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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-01-26

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

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


Saturday, January 26, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] Government agrees to destroy arms cache held at airport since 1972
  • [02] EAC to move controversial 'cancer pylons'
  • [03] Enough is enough: shopkeepers to go on strike
  • [04] Afxentiou storm sparks Parliament row
  • [05] Doctors up in arms over insurance 'cartel'
  • [06] CyTA warning to pre-empt telecoms fraud
  • [07] Ministry mum on claims against outgoing airport boss
  • [08] Latest talks last eighty minutes
  • [09] Beware bad eggs, consumer body warns
  • [10] Second suspect remanded in meter-tampering scam
  • [11] Post office boss 'demanded cash to return wallet'

  • [01] Government agrees to destroy arms cache held at airport since 1972

    By Jean Christou

    THE GOVERNMENT has offered to destroy a cache of police weapons stored inside the UN-controlled Nicosia Airport since before 1974.

    The weapons - more than 4,000 assault rifles and other arms - were imported from Czechoslovakia by the government of Archbishop Makarios in early 1972 in a bid to combat mounting threats from paramilitary groups. But their presence in Cyprus infuriated not only the Turkish Cypriots and their backers in Ankara, but also the Greek military junta that was conspiring to overthrow Makarios at the time. Following intensive negotiations, it was agreed that the UN would keep the arms under their control while the government would have inspection rights.

    Yesterday, the government revealed that, on January 10, it proposed the destruction of the weapons in a document submitted to the UN. The offer was submitted as a unilateral move to help improve the climate for the ongoing face-to-face talks between the leaders of the two communities. A proposal to remove anti-personnel mines in and around the buffer zone was also submitted in the same spirit.

    Other proposals submitted to UNFICYP, such as returning the guns to their official owners, the Cyprus police, giving them to the UN, or selling them to fund peacekeeping operations or charity, were rejected.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday the plan to destroy the weapons was a gesture of good will to the Turkish Cypriot side. "They are old, of course they are still usable, but we have decided to send them to be destroyed," he said.

    It is also a response to appeals by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides to reduce armaments on the island.

    UNFICYP spokesman Brian Kelly last night confirmed the government had offered to destroy the guns. "The government has made a proposal for the disposal of the arms. We are currently in discussion as to how this might be accomplished and until such time that these discussions are completed, we will not be in a position to say anything further," he told the Cyprus News Agency.

    No date has been set for the beginning of the operation. "That is to be determined," Papapetrou said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] EAC to move controversial 'cancer pylons'

    By Rita Kyriakides

    THE ELECTRICITY Authority (EAC) began work yesterday to reroute electricity from the controversial pylons suspected of causing cancer in the Polemidhia suburb of Limassol.

    "We will be taking down the pylons and laying the cables underground. It is a big undertaking which involves tearing up some pavements," EAC Spokesman Tassos Roussos told the Cyprus Mail.

    He added giant pylons left lying in the area had never been erected, because of protests from residents.

    Roussos said the cables rerouting the electricity from the pylons would be laid parallel to the construction of the new flyovers that will be built over the Limassol roundabouts during the next three to five years.

    Two years ago, residents in the area held a protest, threatening to bulldoze any new pylons that were erected. They claimed 13 people, including several children, had died from leukaemia as a result of the magnetic fields emitted by the pylons.

    The EAC responded at the time that it was conforming to all regulations and international standards, arguing that its electric power installations emitted just one tenth of the maximum allowed standard.

    Nevertheless, last September, the EAC announced that planning permits had been secured to remove the overhead cables from the residential area and relocate them to an agricultural one.

    Two farmers in the area where the cables are to be relocated said this week they had been given 32,000 in compensation to move their livestock to another area.

    The EAC plans to move the power cables over the next six months at a cost of 100,000.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Enough is enough: shopkeepers to go on strike

    SMALL shops around the island will close their doors and stop work at 11am on February 7.

    On Wednesday night, small shopkeeper's union POVEK decided at a meeting in Limassol that the "unsatisfactory response" to their demands about the wholesale industry could go on no more.

    "Enough is enough," said POVEK Secretary-general Melios Georgiou yesterday, explaining why small and medium-sized shops around the nation had decided to padlock their doors on February 7, and assemble outside the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and House of Representatives in protest.

    "We are fed up with hypermarkets selling products below wholesale price, violating sales periods and violating working hours. In Limassol, for instance, hypermarkets are now allowed to stay open till 10pm because it's a tourist district. However, it's mostly locals that use them at that time, which is unfair to the other shops that shut at 7pm, because they lose business."

    Georgiou said that over the past year, dozens of shops had already closed down in Anexartisias Street in Limassol because of this, and that generally small shops around the island had been unable to cope with the "unfair competition" in the industry, resulting in a significant number closing down.

    "This is a desperate situation, which calls for desperate measures. We do not know if they will sit up and listen, but if they do not, we will take more action and call for more strikes," he said.

    Georgiou hoped their demands would be heard once and for all, but was unable to say what direction the action would take.

    "We are meeting with the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Nicos Rolandis, two days before the strike to talk. However, we will accept no more promises, and only want to see action from now on," he said.

    He said the Union expected a mass gathering from all over the island in support of the demonstration.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Afxentiou storm sparks Parliament row

    By Melina Demetriou

    A BITTER quarrel between Central Bank Governor Afxentis Afxentiou and House Watchdog Committee chairman Christos Pourgourides over Afxentiou's Governor's alleged responsibilities concerning the Cyprus Stock Exchange fiasco yesterday turned into a parliamentary row.

    At the same time there seemed to be a general admission that a number of deputies as well as state officials had bought shares on private placement and Pourgourides threatened to publicise the names in question.

    Afxentiou, who on Wednesday was grilled by the committee over private placement shares made available to his family and who was later asked to resign, called on the watchdog committee to dissolve itself. The committee is carrying out an investigation into alleged stock market frauds.

    The Central Bank Governor defended himself, arguing that just because he had bought 3,600 shares from Cassoulides and 5,000 worth of shares from Louis Cruise Lines, it did not mean he had led on other investors.

    Pourgourides reiterated his view that Afxentiou should resign, charging that his children used their father's name to get tens of thousands of shares through private placement.

    The conflict yesterday took an unexpected turn when the House President and opposition parties criticised Pourgourides' handling of the whole affair. AKEL parliamentary spokesman Andreas Christou said that a parliamentary investigation should not develop into a personal confrontation.

    "The latest events give the impression that the committee is acting like a court imposing penalties and ordering: 'You should go to jail, you should go home'," Christou complained.

    The AKEL deputy claimed that Afxentiou was not the only one who had bought shares on private placement, as party officials and ministries' general directors had also done so.

    DIKO's acting chairman Nicos Cleanthous shared Christou's view, arguing that the committee had personalised the CSE investigation. KISOS chairman Yiannakis Omirou charged that the recent actions of the committee had put its credibility and prestige on the line. He suggested that according to the law deputies on the committee were only allowed to position themselves on issues under investigation in closed sessions and not during public debates.

    DISY parliamentary spokesman Demetris Syllouris defended Pourgourides' handling of the issue, saying that "sometimes deputies go over the top but nothing can beat the stock market fiasco."

    Later, during his speech before the House Plenum, Pourgourides lashed out at his colleagues for remaining apathetic to Afxentiou's call on the watchdog committee to dissolve itself. He vowed to publicise the names of all who had purchased shares on private placement, "including deputies and politicians".

    House President and AKEL leader Demetris Christofias hit back at Pourgourides, saying: "I intend to deal with Afxentiou's statements as I will deal with some deputies calling on people to resign during parliamentary meetings."

    Later Christofias issued a letter dismissing Afxentiou's statements as disrespectful to "bodies that represent the people".

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Doctors up in arms over insurance 'cartel'

    By Elias Hazou

    SEVERAL private practitioners are considering taking legal action against a group of insurance firms, saying they have been blacklisted for refusing to agree to the companies' terms.

    They say that, late last year, a group of 14 major insurance firms allegedly formed a consortium agreeing on fixed prices for insurance premiums and striking deals with certain private clinics while leaving others out. The Medical Association claims it was not consulted on the matter as it should have been, and has described the grouping of companies as a "cartel".

    The Association further argues that the insurance firms violated trade- union norms and ethics and arbitrarily decided which clinics would be part of their policy.

    "What they did was to say 'take it or leave it'," the association's chairman Antonis Vassiliou told the Cyprus Mail. He went on to add that clinics which did not agree to the firms' terms and prices were subsequently blacklisted, as the insurance policies only carried partial coverage for those clinics.

    He said that even though the policies state that clients may visit any doctor of their choice, once the contract is signed, clients are informed by mail that only 80-85 per cent coverage is provided at certain clinics.

    "Obviously, people will think twice about visiting that clinic, assuming that, since it is not fully covered by the insurance firms, then its quality of services must be lacking in some way," argued Vassiliou.

    As a result, a monopoly was being created in the health services sector, with prices being fixed by insurance firms, not by doctors, he accused. "Clearly, there is something very wrong with this picture," said Vassiliou. "This insults both doctors' prestige and dignity and compromises the right of citizens to choose where they get treatment."

    The Medical Association has challenged insurance firms to explain what criteria they adopted in discriminating among doctors, given that all clinics comply with standards set out by the Health Ministry.

    Some owners of clinics have already reported the companies to the Commerce Ministry's Competition Protection department, expected to rule on the matter sometime soon. If the insurance firms are found at fault, then legal action could be taken against them and the issue resolved in court.

    But Vassiliou said yesterday that such confrontation could be avoided if the firms agreed to negotiate with doctors. That would satisfy one of their main demands of being consulted on the issue, as a matter of principle. Vassiliou reiterated that the firms' action had primarily been "unethical and unacceptable."

    While the association tried to play down the financial aspect, Vassiliou noted that some clinics were also losing out on business, with incomes dropping by as much as 30 per cent. For example, the price-fixing by the insurance companies resulted in lower costs for some forms of surgery, meaning the clinics that were out of the loop could not compete. Some doctors claim that fees plummeted after the "cartel" was formed.

    Vassiliou met with representatives of the insurance firms last December in a bid to work things out. "They said they would get back to us, but we haven't heard from them since," he said.

    A spokesman for the insurance firms was not available for comment.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] CyTA warning to pre-empt telecoms fraud

    By Elias Hazou

    A RISE in telecommunications fraud abroad has prompted CyTA (the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority) to initiate a public awareness campaign, advising customers to guard against theft and fraud at home.

    A leaflet issued with the latest monthly phone bills outlines some dos and don'ts so customers avoid being scammed.

    Glafcos Houtris, head of business management support at CyTA, told the Cyprus Mail the campaign was preventive, as the island had largely been spared telecommunications fraud.

    Following some pretty straightforward advice should keep you out of trouble most of the time. Internet users should only submit personal information on web sites they completely trust; credit card information should only be provided when the user knows the company and when this information is absolutely necessary. Resourceful hackers can act even on partial information to gain access to people's bank accounts.

    Web surfers are also advised not to download software onto PCs from unknown sources, particularly from pornographic sites. Instances have been reported where once the application has been downloaded and installed, the program terminates the user's link with his Internet Service Provider and the modem automatically dials an international phone number, overcharging for use of the Internet.

    On telephones, CyTA advises customers not to leave their cellular phones unattended or lend them to people they do not trust. Fraudsters can copy - or 'clone - a mobile's SIM card and run up giant phone bills charged to your account. A spate of such occurrences has been reported abroad but, as Houtris noted, the newer SIM cards are not so easily cloned because their algorithms are far harder to crack.

    Any theft or loss of a mobile should be immediately reported to police and to CyTA through the customer help line 132 or 197.

    Companies that subscribe to a private telephone exchange (PABX) should take steps to secure the system from hackers, who can tap in and run up huge phone bills.

    Last but not least, customers should ensure that the CyTA Distribution Point in shared buildings is locked and customers should scrutinise telephone bills. Any suspicions of malicious interference should be reported to CyTA as soon as possible.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Ministry mum on claims against outgoing airport boss

    THE MINISTRY of Communications yesterday refused to comment on reports that a disciplinary investigation had been ordered into accusations against Larnaca airport's outgoing director.

    Reports yesterday said the Cabinet had decided to replace Larnaca airport director Andreas Soshilos and that a disciplinary investigation had been launched. His replacement is understood to have nothing do with the investigation.

    The Director of the Ministry's Supervision Department, Andreas Papasozomenos, who is handling the case, told the Cyprus Mail he did not wish to comment on the issue.

    Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou, who was not available for comment yesterday, has reportedly said that Soshilos' replacement had been decided in accordance with the ministry's policy of personnel rotation.

    It is understood, however, that the new airport director, Stelios Vassiliou, who takes office on Monday, has served in the same position in the past.

    According to the reports, which cite ministerial sources, Soshilos is being investigated for using his position for personal gain. It was alleged that Soshilos had recently called the airport late at night and ordered a car with a driver to pick him up from a nightclub and take him home.

    The airport director, according to regulations, is not entitled to a state vehicle for his own use, reports said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Latest talks last eighty minutes

    By Melina Demetriou

    PRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday met in Nicosia to continue talks under the UN aegis on the Cyprus problem.

    The meeting, the third this week, which lasted for about 80 minutes, took place at premises near Nicosia airport in the UN-controlled buffer zone. No statements were made after the talks.

    The current round of negotiations got under way on January 16 when the two men agreed to meet three times a week to discuss the future of Cyprus.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] Beware bad eggs, consumer body warns

    By Alexia Saoulli

    CONSUMERS could be eating unhealthy eggs without realising, the Cyprus Consumers Association warned yesterday.

    The General Manager of the Association, Dinos Ioannou, confirmed he had received "reliable insider information" that incubated eggs were being illegally sold at very cheap prices to a number of industries in the market.

    "We know that these eggs are not suitable for human consumption because of the procedure they go through," he said.

    These eggs are never supposed to reach the market and are incubated to hatch into chicks, not to be served up as tomorrow's omelette, he said.

    "Before being put into the incubators, the eggs are disinfected with chemicals and washed. But this procedure allows disinfectants to enter into the eggs' yolk, because the shells are porous. Once in the incubators, they are exposed to high temperatures for 21 days until they hatch. Sometimes, however, eggs are removed after only seven or 10 days and subjected to a screening test by shining a light at them. By doing this, they can see whether or not a chick has started forming."

    Those that were forming a chick were replaced into the incubators, and the ones that were not suitable for hatching might end up being sold to confectionaries, bakeries, and hotels, he warned.

    "We cannot guarantee that they are not sold to hypermarkets as well. However, there is a law that states all farms must be licensed to produce eggs, and each one has to be marked in terms of size (small, medium, large), " Ioannou said. But, he added, who could certify that in a pack of a dozen eggs, two incubated ones weren't added?

    But the highest risk was of eggs arriving on consumers' plates via unsuspecting means such as manufactured cakes and biscuits, he said.

    The heating process means these eggs are no longer fresh, and that their make-up has been altered, which can in no means be healthy, Ioannou explained.

    And Nicosia Gastroenterologist Dr. Christodoulos Kythreotis confirmed that if incubated eggs were spoiled and someone ate them, he or she could suffer from gastroenteritis, acute diarrhoea and vomiting, or even salmonella.

    "Eggs should be kept in the fridge and not in warm conditions," he said.

    But the government's Head of Health Services, Sophoclis Anthousis, told the Cyprus Mail there was no way anyone could come close to eating such an egg, because of the pungent, acrid odour it released when broken.

    "In my experience, these eggs smell, and although the reports of their presence on the market are totally unfounded, if they were to be bought by a confectioner, there is no way it would be used because of its foul smell, which would ruin the cake," he said.

    However, Kythreotis disagreed, saying the bad odour was not always detectable: if you break an egg over the frying pan, the smell might be disguised.

    And the Consumers' Association is baffled at how the problem might even have arisen.

    "I don't know how this could have escaped the authorities' attention," Ioannou said.

    "We have made this announcement to raise interest in the matter so that the relevant authorities involved in producing and selling eggs can take certain steps to see that this procedure is stopped."

    He said measures should be taken to protect consumers who have no control over what ended up in their shopping baskets.

    "The authorities should take strict measures and penalise people heavily, and someone should exercise stricter controls over the production of eggs," Ioannou said.

    But the Health Ministry's Anthousis said there was no cause for alarm, and that to the best of his knowledge the whole affair was unsubstantiated.

    "No-one has ever even eaten an incubated egg," he said, insisting that the Agriculture Minsitry was already looking into the matter, and that the Health Ministry would intervene if the case were proved.

    The Director of the Agriculture Department, Antonis Constantinou, added yesterday there was no proof to support the allegations, and that the charges had been made informally.

    "If we do find responsible parties, they are instantly penalised," he said.

    All complaints and suspicions were investigated, insisted Constantinou. But in this case, they did not find any tangible proof, he said.

    He said that if someone had a complaint it should go the Ministry first, so that officials could investigate the matter before the farm responsible had a chance to cover its trail.

    "After all this media attention, a lawbreaking egg farmer is hardly going to continue breaking the law, is he?" He added that unless someone came forward with documented evidence, the Ministry could not do anything, since hearsay did not stand up in court.

    Kyriacos Charalambous at the Agriculture Ministry added that first time offenders for such crimes faced a 2,000 fine and second offenders faced four to six months in prison.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [10] Second suspect remanded in meter-tampering scam

    A 34-YEAR-old Nicosia man was yesterday remanded in custody for eight days on suspicion of illegally adjusting electricity meters to indicate lower readings.

    Charalambos Kitromilides was arrested on Wednesday after he was named by another suspect, 71-year-old retired Electricity Authority technician Michalis Masouras, who has been in custody since December 19.

    Masouras allegedly made thousands of pounds by tampering with electricity meters across the island and 'fixing' them so that they indicated lower readings.

    Police told the court yesterday that Masouras and Kitromilides had 'fixed' four meters in Nicosia.

    The court heard that the owner of one of the meters had named the suspect as the one who approached him to tamper with his meter and the one he paid the money to after the job was done.

    Police said Kitromilides had admitted to collaborating with Masouras to adjust an additional three meters that police did not know about so far.

    They told the court that Kitromilides admitted he was receiving money from the owners of the meters but claimed that he gave the money to Masouras.

    Kitromilides was among a list of names found in Masouras' notebook last December.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [11] Post office boss 'demanded cash to return wallet'

    THE head of a Nicosia post office is facing suspension after he allegedly asked a customer who had left his wallet at the branch for money in order to return it to him, reports said yesterday.

    The Communications Ministry is understood to have requested the suspension of the head, who allegedly asked for a percentage of the money in the wallet in order to return it.

    The customer had apparently forgotten the wallet, which was full of cash, together with a bag containing various other items.

    The Director of the Postal Services Department Vassos Vassiliou yesterday confirmed they were looking into the alleged incident, but did not comment any further on the issue.

    Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou has ordered all necessary actions to be taken in the investigation of the issue, reports said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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