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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-03-03

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

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


Sunday, March 3, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] Mavrommatis: Iraqi trip was 'first step towards dialogue'
  • [02] Government accused of breaking promises to help children with special needs
  • [03] 'Milosevic laundered $4 billion through Cyprus'
  • [04] Are farmers ready for Europe?

  • [01] Mavrommatis: Iraqi trip was 'first step towards dialogue'

    By Jennie Matthew

    AMBASSADOR Andreas Mavrommatis will present his report on Iraq to the UN Commission for Human Rights later this month, after his return from a three- day visit to the country last month.

    It was the first time in six years that Baghdad has consented to a UN fact- finding mission into human rights abuses.

    Despite the short duration of the visit, Mavrommatis, the UN Special Rapporteur for Iraq, said he had “a meaningful exchange” with the government on human rights issues.

    He described meetings with various officials, including some from the Department of Human Rights, as “the first step in a proposed constructive dialogue”, which might continue in the future to achieve “concrete positive results”.

    “I hope so, because this dialogue could prove fruitful with co-operation and compliance,” he told the Sunday Mail from his Nicosia home yesterday, expressing his hope to go for a second, longer visit.

    If so, the mission could mark the end of silence between Iraq and the UN on human rights, since the last visit of a UN Special Rapporteur, his predecessor former Dutch Foreign Minister Max Van der Stool nine years ago.

    Mavrommatis met Iraqi government ministers, MPs, politicians, religious dignitaries, judges on a criminal court in Baghdad, as well as the chairman and members of the Iraqi Bar Association.

    Given the time pressure, only a pre-selected number of human rights issues were discussed, but he said none of the matters he had raised had been rejected out right.

    The missing, prisoners of war, the right to life, religious freedom, rule of law, the rights and status of minorities, women and economic and social rights were all tabled.

    Nevertheless, he admitted that talks on the 100,000s of people who vanished during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran War and during Iraq's occupation of Kuwait that provoked the Gulf War, did not get very far.

    Reluctant to disclose too much of his experience before he submits his report at the end of March, Mavrommatis was clearly disturbed by conditions at two prisons and a children's hospital.

    Although the women's prison was more orderly, neat, not too overcrowded and fairly well managed, he said the men's prison was “awful”.

    Built to house 9,000, close to 20,000 inmates were crammed into the jail. Cells meant to sleep four to six were home to 20 men.

    Asked to elaborate about the children's hospital, he declined to comment, other than to say there was a severe lack of equipment and modern technology.

    He also reserved comment over a meeting he had with two Kurds from Baghdad.

    In addition, he visited a food distribution outlet and a local primary school, and the ambassador requested visits to religious sites in Baghdad and Kerballa to ensure that there was free access for the faithful, be they Sunni or Shi'ite Muslim.

    A former judge, Mavrommatis is an elected member of the UN Commission against Torture. He was President of the UN Human Rights Committee for 10 years and a member for 20. Twice Cyprus's Permanent Representative to the UN, he was appointed Special Rapporteur for Iraq in 1999.

    The UN General Assembly will also see a copy of his report in November.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Government accused of breaking promises to help children with special needs

    By Melina Demetriou

    AN AKEL conference on special education yesterday urged the state to address the problems faced by 3,000 disabled pupils.

    Addressing the conference, educationalists and psychologists argued the Education Ministry's special education policy needed improvement.

    Some speakers accused the ministry of breaking a promise to implement measures to support pupils with special needs by the end of last year.

    “The ministry had promised to train teachers adequately so that they could help these children use their abilities to the maximum. They also said that classes with at least one handicapped child should have fewer than 25 pupils. These reforms have not been undertaken in most schools yet,” the head of the AKEL Education Office and co-ordinator of the discussion Neocles Sylikiotis said in his final remarks.

    Sylikiotis also school facilities for disabled children were inadequate.

    “I know of a child in a wheelchair whose classroom is on the first floor. His classmates have to carry him all the time because there are no ramps in their school,” he said.

    Sylikiotis added many pupils with special needs had started the school year without a guide by their side.

    “The Radio Marathon used to arrange for children to have guides at school but then the government took on the responsibility and they were not very organised,” he said.

    AKEL will soon ask the Education Ministry to brief the House Education Committee on its plans for special education.

    “In a modern society we should treat children with special abilities with sensitivity and help them integrate in the school society and have the same opportunities as everyone else,” Sylikiotis said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] 'Milosevic laundered $4 billion through Cyprus'

    A US STATE Department report has charged that $4 billion were channelled to Europe through Cyprus illegally from Yugoslavia during a decade of Milosevic rule, the Athens News Agency (ANA) reported yesterday.

    The report, issued last week, noted that 250 Serbian accounts had been traced to Yugoslav offshore companies based in Cyprus, saying money- laundering activities were facilitated by the island's booming offshore sector.

    The report added that organised crime, illegal use of credit cards and thefts were used to transfer money from one country to another through Cyprus.

    But the heart of money laundering activity on the island are the 24 unregistered casinos operating in the occupied north, the State Department's report charged.

    The report cited a Turkish newspaper article, according to which the world's number one wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden had used banks in the north to deposit money transferred from abroad and buy military equipment for his al Qaeda network.

    According to an Italian newspaper, ANA said, al Qaeda channelled $700 million to Muslims in Bosnia during the 1990s.

    The State Department also expressed concerns that drug use was on the increase in Cyprus, conceding at the same time that the government had implemented strong anti-drug polices.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Are farmers ready for Europe?

    By Rita Kyriakides

    FARMERS in Cyprus are facing a hectic period of adaptation to prepare themselves for harsh competition in the single European market

    Already, over the past few years, they've had to come to terms with a changing market, as a greater variety of fruit and vegetables became available to feed changing consumption patterns, and as imports became easier.

    Now they face the big bang of making the transition from a protected market of half a million to a pan-European free for all of several hundred million consumers.

    Most local fruit and vegetable storeowners agree: not only have growing numbers of foreigners brought a change to the market, but Cypriots themselves have changed their eating habits.

    “The increase in foreigners has brought more vegetables and fruits as well as other products. There is a very large variety in Cyprus these ways,” said Christos Christou, Head of the Fruit and Vegetable Section at Charalambides Hypermarket.

    But the Director of the Agricultural Produce Inspection Service, Yiannakis Shekkerise, feels shops do not know how to market local products.

    “There is a wide range of vegetables available in Cyprus, but they are not marketed properly. Local shops need to fix displays, have specials and promote locally-grown produce,” said Shekkerise.

    Shekkerise said import tariffs had been scrapped in 1996, so certain imported products were already being sold in Cyprus, such as apples, pears and kiwis, at lower prices, and with larger amounts available.

    “The government is trying to encourage the domestic market. Local producers need to pull together and improve their marketing strategies,” he said.

    The agricultural sector contributes 4.5 per cent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs nine per cent of the workforce.

    The most significant issues now facing producers and exporters are the low competitiveness of Cypriot produce due to high costs of production - water shortage, fragmented land and low degree of mechanisation - and transport, because of the geographical distance to export markets, as well as tough competition on product variety, quality and price.

    In order to help farmers deal with these issues, the government currently provides growers with various forms of support, ranging from replanting with drought resistant stock, to promotion of fruit and vegetable varieties with good marketing prospects, withdrawing surplus production from the market, and directing produce to the processing industry.

    Local producers export over 5,000 tons per year of a large variety of agricultural produce, including beetroot, parsley, spinach and potatoes to EU countries such as Britain, Germany, France and Austria, as well as to Israel and Qatar.

    Cyprus' biggest export is coriander, with over 2,300 tons exported in 2000, mostly to the UK.

    “When we enter the EU there will be what are known as 'vis-à-vis communities'. In other words, free movement of trade between member states. There will no longer be limitations or quotas.

    “At present, we export table grapes, but according to our quota we have to stop exporting in August. However, sultanas are at their best during the last few months of the year,” said Shekkerise.

    He pointed out there would be opportunities for local farmers when Cyprus joined the EU, but it was difficult to say what the impact would be.

    According to the Head of the Horticulture Department of the Agricultural Ministry, Thomas Papandreou, farmers need to adjust certain things before Cyprus joins the EU.

    “We are currently discussing what needs to be done to prepare the agricultural sector before we enter the EU. At the moment, we are a consumer group of 500,000 people but when we enter there will be millions of consumers,” said Papandreou.

    The government currently gives farmers subsidies, but when Cyprus enters the EU, this assistance will have to stop.

    “The government will be encouraging the farmers to improve the quality of fruit and vegetables and to decrease the quantity,” said Papandreou.

    He told the Sunday Mail that local farmers already grew all types of vegetables, as well as tropical fruits such as mangoes and avocadoes, so new varieties would not be introduced.

    “The market is affected by many things such as seasonality and cost of production. The farmers will have to be taught new techniques and to improve their technology,” said Papandreou.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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