had been initially accepted, only for the House plenum later to pass a law bringing back the old pricing system (1.3 cents per four minutes). Meanwhile, however, CyTA had switched to the 2 cents charge, and did not have enough time to revert back to the 1.3 cents system: the problem was therefore solved by extending the connection time parameter, he said.

    "After all, it's not possible to have two separate pricing systems, is it?" he remarked.

    Speaking on a live radio show, Savvides backed his position by noting that statistics showed the "vast majority" of Internet users stayed online for over six minutes. But Christofides remained unimpressed, saying that "all this is just playing around with words."

    In addition to Internet connection fees, CyTA has moved to hike the prices of phone line connection fees and local call rates, long subsidised by steep international rates, which were recently slashed.

    The changes are in keeping with EU directives, which stipulate government organisations cannot subsidise services as Cyprus looks to liberalise the telecommunications sector by January 2003.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

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