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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-01-26

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>


  • [01] De Soto on salvage mission
  • [02] The plight of the outpatient
  • [03] New arrest over weekend shootings
  • [04] It's too late to buy a tortoise
  • [05] Politis criticised over 'phone conspiracy'
  • [06] Government pleased with bases reconstruction
  • [07] False witnesses jailed
  • [08] Drug rehab chief says addicts have nowhere to turn
  • [09] 'We're at the mercy of DU radiation'
  • [10] Army of British civil servants working on the Cyprus problem
  • [11] Party leaders to decide on timing of health vote
  • [12] New site agreed for parliament

  • [01] De Soto on salvage mission

    By A Staff Reporter SALVAGING the Cyprus settlement process might involve re-jigging it in some way, UN mediator in charge of the indirect peace talks, Alvaro de Soto, suggested on his arrival in Cyprus late yesterday.

    Faced with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's continued refusal to attend the next round of proximity talks with President Clerides, De Soto hinted a change of tack might be necessary.

    The UN man said the sixth round of talks, originally set for Geneva next week, was "obviously not happening, at least not for now".

    He then added: "But there are many ways of conducting UN Secretary General Koffi Annan's good offices and I come here to hear views on how to go about this, so as to put the Secretary General in a position to take the next steps."

    "As of now, I do not see any reason to divulge what we are going to propose because we would first like to hear from all sides," De Soto stated.

    He declined to comment further, saying he would say more at a press conference on Monday following his contacts with both sides. De Soto is scheduled to meet Clerides this morning and Denktash tomorrow, after the Turkish Cypriot leader returns from a visit to Ankara.

    The UN diplomat spoke in a similar vein earlier in the day yesterday, after his talks in Athens with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou. "The UN Secretary General's good offices are a very broad concept which allow him to establish consultation with the parties in a variety of ways," he said, while also calling for patience from both sides.

    The Greek Cypriot side's response to the possible shift in UN approach was immediate and distinctly cautious. Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoullides, returning from an official visit to Spain and arriving at Larnaca airport just after De Soto, commented that a change in the format of the settlement process would only be possible if both sides agreed to it.

    De Soto has conducted five rounds of indirect talks between Clerides and Denktash in Geneva and New York without visible progress towards the UN goal of a federal settlement.

    Speaking from Istanbul earlier yesterday, Denktash repeated his threat, first voiced in November, to abandon the proximity talks unless his breakaway regime in the occupied north is given international recognition.

    The Turkish side is demanding a confederal Cyprus settlement.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] The plight of the outpatient

    By Melina Demetriou HOSPITAL outpatients wait for hours to be seen for just three minutes by public doctors, DIKO Deputy Marios Matsakis and former state pathologist charged yesterday.

    Each state doctor serves 70 to 80 patients a day in the space of 8 hours, Matsakis told the Cyprus Mail, accusing the Health Ministry of deliberately tolerating "this unacceptable situation to have an excuse to liberalise the sector."

    "It is no surprise that state doctors make so many wrong diagnoses. How can they think straight after having seen 70 patients in one morning? How can they make a correct diagnosis in three minutes and give a patient proper treatment?" he wondered.

    Matsakis said there were not enough doctors at hospitals to treat outpatients and insisted a doctor should not see more than 25 patients per day. State doctors at outpatients' departments usually work from 7am to 2pm.

    Outpatients at state hospitals often have to wait for more three or four hours to see a doctor, but most of them waiting at Nicosia general hospital this week did not complain.

    "Sometimes they wait for hours only to be asked to go back the next day to be served," said Matsakis.

    People with health problems flood Nicosia Hospital every day, sometimes travelling from other towns to see the right doctor according to their case.

    Petros, 57, a regular outpatient from Akaki in the Nicosia district, had to wait for more than four hours on Monday to be seen by a specialised doctor at the hospital.

    "I usually leave home at 5.45 am to be here before it is completely packed. But today the doctor I need to see was late because he had to perform an operation. But I don't complain about having to wait," he said stoically.

    Ellada, a 50-year-old woman from Limassol, said: "I arrived from Limassol early in the morning to see a blood specialist, but I was later informed he was going to come in at about 11.30pm. It bothers me, but I will wait for as much as it takes."

    "When you wait for a couple of hours to see a GP you are finally served. But I don't mind waiting because I understand there are other people like me who need to see a doctor. Health services at the hospital are of a high standard," said Prodromos, man in his mid-40s waiting to be served at the hospital.

    Outpatients living on a state allowance pay a pound to see a state doctor, compared to the 10-15 it would cost them to consult a private doctor. Those not eligible for state benefit would pay about 10 to be seen by a state doctor.

    Matsakis put down outpatients' stoicism to the fact that waiting for three or four hours was better than the eight hours they sometimes had to wait for in the past. He accused the government of neglecting outpatients' departments deliberately to have an excuse to introduce liberalisation through the National Health Plan, which it hopes to implement in a year's time. A relevant government proposal is pending House approval.

    "And a National Health Plan will not make things right. Queues will form in every health centre," Matsakis insisted.

    But Health Minister Frixos Savvides argues the health plan will solve all the problems faced by both doctors and patients.

    He said outpatients had good service at hospital departments.

    "When they get to hospitals, patients are put on waiting lists. They get a ticket with their number on so they can leave and come back when it's their turn to see a doctor. But most people prefer to stay there and socialise. Old people have a good time chatting and joking with each other. Outpatients turn the departments into coffee shops," the minister said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] New arrest over weekend shootings

    By a Staff Reporter NICOSIA court yesterday remanded a man police believe could hold the key to the shootings that rocked Nicosia over the weekend.

    Andreas Christodoulou, 22, from Ayios Theodoros, was remanded for eight days after the court heard he had on Wednesday led police to a building where a pistol, rifle and shells were hidden.

    He yesterday also took them to an open space where he told police that he, and a person already in custody in connection with the same case, allegedly hid the G3 automatic gun thought to have been used in the attacks.

    Two men, Petros Patsalides, 34, and Costas Nestoros, 38, were remanded in connection with the case on Monday, following a night of violence in Nicosia that left three people injured and a shop riddled with bullets.

    A Sunday morning nightclub shooting left two people injured while shots were fired at a furniture shop. A bouncer from the club was later shot and seriously injured at his home, though Patsalides and Nestoros have not been remanded in connection with his shooting.

    The bouncer, a 28-year-old man from Strovolos, is being treated in hospital for a serious spine injury. George Kokkinos, alias Rockabilly, was shot in the back on the porch of his home on Kratinou Street at 4am.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] It's too late to buy a tortoise

    By Athena Karsera DESIGNER pets are becoming more exotic by the day, but owners often fail to realise that many species are indigenous to very specific climates and either perish in their new homes, or destroy them if allowed to escape.

    British vets recently had to round up thousands of iguanas that had outgrown their charm and were thrown out by owners to fend for themselves in weather much colder than their native climate. Or there was Australia's 19th century catastrophe, when pet rabbits brought by the colonists escaped and multiplied, destroying vast areas of the countryside.

    The Cyprus Veterinary Services yesterday warned would-be owners that bringing in exotic species was a lengthy process.

    They could not provide a full list of animals banned from import to the country.

    But a senior official said there was a special Agriculture Ministry committee made up of representatives from various departments that decided on individual import applications.

    "Say for example somebody wants to bring in iguanas or kangaroos: the committee hears why they want to bring them in and whether they have suitable facilities for the animal before deciding," the official said.

    The free import of tortoises and turtles was halted "two or three years ago", as they were decreed a protected species. "If someone now wants to import them, they have to pass through the same procedure with the committee."

    However, the creatures are often readily available in sometimes appalling conditions at smaller pet shops, village stalls or as prizes at local fairs.

    The official said tortoises sold were probably the offspring of earlier generations brought to Cyprus, or animals brought in before the ban.

    "We could not go around and confiscate the animals people already have."

    He noted, however, that if the animals were spotted in unsuitable or distressing conditions, the Veterinary Services would take action.

    "We can't be everywhere all the time, but the public should contact the Veterinary Services in their district and report any incidents."

    One pet-shop chain is refusing to sell any illegal animals.

    A representative from PetNature, which has stores in Nicosia and Larnaca, said: "There are ways to get these animals, but we choose not to as a matter of principal. It's not only about tortoises but serpents and some types of birds."

    The representative said she had asked for a list of banned animals from the Veterinary Services to show customers. "People often come in and ask for pets we don't stock," she added.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] Politis criticised over 'phone conspiracy'

    By Martin Hellicar POLITIS newspaper was yesterday rapped by the Journalism Ethics Committee for publishing a list of private telephone transactions between clerics and laymen allegedly involved in a conspiracy against Limassol Bishop Athanassios last year.

    The House Human Rights Committee meanwhile slammed the Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) over its indirect involvement in the same controversial Politis story.

    The front-page Politis article appeared in November last year, at the peak of the Athanassios saga. The paper claimed the records of dozens of phone calls between the top clerics and laymen proved a conspiracy was afoot to drive the popular Limassol bishop out by labelling him a homosexual.

    Athanassios was eventually cleared of homosexuality allegations by a Major Holy Synod, while five of his accusers have ended up in court on charges of conspiring to defame him.

    In an announcement yesterday, the Journalism Ethics Committee said its probe into the controversial story had concluded that Politis had failed to allow readers "to make up their own minds" about the alleged conspiracy.

    Publishing the list of transactions could, perhaps, be justified on the grounds that it was in the public interest, the committee stated. But, by plainly stating that a conspiracy was afoot, Politis had violated the alleged conspirators' right to be considered innocent until proved otherwise, the committee concluded.

    The Politis piece ran under the banner headline: "Expose - Conspiracy Network - Mobile Phones Recorded the Interaction."

    The story brought a storm of protest, not least from the chairman of the House Human Rights Committee, Yiannakis Agapiou, who immediately launched a probe before his committee.

    Yesterday, Agapiou said the committee had decided CyTA bore the brunt of the blame for the contentious article. Agapiou said the semi-governmental utility had failed to protect the privacy of its customers by allowing records of the timing and duration of private telephone transactions to be leaked to Politis.

    The Authority did launch a probe into the leaking of the phone transaction records, but concluded it could not be pinned to any individual CyTA employee.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Government pleased with bases reconstruction

    By Jean Christou THE GOVERNMENT said yesterday it was pleased with the British Bases' reconstruction of the abduction of Greek Cypriot contractor Panicos Tsiakourmas.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said the move was very positive.

    "Our effort, primarily in the direction of Britain but also elsewhere, to exert all possible pressure leading to Tsiakourmas' release, shall continue, " Papapetrou told his daily briefing yesterday.

    The reconstruction on Wednesday morning involved British Bases personnel and police who re-enacted the abduction of the 39-year old father of three on December 13, and clearly showed how his car was stopped and how he was dragged from the vehicle by a group of men.

    The red pick-up truck was found with the engine running and the lights on and the driver's door open. Tsiakourmas, who is diabetic, had been on his way to pick up several of his Turkish Cypriot workers when he disappeared. He was later reported to be held in the north on suspicion of possessing 1.5 kilos of cannabis, although bases investigations confirmed no trace of drugs in his car.

    British High Commissioner Edward Clay said yesterday the evidence was "extremely powerful" that the bases police hypothesis was correct.

    "The SBA police are investigating a serious crime on British territory, they have established the nature of the crime but they do not know yet the perpetrators," Clay said after a meeting with President Glafcos Clerides.

    "It is as plain as the nose on my face what happened on December 13."

    Clay added that police had discovered evidence directly relevant to the charges Tsiakourmas is facing. This evidence, he said, had been passed on to the defence lawyers and the prosecution in the north.

    Clay said the SBA police were ready to co-operate with everybody involved in this case to ensure the 'trial' was properly conducted.

    Tsiakourmas is due to appear in 'court' in the north on Tuesday, a day after the hearing at Larnaca court for Turkish Cypriot drugs suspect Omer Tekogul.

    Days after Greek Cypriot police arrested Tekogul, 42, on December 2, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash warned that a Greek Cypriot would disappear.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] False witnesses jailed

    By Martin Hellicar TWO MEN who admitted to conspiring to label Bishop Athanassios of Limassol a homosexual were yesterday sentenced to three months in prison.

    The Nicosia District Court convicted father-of-three Manolis Ilia, 34, from Livadia outside Larnaca, and Costas Savva, 30, from Peristerona near Nicosia, for working in cahoots with others last year to try to bring down the popular Bishop.

    Athanassios had to endure months of sordid allegations before a Major Holy Synod, only the second to ever convene in Cyprus, cleared him of the accusations in November.

    Ilia and Savva found themselves in court after confessing to falsely testifying against Athanassios before a church committee tasked with probing the gay allegations against the Limassol cleric earlier last year.

    Another layman, Lefteris Psyllos, is also charged with falsely testifying against Athanassios, while two Limassol archimandrites, Andreas Constantinides and Chrysostomos Argyrides are charged with coaxing and bribing the three laymen to tell the Church probe lies. Psyllos, Constantinides and Argyrides have pleaded not guilty to the charges. They remain on trial.

    Last week, the court heard how Savva told police that Psyllos called him in July last year and asked him to testify against Athanassios. Psyllos asked Savva to tell the Church investigating committee that he had seen Athanassios and Psyllos together at a nudist beach at Pissouri, west of Limassol, in 1994, the court heard.

    The court also heard that Savva had twice received bribes from Archimandrite Constantinides to testify against Athanassios.

    The court has also heard that Savva told police of a sixth man involved in the alleged anti-Athanassios conspiracy: Dinos Karayiannis, the brother of Bishop Vassilios of Trimithounda.

    Athanassios' supporters claim Bishop Vassilios was part of an orchestrated plan to oust their favourite. They say Paphos Bishop Chrysostomos led the 'gay Bishop' campaign in a bid to regain his position as favourite to be next Archbishop from the Limassol Bishop.

    In late August, a repentant Savva met with Bishop Athanassios and confessed to him that he had falsely testified against him. Ilia did the same.

    In sentencing the two men, the court took into account the fact that Athanassios had forgiven both of them for testifying against him.

    Other mitigating factors were the two men's obvious repentance and their family and financial problems, the court stated. The court also took into account the fact that one of Ilia's three children was seriously ill and that Savva also had serious health problems.

    Last autumn, the testimonies from Savva, Ilia and Psyllos convinced the Church probe committee to call Athanassios to appear before a panel of his peers to answer to the gay allegations. But Archbishop Chrysostomos intervened by inviting Bishops and Patriarchs from outside Cyprus appear to form a Major Synod, which duly dismissed the anti-Athanassios testimonies and cleared the Limassol Bishop.

    Constantinides, who had been the most vociferous anti-Athanassios campaigner, has been indefinitely suspended from his priestly duties.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [08] Drug rehab chief says addicts have nowhere to turn

    By Jennie Matthew THE COUNTRY'S rising population of heroin addicts is being deprived of up-to-date and effective treatment, doctor Kyriakos Veresies, director of the drugs rehabilitation centre at Ayia Skepi told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    He dismissed existing detoxification programmes as useless in combating heroin addiction, saying they ignored the deeply psychological nature of the problem and provided an inadequate safety net against the dangerous dropout rate.

    The rehab centre, established in May 1999, has just 60 beds. According to Veresies, more than 120 heroin users signed up for the detoxification programme last year. He estimates there are as many as 1,500 heroin users in Cyprus.

    Aside from 14 beds made available at general hospitals, most heroin users sign up to detoxification programmes either as hospital outpatients, or from prison.

    "The purely medical model doesn't work anywhere in the world. It's very difficult if you're addicted to keep to a programme when you only come along two or three times a week," Veresies said.

    "Only in a therapeutic community can patients accept responsibility for their problem and battle against the weaker sides of their personality. Patients need one or two years in such places to rebuild their lives and take the route away from drugs," he said.

    The Ministry of Health has promised to donate the old hospital in Larnaca as a second rehab centre in two months' time.

    "To set up a government-funded institute, we need at least four or five years to prepare all the details. We haven't got the time. The problem is extremely urgent," said Veresies.

    Last year, the drugs squad confiscated 2.5 kilos of heroin, against the backdrop of an ever-increasing hard drug problem.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [09] 'We're at the mercy of DU radiation'

    By Melina Demetriou CYPRUS does not have any radiation testing equipment, deputies and nuclear experts warned members of the House Health Committee yesterday.

    Their testimony came in the wake of the recent scare over 'Balkans syndrome' - a string of cancer deaths linked to NATO's use of depleted uranium shells over the region.

    The Health Ministry has set up a committee of inquiry to establish whether any of the 70 or so Cypriots in Yugoslavia during the NATO bombing has suffered any health problems.

    "About 70 Cypriots were in Yugoslavia at the time. Among them were students, tourists, members of voluntary organisations and deputies. We are gathering information about these people who need to be examined, possibly abroad, to see whether their bodies contain high levels of radioactivity. Up to now, 15 people have come to us. We are waiting for more people to come forward so we can give them some answers," Andreas Georgiou, a ministry official told the Committee.

    The United Democrats' George Christofides told the Committee Cyprus had no monitoring mechanisms to check radiation levels in the environment, in factories, in imported food and other products and even in people.

    He suggested centre should be established to conduct the relevant studies.

    "If a war breaks out and radioactive material is released what will the state do? Do they have an emergency plan? We are not the least prepared to deal with such a possibility," he warned.

    Charalambos Tsertos, a nuclear science expert and professor at the University of Cyprus said "the state must take the necessary action to set up such an centre as soon as possible. If it waits a few months it might be too late. Turkey possesses depleted uranium shells, according to NATO. Even if the Turkish Cypriot breakaway regime does not posses this kind of weaponry, you can imagine the consequences of a conflict between Greece and Turkey."

    Tsertos said a centre to test radioactivity levels would not cost less than 560,000 to set up and would bring Cyprus into line with EU safety standards.

    "It would not require more than five or six experts to form a good team," he explained.

    "You must not look at this matter through rose-tinted glasses. You must take realistic and impartial decisions to face this threat, regardless of political affiliation," Tsertos urged deputies.

    DIKO deputy Marios Matsakis played up fears that there were depleted uranium shells in the occupied areas.

    "Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has not ruled out the possibility and the Defence Ministry has practically confirmed that Denktash's regime possesses depleted uranium shells," Matsakis said.

    The Committee vowed to look further into the issue.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [10] Army of British civil servants working on the Cyprus problem

    By Jennie Matthew BRITISH MPs are calling on the Foreign Office for greater transparency in British diplomatic efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.

    The Labour MP for Hendon, Andrew Dismore, has accused the Foreign Office of excessive secrecy in its work on the Cyprus problem and has asked for UK special envoy to Cyprus, Sir David Hannay, to go public on his salary.

    No public announcement of the envoy's salary has been made. But British High Commission spokesman Jonathan Allen told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that Hannay was paid for "60 days' work a year," - considerably less than the amount he put in, Allen added.

    Dismore said in a report carried by Politis newspaper that the British government should not keep the public in the dark over the Cyprus Problem.

    "When there is a lack of information, the gap is usually filled with speculation and rumours that doesn't help," he told Politis.

    Without doubt, the taxpayer in Britain - the former colonial power -- foots a hefty bill on national efforts to help solve the Cyprus problem, with well over 1,000 civil servants working on the island's general concerns, Allen said.

    A third of the 75-strong British High Commission in Nicosia works exclusively on the Cyprus problem, while in London another seven work on the issue directly, including Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and two full- time civil servants. Special Envoy Sir David Hannay brings the number up to eight.

    But a total of 1,000 civil servants work on more general matters relating to Cyprus' accession to the European Union, considered by many as the mostly likely framework for implementing a bi-communal, bi-zonal solution to the problem.

    Dismore said he had drawn attention to the matter, because of the wide interest in Hannay's work among MPs.

    He did not question the special envoy's value as a diplomat. Hannay is a former British Permanent Representative to the UN and the European Union and is a senior-level civil servant, appointed as special representative to Cyprus in 1996.

    Dismore is MP for Hendon - a North London suburb with a sizeable Cypriot population.

    The Foreign Office was yesterday unavailable for comment on the issue.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [11] Party leaders to decide on timing of health vote

    By Athena Karsera A COMMITTEE made up of party leaders and representatives is to decide at its next meeting when the government's controversial National Health Plan should appear before the Plenum for approval.

    But there was no indication yesterday of when the committee would next meet, likely delaying progress of the bill for at least a fortnight.

    Under the proposed scheme, all employees would have to contribute two per cent of their wages - 3.55 per cent if they are self-employed - the employer another 2.55 per cent and the state 4.55 per cent.

    Announcing the delay after the extraordinary committee meeting yesterday, acting House president Nicos Anastassiades said: "The House Health Committee will meet again to look into new proposals so that there is the widest possible support for the plan and, during the next meeting of the leaders and representatives of parties, a date will be set for it to be discussed at the Plenum."

    Anastassiades said that Health Minister Frixos Savvides' assurances that the plan would ultimately benefit all society seemed to have convinced even main opposition party AKEL of it suitability.

    "It seems that after the Minster's statements, AKEL is ready to discuss the plan at the next Health Committee meeting," Anastassiades said.

    AKEL and DIKO have said they disagreed with certain provisions of the government's health plan, and could therefore not accept the scheme as a whole.

    Meanwhile, the DEOK union yesterday urged the government to forge ahead with discussion and approval of the new plan during a meeting with President Glafcos Clerides.

    Speaking after the meeting. DEOK secretary-general Diomedes Diomedous said: "We asked the President that the government show determination and ensure discussion and a vote on the new health plan as soon as possible."

    Civil service union PASYDY has spearheaded a campaign of opposition to the plan, claiming it would result in the privatisation of national health. Civil servants currently enjoy free health care paid for by the taxpayer, and are loath to contribute to a universal system.

    Bank employees also oppose the plan, arguing they are covered by existing workplace plans.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [12] New site agreed for parliament

    By a Staff Reporter THE HOUSE of Representatives is to move to new premises on Demosthenis Severis Avenue near the PASYDY building in Nicosia, it was decided at an extraordinary meeting of party leaders at the House yesterday.

    Until a new building is completed, the state will spend 2.3 million to renovate the existing Parliament. The new construction is expected to be finished in two to three years' time.

    DISY leader Nicos Anastassiades told reporters at the House yesterday that the Plenum's amphitheatre would be the first thing to be restored. "The way it looks now is unacceptable. We expect that we will have a respectable amphitheatre before September."

    The Plenum's amphitheatre's roof leaked during a session of the Plenum on a rainy day earlier this month, infuriating deputies.

    Other sectors of the building will be restored and a few extra bungalows might be set up opposite the Parliament to house Committee sessions.

    The House building was constructed over 60 years ago and has not been properly renovated in the last two decades.

    "It is a shame that the country's 'house of democracy' is in such a mess," Anastassiades said.

    Earlier work on a new parliament building at the site of the old PASYDY headquarters had to be abandoned after valuable archaeological remains were uncovered.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

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