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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-09-26

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

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


Thursday, September 26, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] Archbishop back home
  • [02] Can we shoot down incoming Iraqi missiles?
  • [03] Scuffles at the airport as departing fans clash
  • [04] Rare vultures tagged and released by into the wild
  • [05] Employers fury over plans to force health insurance on foreign workers
  • [06] Growth estimates revised down in face of tourism slump
  • [07] 15-year-old killed in moped crash

  • [01] Archbishop back home

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    ARCHBISHOP Chrysostomos returned to the island last night in an air ambulance plane after four and a half months in Greece where he was being treated for head and spinal injuries.

    A spokesman for the Athens clinic where he was treated said yesterday the Archbishop was in very good condition, and denied that he was suffering from Alzheimer's, the degenerative neurological disease.

    The Archbishop, 85, was accompanied on the flight by the Director of the Cardiological Unit at the Nicosia General Hospital, Dr Costas Zampartas, the head of the medical team in Athens, Dr Harris Pittaros, and the Bishop of Trimithounta, Vassilios. His neurologist and physiotherapist arrived on a separate flight to brief the doctors in Cyprus who will continue treating him.

    Chrysostomos arrived amid tight security at Larnaca airport at around 7.30pm, and was greeted by the bishops of Paphos and Kitium. He was then taken to Nicosia where relatives and journalists waited at the Archbishopric.

    He took a couple of minutes to tackle the few metres from the car door to the specially fitted lift that took him straight to his recently modified quarters.

    Health Minister Frixos Savvides the questions that will be asked of foreign medical experts who will examine the Archbishop. "We want to know what he is suffering from, at what stage his illness is, if there is scope for improvement, and how we can assist in that development," he said.

    He reportedly charged the Athens clinic with being cagey about the condition of the Archbishop. In Cyprus, the primate's treatment will be the responsibility of the state.

    The minister said one doctor would be referred to the medical association's disciplinary committee for hinting at intentional medical malpractice at the Nicosia hospital before the Archbishop left for Athens.

    A spokesman for the Athens clinic told state radio yesterday: "We are categorical on this point. The Archbishop does not suffer from Alzheimer's disease. He will be able to walk and move around and will be as aware of his environment as he was before his treatment."

    He estimated the cost of his treatment at about 60,000.

    Chrysostomos was hospitalised in Cyprus on April 27 after a bad fall at the Archbishopric. After his condition deteriorated he was transported to an Athens Hospital on May 11 and subsequently admitted to a private clinic in early June.

    His lengthy absence sparked a bitter row between members of the Holy Synod and relatives, with some demanding that he be replaced by a more able clergyman through elections, while others insist that nothing can be done without his consent or at least confirmation by a special committee that he can no longer perform his duties.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Can we shoot down incoming Iraqi missiles?

    By George Psyllides

    IN A BID to turn the tide of anti-war opinion, the British government on Tuesday published a dossier on Iraq warning that British bases in Cyprus were within range of Iraqi missiles.

    The 55-page dossier, which was handed to Foreign Minister Yiannakis Casoulides on Tuesday, makes three references to Cyprus, claiming Iraq has constructed a new engine test stand for the development of missiles capable of reaching the British Sovereign Bases (SBA) in Cyprus, as well as NATO members Greece and Turkey.

    The dossier said the missiles could be used with conventional, chemical or biological warheads and, with a range of up to 650km, are capable of reaching a number of countries in the region, including Cyprus, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Israel.

    But an SBA source on Tuesday put things into perspective: "This was the situation when we went to war back in 1991.

    "The Scud had the range that included Cyprus."

    No Scuds were fired against Cyprus back in 1991, however, and those missiles that the Iraqis managed to fire against Israel proved highly inaccurate and could only be used for blind hits that caused more terror than strategic damage.

    The missiles' inaccuracy, however, would be of no importance if the warheads carried biological and chemical agents.

    The status of Iraq's missile armoury is rather vague today, especially since the departure of UN weapons' inspectors.

    A CIA report, drafted shortly before the Gulf War said that the agency had no information to confirm that Iraq had developed or manufactured biological (BW) warheads for its ballistic missiles.

    "However, Iraq has the ability to weaponize its BW agents - including anthrax spores - and we believe it is well within Iraq's technical capabilities to produce BW warheads for its Scud missiles," the report said.

    The report said that the Al Hussein missile, carrying about 100kg of dried anthrax spores, "would theoretically produce a maximum area of lethal contamination of 1,600 square kilometres".

    "Others of Iraq's BW agents would be equally potent: Botulinus toxin would produce a maximum lethal area of contamination of about 21 square kilometres and anthrax spores in solution would produce an area of about 110 kilometres.

    "Iraq only needs a few BW-tipped missiles in its stockpile to cause significant casualties," the report said.

    The three main Scud derivatives thought to be possessed by Iraq today are the Al Hussein, with a range of over 600 kilometres and a payload of 250kg; the Al Hijarah with a range of over 650 kilometres and a payload of 250kg; and the Al Abbas with a range of over 900 kilometres and a 350kg payload.

    Experts believe that it is highly unlikely that Iraq would launch missiles against Cyprus if it were attack by the US and their allies.

    If it does, however, the best way to protect the island is to try to shoot down the incoming missiles over the sea.

    In the absence of the highly effective S-300 long-range missiles that ended up in Crete, there are only two known anti-aircraft, anti-missile systems on the island that could intercept the Scuds.

    One of the systems, the Rapier, is reportedly operational at the British Bases though its range is rather short - around eight kilometres.

    The other system is operated by the National Guard, though it too has a short range.

    The Tor-M1 Russian-made missile system has an effective range of 12 kilometres. For adequate protection, the British Rapiers and National Guard Tors would have to be deployed near the east coast in the hope that any incoming missile could be destroyed well away from land.

    If not, it would be the job of the civil defence to protect citizens, though it is highly doubtful that it has reached the level of organisation of its Israeli counterpart, at least as concerns biochemical warfare protection.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Scuffles at the airport as departing fans clash

    By Soteris Charalambous

    MACCABI Haifa fans clashed with Olympiacos supporters in the early hours of yesterday morning at Larnaca airport following the Champions League game between the two teams that resulted in a convincing 3-0 win for Haifa.

    Security for the game was extremely high, with over 700 uniformed policemen and a considerable contingent of undercover officers involved in the security operation. Fans were thoroughly searched before entering the stadium, with UEFA, European football's governing body, satisfied with the measures taken.

    "The organisation for the match was very well done, and the security measures taken were very good," said UEFA delegate John Leonidou, "Those carrying out the checks were firm but fair."

    Original police estimates for the match were for around 10,000 to 11,000 fans. However, over 20,000 packed Nicosia's GSP stadium. Around three quarters of the fans present were in support of Olympiacos, despite the game being the Israeli club's 'home' tie.

    There were no reported incidents after the match until trouble flared up at the airport between rival fans at around 1am as they gathered to make their way back to their respective countries. However, the anti-terrorist unit (MMAD) and airport security were on hand to ensure that the fighting did not escalate.

    Larnaca's Chief of Police, Nicos Stelios, witnessed the incidents, which passed off without any injuries or damage to property. Asked to comment on complaints by Israeli fans about the level of security Stelios said, "It would be unfair to suggest that the security measures taken were not adequate," adding, "the measures used were over and above the required level to ensure the safety of all the fans."

    Supporters of the teams involved in the trouble finally departed at around 5am.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Rare vultures tagged and released by into the wild

    By Soteris Charalambous

    ON TUESDAY, a very rare Black vulture and two Griffon vultures were released by the Forestry Department after being captured, tagged, and fitted with transmitters, as part of the department's fauna conservation programme.

    According to Haris Nicolaou, Assistant Forest Officer at the Forestry Department, the presence of the Black vulture represents quite a fillip for Cyprus.

    "For the Black vulture to come to Cyprus and remain here for so long suggests the programme is going well. If we are lucky, others will come next winter with the possibility that they will start breeding," said Nicolaou.

    The bird is one of the largest birds of prey, weighing up to 13kg with a wingspan of three metres but has been virtually extinct in Cyprus for approximately 20 years. The last of them are believed to have been shot for target practice by Turkish soldiers camped in the Pentadactylos Mountain range years ago.

    This Black vulture is approximately two to three years old and arrived in December. It is believed to have flown from Turkey, Georgia or Ukraine, attempting to avoid the heavy winter conditions, and trapped at a cage in Ayios Ioannis in the Paphos District, tagged, and measured and then fitted with a transmitter to enable its movements and habits to be studied. Such practice mirrors a host of other European countries where the bird's numbers have dropped to virtual extinction.

    The fact that it arrived late last year having not been previously tagged is also a 'feather in the cap' for the island. "The black vulture is unique in Cyprus. It existed in large numbers during the 80s but became virtually extinct because of poisoning, illegal hunting and destruction of nesting sites," said Nicolaou.

    The forestry officer was also keen to emphasise the importance of the survival of the species. Often depicted as the harbingers of doom that swirl around helpless victims in Westerns, their true role is that of 'nature's noble caretakers' according to environmentalists. "They are very important creatures because they clean the eco-system. They are exclusively carrion feeders and they prevent the spreading of diseases because they only feed on carcasses and thus clean the eco-system. They have to be protected and helped to recover to its former numbers," said Nicolaou.

    In addition to the Black, two Griffon vultures were also released after being captured as part of a project launched 12 years ago by the Forestry department for the conservation of Griffon vultures.

    "We released them in accordance with an action plan launched by the UN two years ago which we co-operate with to help Griffon numbers recover," said Nicolaou, "They used to be very common 20 years ago but present numbers are down to 30-40 birds. During the 80s, there were more than 20 nesting sites, now there is only one. We are trying to encourage the birds to breed further inland at other fauna mating sites because they are very vulnerable. One poisoning could wipe out these birds forever."

    All three birds arrived on the island in good condition, but others that do not are kept and looked after until they are ready to survive in the wild again. It has been difficult to gauge quite how many vultures have been lost over the years because, "there wasn't anybody studying them 20 years ago but we know for sure from records of ornithologists in other countries and visitors here that they were in good numbers in Cyprus."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Employers fury over plans to force health insurance on foreign workers

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE EMPLOYERS and Industrialists Federation (OEV) yesterday slammed a four- member ministerial committee decision compelling local employers to provide full medical insurance coverage for foreign workers as part of their work permit contracts, beginning from on October 1.

    However, according to Health Minister Frixos Savvides, this medical insurance will only cover foreign household help and not employees in industry. The measure has been welcomed by the Immigrant Support Action Group (ISAG), which said it was long overdue and a necessary means of protecting the rights of foreign workers.

    "I am very angry at the way the Ministers of Health, Labour, Commerce and Interior handled the situation," said OEV Director-General Michalis Pilikos. "This decision of theirs has violently changed an important aspect of our industrial relations code, which has so far stipulated the equal contribution between employer and employee for medical insurance."

    Presently, employers and employees pay 50 per cent each to cover the cost of workers' medical insurance premiums. This amount varies, as it is based on a percentage of salary, he said.

    But, according to the President of ISAG, Doros Polycarpou, only union members benefit from this.

    "A lot of industries do not allow their employees to join unions, which therefore leaves foreign workers vulnerable and exposed if they need medical attention," he said. If a Cypriot gets sick, medical care is free or at least cheaper, depending on his or her salary. A foreigner, on the other hand, has no such rights and has to cover the cost himself. To make things worse, foreigners rarely get more than 400-500 a month anyway, which means they cannot always afford the cost of medical attention, Polycarpou said.

    This means the state then looks to the employer to pay up. More often than not, employers refuse, claiming there is nothing binding them to do so in the employee's contract.

    "This is a temporary solution until the new National Health Scheme is implemented, when everyone - including foreigners - will have automatic access to equal medical benefits. Until that time, it's the state's responsibility to ensure they are protected, by forcing employers to cover the cost of their insurance payments."

    However, Pilikos said this was unfair and that the ministers' suggestion that employers should foot the entire bill for foreign labour was at the expense of local workers.

    "The Labour Ministry has repeatedly insisted that foreign workers should not be discriminated against. But with this move, they are over passing that mark and giving

    foreigners better rights than Cypriots and burdening employers with an added cost of 300 a year (the expected cost of medical insurance)."

    But, Savvides yesterday insisted this decision did not apply to foreign industrial workers, only to household employees, and that it was purely aimed at protecting the state from footing extortionate annual medical bills.

    "When housemaids come to Cyprus and get sick, they are sent to hospital. Sometimes they are seriously ill and the medical bills run into thousands of pounds," he said. The problem was there was no way of recovering this money because the employees were often sent back home and the employers then refused to settle the bill, said Savvides. "As a way of preventing this from continuing, we agreed that as a prerequisite in obtaining a work permit for foreign housemaids, employers would have to prove they had fully paid for their medical insurance." The Health Minister said this condition would not be applied to industry workers as they generally joined the appropriate unions and received health benefits that way.

    If, however, the decision does go ahead next week, the OEV Director-General said the federation would be telling its members not to enforce it, causing huge problems in employer/employee relations.

    Nevertheless ISAG is right behind the move, because Polycarpou believes it will protect foreign workers health rights. "It will hopefully put an end to the deportation of employees that are seriously ill, to employers diagnosing their workers themselves and failing to take employees to the doctor for fear of footing the bill," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Growth estimates revised down in face of tourism slump

    CYPRUS is revising its growth forecasts for 2002 to factor in worse-than- expected tourism arrivals, a Finance Ministry official said yesterday.

    Authorities had forecast a 2.5 - 3.0 per cent expansion in gross domestic product but it is likely to eventually be closer to the lower end of that scale on estimates of a 12-13 per cent downturn in tourism, a key money spinner.

    "It is possible that the rate of economic growth will be lower than what we initially estimated, but not by very much," a finance ministry official told Reuters.

    Tourism, which represents 20 per cent of GDP, has suffered this year as an economic slowdown bites in key markets and many people are preferring to stay closer to home after the attacks on the US last year.

    Authorities had based initial growth figures on a nine per cent decline in arrivals. The anticipated fall in tourism is now closer to 12-13 per cent on an annual basis after the most recent figures showed a 19.5 per cent slump in arrivals for August.

    Sofronis Eteocleous, senior economist at Laiki Bank said there was a downside risk to the 2.5 per cent growth rate from a drop in tourism and an anticipated decline in private consumption growth.

    "I would say that the next revision would imply something between 2.0 and 2.5 per cent," Eteocleous said.

    New official growth estimates are likely to be ready early next week. The data would also include an assessment of how recent tax reforms impacted domestic economy.

    Authorities introduced a three percentage point increase in Value Added Tax last July to 13 per cent and reshuffled income tax categories, leaving many earners with more disposable income.

    Spending could accelerate before the end of the year to beat another VAT increase in January, but that could easily be tempered by tension in the region on the likelihood of US action against Iraq, economists said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] 15-year-old killed in moped crash

    A YOUTH was killed last night and two girls riding pillion on his moped were seriously injured in a crash on the road from Sotira to Phrenaros.

    Fifteen-year-old Christodoulos Andreas Christodoulou and the two girls aged 19 and 15 were riding on the bike at around 7pm when they were in collision with one car overtaking another.

    Christodoulou died in the crash and the two girls were taken to hospitals in Larnaca and Nicosia. Police described their condition last night as "serious". The driver of the car was treated for shock.

    Police said none of the three had been wearing a helmet and that the moped's lights were not on.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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