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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-03-15
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Thursday, March 15, 2001
 British press hound Keith Vaz on Cyprus visitBy Jean Christou SCANDAL-hit British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Keith Vaz, yesterday found himself hounded by British journalists at a bi-communal news conference at the UN-controlled Ledra Palace hotel in Nicosia.
As local and foreign journalists vied for questions, Vaz attempted to avoid the storm surrounding him back home and had an unprovoked dig at a Greek Cypriot journalist working for the British tabloid, The Sun, which has called on him to resign.
Prime Minister Tony Blair is under pressure to sack Europe Minister Vaz after the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner said he had obstructed an official probe of his business affairs.
Vaz has been cleared of all but one of the charges levelled against him but Labour peer Lord Desay has labelled him "damaged goods" according to a seven-page exposé in The Sun on Tuesday.
Ignoring questions from the British press pack yesterday, Vaz, accompanied by Britain's special envoy for Cyprus Sir David Hannay, answered only those relating to the Cyprus problem, the island's accession to the EU and the abduction from British bases territory of Greek Cypriot contractor Panicos Tsiakourmas, saying that he was pressed for time.
"We must deal with questions on Cyprus," he said. "I'm not taking any questions from The Sun journalist. I am talking about Cyprus. I've already told you I will come to you at the end if there is time. If not, I'm sorry, but you'll have to wait until you get to London."
During a subsequent question on Cyprus' EU accession Vaz, referring to the acquis communitaire, said: "I don't know whether the gentleman from The Sun would like me to spell that."
Speaking of the island's EU progress, Vaz said Britain would like to see a united Cyprus prior to accession but repeated that it was not a prerequisite. He said Cyprus was at the top of the queue and also expressed the wish for Turkey's membership.
"Turkey remains a strong ally of the UK and we would like to see Turkey also join," he said. "Turkey has to do what every other applicant has done. to make sure that progress is made."
On the Cyprus question, Vaz, who met President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash during his brief visit, said he was firmly convinced that the UN-sponsored talks were the only way forward for a solution.
He said he had urged Denktash to return to the negotiating table. "You have to give the proximity talks a chance to be successful," he said. "I found Denktash to be a very passionate man who believes strongly in his cause. I respect his integrity and he set out the position he has set out before."
Speaking after his meeting with Vaz earlier yesterday, Denktash warned the British officials that taking Cyprus into the EU would be a serious mistake and would obstruct progress towards a settlement.
"Another wrong step taken by the EU. taking the Greek Cypriots into consideration militarily (in European defence plans), and to negotiate with them giving them rights under the title of the government of Cyprus, is a grave position to take and a serious mistake that will take the Cyprus problem into a dead end," Denktash said.
"Everything is moving in the wrong direction and the EU thinks this is a joke."
Vaz said he raised the issue of Panicos Tsiakourmas during the meeting with Denktash. Tsiakourmas was abducted from the British bases last December and charged with drug possession before a Turkish Cypriot 'court'. Vaz met Tsiakourmas' wife Niki yesterday afternoon.
"She is deeply distressed as are her family and I raised the case this morning with Mr Denktash," he said, adding that a message was also sent to Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem about the circumstances of the abduction.
"We made it clear that we are extremely concerned at the way in which Mr Tsiakourmas was removed and the method by which it was done," he said.
"We will raise it again and do so in a vociferous way."
Vaz said he had given his pledge and promise to do this to Niki Tsiakourmas.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 House admits paying for Kyprianou award tripBy George Psyllides THE HOUSE of Representatives yesterday admitted it had covered the expenses of a controversial visit to Moscow by House President Spyros Kyprianou, but insisted he had conducted official business while he was there.
During the trip, Kyprianou received an award for his contribution to Orthodox unity.
Part of the prize was $25,000 in cash, which Politis on Sunday claimed Kyprianou had pocketed.
Kyprianou, who has filed a lawsuit against Politis, has not denied keeping the money, but insists he did nothing wrong in doing so.
"The award was clearly personal and it was awarded with my personal contribution as the sole criterion," Kyprianou said.
But yesterday Politis hit back, asking why the House had paid for Kyprianou to go to Moscow and receive the prize if it was indeed a personal award.
In a two-paragraph statement yesterday, the House stressed that during his trip, Kyprianou had also had a series of meetings with Russian government officials as well as other Russian dignitaries.
The statement lists all the people Kyprianou met in Moscow, adding that the award ceremony had lasted a few hours only.
On Monday, Politis turned up the heat on Kyprianou, saying he had asked for and been given a top of the range BMW to replace the S320 Mercedes provided for him by the state.
The paper noted that Kyprianou would get to keep the new BMW when he retired in May.
Politis said there was no truth in Kyprianou's claims that the Mercedes was "problematic" and published a photo of the limo standing idle in a Finance Ministry garage.
Yesterday, the Mercedes importer ran an advertisement in the press stating that the specific car had no problems whatsoever and was in excellent condition.
"We presume," said the ad, "that the House president rejected the car because he preferred a different make."
The 69-year-old former President did not deny having the limo changed, but insisted this had nothing to do with his leaving the post as House president.
Yesterday, the Finance Ministry confirmed that according to a long-standing protocol, former Presidents of the Republic and House presidents were entitled to a service limo provided by the state.
Finance Ministry Official Themis Theodosiou told the Cyprus Mail that the cars still belonged to the state and not to the person that they serviced.
Theodosiou said the new car, a BMW 735i, was purchased after tender in which five companies participated.
But yesterday Politis quoted Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou "confirming that Mr. Kyprianou had expressed preference for a specific marque and was told by the Finance Ministry that it would try to get a good offer from the dealer so that it could be selected".
According to the ministry the BMW cost the state £27,457, £1,428 less than the Mercedes.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Police warn hoteliers they could face jail for employing illegal immigrantsBy Jennie Matthew POLICE yesterday warned hotel managers they could be put behind bars if caught employing illegal foreign workers, at the start of a nationwide clampdown ahead of the summer boom season.
The maximum sentence for employers found guilty of hiring foreigners without a work permit is three years in jail, and/or a £5,000 fine.
Warnings will be followed by on-the-spot inspections, followed by prosecutions if police catch illegal workers red handed.
Police began to issue warnings to hotels yesterday. They warned that employers as well as illegal workers would be arrested, fending off criticism that employers have escaped prosecution in the past.
A manager was imprisoned for 25 days this month for employing an illegal immigrant.
"All hotels will be investigated. The law does not discriminate or create exceptions. We took the decision now, because the summer season is nearly on us and this phenomenon will increase," immigration police officer, Sotiris Trifonas told the Cyprus Mail.
But the Hoteliers' Association was yesterday unaware of the pending inspections.
"As an association, we have not been informed of this campaign, but I'm sure it's part of their general campaign of checking illegal workers," said chairman Zacharias Ioannides.
He said he supported the police action, but rejected accusations that hotels were guilty of employing large numbers of illegal foreign workers.
"Hoteliers in Cyprus are renowned and recorded in the minutes of official meetings at the Ministry of Labour for not employing illegal labour," he said.
Of the tens of thousands of foreigners employed in Cyprus, he claims less than 1,000 are employed in the hotel and tourist industry, compared to a total workforce of 30,000.
"Foreigners mainly perform supplementary and secondary duties and they are only employed if there is a desperate shortage of local labour, or a shortage of ability in local labour," Ioannides said.
Police said there was no question of prosecuting foreigners employed legally.
Some 350 foreign students are currently studying hotel management and hospitality courses in Cyprus, for which a stint of work experience at a Cyprus hotel is obligatory. Those doing so are also exempt from the police clampdown.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Pilots to discuss strike action on MondayBy Jean Christou PILOTS in Cyprus Airways' (CY) charter firm Eurocypria will hold an extraordinary general meeting on Monday to decide whether or not to go ahead with strike action.
Alecos Tassouris, an official of Eurocypria-SEK, the union that represents the pilots, said their ten-day notice of strike action expired on Saturday, but no dates had yet been fixed for industrial action.
"We have called for a general meeting on Monday to look at the situation before we decide what to do," Tassouris said.
He said the company had not submitted any new proposals, although he believes there may be some behind-the-scenes contacts taking place to resolve the issue.
Eurocypria pilots gave notice of strike action on March 2, when long- running efforts to solve a dispute with their CY counterparts over captain vacancies in the charter firm reached another deadlock.
The issue came to a head when CY pilots' union PASIPY allegedly ordered the company to halt the promotion of a Eurocypria first officer.
Negotiations with the company had already broken down before the incident when CY allegedly went against an agreement with Eurocypria pilots and brought in six more pilots to the charter firm.
The Eurocypria pilots are understood at the time to have decided against action at the company's request, and continued unofficial negotiations until the PASIPY incident provided the final straw.
CY's collective agreement with the charter firm clearly states that captain vacancies can only be given to Eurocypria pilots with at least three years experience within the company.
A Eurocypria promotion last June led PASIPY to stage two crippling strikes because it wanted the vacancy for its members.
Months later, binding arbitration ruled that the position should go to a Eurocypria pilot.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Cyprus bars French livestock imports in new foot-and-mouth fearsBy a Staff Reporter THE GOVERNMENT has fallen into line with a two-week EU ban on imports of French cloven-hoofed livestock, in light of a confirmed outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in France.
Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous made the announcement, despite the fact that Cyprus has not imported any French livestock since August 2000.
The government has also banned milk and meat products from northwest France, where the outbreak was reported.
The United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia and South Korea have adopted a blanket ban on all EU meat and dairy products. Ther is no indication that Cyprus will follow suit.
"When we look at how the virus spreads, it's very clear that every country is threatened," the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation told Reuters.
"We will examine the situation and our director will talk to the director of the Office internationale des épizooties to get solid information. We have seen the media reports, but our decisions will be based on information from the OIE," said senior veterinary officer Andreas Orphanides.
Two villages in western Turkey were quarantined yesterday following a fresh outbreak of the disease.
North Cyprus has not imported Turkish livestock for many years.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 New Famagusta hospital to be ready in three yearsBy Melina Demetriou THE CABINET yesterday announced that a modern state hospital in the Famagusta district, which would include maternity and intensive care units, would be up and running in three years' time.
The Cabinet's decision came lass than 24 hours after the death of a woman who had just given birth, which some blamed on the lack of a proper hospital in the area. There was speculation yesterday said that 34-year-old Chrystalla Krassia, who died from the syndrome of eclampsy late on Tuesday, could have been saved if blood sent for a transfusion to the private clinic where she had given birth had arrived from Larnaca sooner or if there had been a state hospital closer to her home.
The state coroner has dismissed the suggestions, saying the blood would have made little difference to her condition.
The services of the existing hospital in Paralimni are considered inadequate for the area.
Work on the new hospital will begin in about three months' time, and the hospital will be up and running in June 2004. The project will cost £1 million.
"It will include a gynaecological and maternity clinic, an intensive care unit as well as many other departments," Health Minister Frixos Savvides said after yesterday's Cabinet meeting, insisting the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with the recent death.
But he admitted that the decision for a maternity clinic and an intensive care unit had come at the last minute and that the House had put pressure on the government to cover the medical needs of residents of the government- controlled section of the Famagusta district.
"This development will make the difference between life and death. The hospital will have many departments and that will solve problems we have with the current hospital." Savvides said.
The minister played down claims that the recent death had anything to do with the lack of a proper hospital in the area, pledging that no one could tell what had gone wrong.
"We are trying to identify what caused her death," he said.
A pregnant woman died in similar circumstances in Paralimni last year.
In a news conference earlier in the day at the House, DISY deputy Lefteris Christoforou criticised Health Ministry officials, who had taken up the project, for taking too long to finish.
"I have ordered an investigation into the matter to find out why they are taking so long. I have information that some officials are blocking the creation of a maternity clinic," he claimed.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Mother dies, but clinic not to blame, says coronerBy Athena Karsera THE TRAGIC death of a mother less than 24 hours after the birth of her fourth child was yesterday put down to a rare syndrome called eclampsy.
There had been speculation that 34-year-old Chrystalla Krassia, who died late on Tuesday, could have been saved if the blood sent for a transfusion to the private clinic where she had given birth had arrived from Larnaca hospital sooner or if there had been a public hospital closer to her home.
Her father, Anastassis Pyrillis, who lost his son during a National guards exercise 14 years ago, had criticised the lack of proper state hospital facilities in the area as his daughter lay comatose on Tuesday night.
However, Krassia's brother-in-law Marcos Fakonis yesterday said the family had had a change of heart: "What happened was not because the blood was late. That was a coincidence. This was the will of God. We do not want to tarnish my sister's memory by throwing around blame."
State coroner Sophocles Sophocleous said yesterday that all possible medical care had been given to Krassia and that she had died of eclampsy, a condition that causes epilepsy symptoms and convulsions. He said she had received the blood sent from the hospital but that her body had rejected it and that it would in any case have had little effect on her condition.
Krassia was a nursery school teacher in Paralimni. She died in intensive care at Larnaca hospital at 8.45pm on Tuesday. She was being treated there after suffering complications when going into labour one month early and giving birth at a private clinic in Kokkinotrimithia.
She had been taken to the clinic at 7pm on Monday complaining of backache. There, doctors found she had high blood pressure and symptoms of pre- eclampsy, and she underwent a caesarean at 11pm after falling into a coma. Her baby boy was pronounced to be in perfect health.
Eclampsy, also known as toxaemia of pregnancy, causes high blood pressure accompanied by protein in the urine or a retention of fluids and usually develops before the twentieth week of pregnancy or before the end of the week following delivery. It is a more severe form of pre-eclampsy and usually results in coma and is fatal. Its cause is unknown.
Krassia was buried in Paralimni yesterday afternoon. She leaves a husband, Costakis, and four children, Adamos, 12, Stylianos, 5, Philia, 3, and the new arrival who has yet to be named.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Opinion polls banned in week before electionBy Melina Demetriou THERE will be no opinion polls allowed in the last week before the elections to the House of Representatives on May 27, the House Interior Committee decided unanimously yesterday, bringing Cyprus into line with European Union practices.
In all previous presidential and parliamentary elections, the publication of poll results stopped just three days before voting day.
But in EU countries, the polls are barred between seven and 15 days before the vote.
The move aims to encourage voters to make their own minds up, rather than be swayed by the polls. Deputies are yet to decide whether the publication of results will be banned from Saturday May 19 or from Sunday May 20.
"Public opinion is extremely sensitive a few days before the elections and can change rapidly. Conducting a poll takes days, and by the time it's finished, poll results are outdated," said DIKO deputy Stathis Kittis.
Any media owners breaching the new regulations will be fined a minimum of £500 or sentenced to six months' imprisonment.
But some television channels are understood to oppose the House decision and are not willing to along with it.
Committee chairman Nicos Katsourides of AKEL pointed out: "Parties, companies and individuals have the right to run opinion polls anytime they like as long as they don't issue the results in the last week before the elections."
To speed up procedures, the Committee suggested that vote counting take place in voting centres instead of ballots being taken to the International Conference Centre in Nicosia for a central count, as happened in previous elections. It's now up to the Interior Ministry's Election Service to take the final decision. The service has cited difficulties in implementing the scheme at such short notice.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Ministry launches probe into private lessons claimBy a Staff Reporter THE EDUCATION Ministry has launched an investigation into allegations that a high-school teacher deliberately failed students and then offered to give them private lessons.
Teachers union OELMEK said yesterday it would wait for the findings of the police probe before commenting on the issue.
On Tuesday, police confirmed that they were looking into complaints that a Nicosia district high school chemistry and physics teacher was flagrantly failing students and then offering to give them lessons at £300-400 so that they could pass his class.
Yesterday, OELMEK secretary general Sotiris Charalambous said such actions were condemnable if proved, adding his union would take a position after the police investigation was complete.
Charalambous said OELMEK had in the past tabled suggestions, which would enhance the quality of education and avoid the need for private lessons, but they had been rejected by the government.
On Tuesday, the Ministry announced it was launching a probe into the case, which has been in police hands for some time.
Police have gathered testimony from parents, who claimed the teacher failed their children then contacted them to offer private lessons for £30 a go.
The police are expected to complete the probe in the next few days and forward the case to the Attorney-general, who will then decide whether to prosecute the teacher.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001