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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-11-29

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

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


Friday, November 29, 2002

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CONTENTS

  • [01] What happens next in the race to solve the Cyprus problem
  • [02] Neophytou: telecoms liberalisation will be in place by year end
  • [03] English School in search of another headmaster
  • [04] Buffer zone street reopened to traffic
  • [05] Strovolos Mayor defends record over Auditor-general's criticisms
  • [06] Watch out for dangerous toys in the run-up to Christmas
  • [07] Finn's abductors jailed

  • [01] What happens next in the race to solve the Cyprus problem

    By Jean Christou

    THE next steps in the Cyprus negotiations should become clear by the weekend, informed sources said yesterday, with time running out for the signing of an initial agreement by the December 12 EU summit deadline.

    Both leaders are expected to hand in their comments on the UN plan by tomorrow.

    The UN Secretary-general's special envoy for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto was in Ankara yesterday and returned to the island last night. He is expected to meet President Clerides this morning at 7.30am to discuss what type of negotiations will take place and how and when they will proceed within the tight timeframe.

    De Soto will then travel to Athens later today to meet Greece's Foreign Minster George Papandreou before returning to the island, probably at the weekend.

    The state of health of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash will have to be taken into consideration with regards to the rigours of intensive face-to- face talks between the two leaders due to the time constraints involved. The UN expressed its concern about this issue earlier this month and it has yet to be decided whether the negotiations will be direct or on a proximity basis.

    According to reports from New York, doctors advised Denktash to stay in the United States until Christmas. The Turkish Cypriot leader was discharged from hospital on Wednesday night and while reports from New York said he would leave the US next week, reports from the north said he could be leaving as early as last night in order to head to Ankara for consultations. His adviser Ergun Olgun - who has been at his side since his operation last month - has already left for Ankara.

    If both leaders are on the island, negotiations will probably take place here, but if Denktash remains in New York, matters would be further complicated and time is running out.

    "We will have to wait until Saturday to see what the Secretary-general's office will announce," the source said. "Until those replies come, De Soto will be moving around quite a bit," he added, but could not say what form the talks might take.

    "Until two days ago you would have said you were looking towards New York for talks to take place there. The situation is still very fluid."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [02] Neophytou: telecoms liberalisation will be in place by year end

    COMMUNICATIONS Minister Averoff Neophytou yesterday assured that the telecommunications market would be fully liberalised by the end of the year.

    Speaking at a forum hosted by Planitis.net to present their 'New Trends in Business Telecommunications', Neophytou said the government had taken measures to keep pace with the rapid changes in the telecommunications market.

    "We have put all the required legal framework in place to prevent a monopoly," Neophytou said.

    "The market will be fully liberalised by the end of 2002 and in the meantime, we have proceeded with the establishment of the National Regulatory Authority."

    Neophytou said the process of licensing additional GSM and new UMTS operators had already started.

    "The government of Cyprus is encouraging the establishment of Cyprus-based companies to offer a complete range of telecommunications services, utilising the most advanced and proven technology in order to meet market needs."

    Planitis.net Chairman Anthony Voscarides said his company's communications solutions would be enhanced with the deregulation of the market.

    "After liberalisation, business and organisations will be in a position to enjoy value added services and products delivered according to their own needs," Voscarides said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [03] English School in search of another headmaster

    By Nicole Neroulias

    THE ENGLISH School looking for a new headmaster. Again.

    The prestigious Nicosia secondary school has placed advertisements in newspapers for the position, currently held by Robert Swan, whose contract expires on August 31.

    The school's recent pattern of revolving administrators will make the next headmaster the fourth in eight years.

    Swan was appointed in 1999, taking over the reins from Emilios Solomou, who stood in after previous headmaster Thomas Thomas left after three years over allegations of misconduct in a promotion. The school's government- appointed Board of Management was also replaced as a result of the scandal.

    Thomas had been preceded by Albert Hudspeth, who resigned after eight years, having told the Cyprus Mail that he had sacrificed his position in order to resolve conflicts with the Board of Management and the Staff Association.

    School officials yesterday denied that there had been any conflicts with Swan, but said the position had to be advertised because it had been restructured by the Board to include different responsibilities and a salary change.

    Board representative Magda Nicholson said the position had been restructured to include direct oversight of the school's afternoon English Institute. In addition, the salary, currently "out of the ordinary", would be reduced "based on government scale," she said.

    Another Board member said they had come under sustained pressure from the House Education Committee to justify their spending - including the headmaster's salary - and had also been encouraged to make more of an effort to find a Cypriot headmaster.

    Teachers and parents said that they would like the Board to consider each applicant's commitment to the position during the hiring process.

    "We've had five headmasters in the last 20 years, so it would be nice to have more continuity," said Emilios Christodoulides, leader of the school's computing department. "Headmasters should stay a bit longer than a few years."

    Officials said the current headmaster was welcome to reapply for the position, but Swan declined to comment on whether he wished to renew his contract. It is, however, understood that he will not be reapplying for the position.

    "My hope is that he will not be leaving, because he's quite a good headmaster," said Athos Pittas, the head of the Parents' Association. "I don't think anyone has any negative comments about him."

    Applications will be accepted until December 9, and a short list of candidates will be invited for interviews in Nicosia.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [04] Buffer zone street reopened to traffic

    AFTER 28 years, Alkiviades Street in Nicosia is being re-opened for traffic after being closed off since the 1974 invasion.

    The once busy street surrounded by ironmongers, mechanics and carpenters was part of the buffer zone, but after an agreement with the Turkish Cypriot side, National Guard Bulldozers yesterday began clearing the street near the old Municipality of rubble and sandbags, preparing it to be re- opened.

    Soldiers carrying out the works refused to comment on why the old street was being re-opened, but UN Spokesman Brian Kelly told the Cyprus Mail yesterday the decision to clear the street was made for the good of the local community.

    Kelly said the opening of Alkiviades Street was a one-off agreement and did not necessarily herald the opening of other streets in the buffer zone.

    Locals in the area were happy to see the road re-opened, saying they were hopeful their businesses would benefit.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [05] Strovolos Mayor defends record over Auditor-general's criticisms

    By George Psyllides

    STROVOLOS Mayor Savvas Eliophotou yesterday denied any wrongdoing and defended the municipality against a damning report by the Auditor-general (AG) about delays in submitting accounts for audit and pay rises to staff the AG considered to be illegal.

    In her 2001 report, Auditor-general Chrystalla Yiorkadji censured the municipality for delaying to submit its accounts for the year 2000, resulting in her office being unable to audit the accounts for 2000 and 2001.

    The AG notes in the report that the municipality had informed her the delays were due to the installation of new software and to the move to a new building, a fact confirmed by

    Eliophotou yesterday.

    "Strovolos Municipality is one of the most modern municipalities right now, " he said.

    "We had problems with the installation of the new software and it was impossible to submit the accounts on time," Eliophotou said.

    He rejected allegations in the press that the delays were due to other reasons, adding the 2000 accounts had been submitted last December, instead of April and that the 2001 accounts were expected to follow suit by the end of the year.

    "The delay in submitting the accounts doesn't mean a lot," he said.

    The mayor added that in any case the municipality had its own internal auditing service set up in accordance with AG standards: " I don't sign a cheque if the bill is not certified by the internal audit," he insisted.

    The Auditor-general also reported that because the municipality had not implemented 1995 civil service rules concerning salaries and other benefits in the cases of changes in pay scales provided for in the 1995-97 collective agreement and in additional pay rises, the wages of most employees were wrong, costing the municipality more money.

    "It has been noticed that the municipal council, instead of proceeding to correct the employees' salaries, on October 12 1998 and may 6 1999 gave additional pay rises to five employees whose salaries were wrong, and their income was higher than what they should have earned," the AG's report said.

    Eliophotou said the pay increases had been given after collective bargaining between the employers and the unions.

    He said the issue dated back to 1996 and the rises were given to avoid strikes.

    He said the municipalities were effectively caught between the unions and the government.

    The municipalities are obliged to give the same pay rises to their employees as the civil service. So when the government decided to give two pay rises to its engineers the municipalities had to follow suit. But after the raises were given, the municipalities discovered that certain employees were now making the same money as their superiors.

    "The superiors now come and demand a raise; if you say no, the union steps in and accuses us of breaching the collective agreement," Eliophotou said.

    "And a vicious circle starts; I'm not happy and I don't want to justify it but it is a vicious circle."

    He said he had proposed to the Union of Municipalities to hire professional negotiators so such issues could be spotted earlier on.

    Eliophotou said he has invited the Finance and Interior Ministries to sit in on the negotiations so as to avoid being told that agreements were illegal and had to be rescinded.

    But the reply was "finish the negotiations and before you sign send the agreement to us and we will decide if it is fair or legal," Eliophotou said.

    "Imagine talking with the unions for 12 months and ministry stepping in at the end saying what you have agreed is in conflict with the rules; and I cannot go back," the mayor added.

    "I am not happy with the matter but I do not have a solution and it can't be corrected just by the AG saying it is illegal," the mayor said.

    "What can we do? Take their raise away and have a strike?" Eliophotou said.

    The AG also slated the municipality for creating nine supervisor positions, which the report said were opened without an in-depth study into the needs and potential costs.

    "I can assure you that from the day the nine supervisors were appointed to oversee 120 workers the municipality has become more efficient," Eliophotou said.

    The municipality's advisers suggested the move would be beneficial and that no extra costs would arise.

    "If the municipal council decides it needs nine supervisors that have to be on a specific pay scale to be able to work and produce, it is an issue between employer and employee," the mayor said.

    "I have never claimed that things at the Strovolos municipality functioned perfectly.

    "We have many weaknesses and mistakes," he said.

    "What I can assure is that there is no mismanagement or favouritism," Eliophotou said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [06] Watch out for dangerous toys in the run-up to Christmas

    By Alexia Saoulli

    WITH Christmas just weeks away, a senior Interior Ministry official yesterday urged shoppers to be vigilant when out buying toys for their children.

    Although Competition and Consumer Department inspectors carry out frequent spot checks on all products, severe staff shortages prevent them from visiting all toy stores and testing every single product.

    In the circumstances, Marios Droushiotis said it was important for consumers to be aware of what to look for when out buying gifts for children.

    Toy manufacturers had to follow specific EU health and safety guidelines, he said. Three aspects are involved: one deals with the toy's actual components, the second measures its flammability levels and the third assesses its chemical substance content.

    "Toys should not be made with sharp points, have long laces that children can tie around their necks or contain small objects for under three-year- olds. They should also be tested for their breakability levels. In other words, they have to be dropped from a certain height before they break, and once they do, they should not shatter into little pieces with sharp edges," he said.

    "Next, materials such as doll's clothes or hair should not be highly flammable, so that if a child sets fire to it, it will not spread, but instead burn out.

    "And thirdly, chemicals used in the production of different toys' colours should not be toxic or harmful when they come into contact with children; whether it be through their smell, touch or taste."

    An easy way to ensure that toy manufactures follow the EU safety specifications is to ensure they have the letters 'CE' printed on them. This was a EU safety approved seal that guaranteed the toys had been made following specific guidelines, he said.

    Over and above these requirements, manufacturers are obliged to set minimum ages on their toys and to include relevant safety information and instructions. This information has to then be translated into clear and user-friendly Greek before hitting the market, he stressed. Any other additional language used is optional.

    Packaging must also include the importer's name and the manufacturer's trade name or trademark, he said. "This is so that we can trace back where and who it came from if there is a problem."

    Failure to comply with any of the above was illegal and could lead to the imposition of a maximum 1,000 fine and/or a year in jail, he warned.

    "No one has actually been sent to jail before, but fines of 300-500 have been set," said Droushiotis.

    If a toy is deemed dangerous, it is removed from the market and consumers who may have already bought it are warned to return it.

    "They usually get their money back because the importers want to avoid legal action," he said.

    Toys that have in the past been removed from the market following laboratory spot checks are mainly battery-operated dolls because they have sharp edges and flammable materials, as well as long laces, he said.

    He said there were no statistics of accidents involving children.

    "There have been incidences of children swallowing objects, cutting their fingers on sharp edges or scratching themselves with their toys. By next year the Health Ministry plans to keep a recording of how and why children's accidents occur so that we will have a better picture of the situation."

    He said parents also had a role in ensuring children were kept safe. Warnings that recommended adult supervision or specified that toys should be used by over-five year olds should be adhered to, he insisted.

    "Instructions are there for a reason and toys could contain small loose objects that parents aren't aware of and that a younger child will more than likely put into its mouth," said Droushiotis.

    He added that by next year the situation would be much improved, since all toys would undergo full laboratory investigations, which involved testing their safety levels beyond what could be seen by the naked eye.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

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    [07] Finn's abductors jailed

    THE LARNACA District Court yesterday handed down 18-month sentences to three out of four Liopetri men found guilty of abducting a Finnish tourist and having sex with her without her consent.

    According to the CyBC the three men, Panayiotis Ktoris, 23, Charis Haralambous, 24, and Kyriacos Zanou, 19, were found guilty of the crime, while the fourth suspect, Costas Kyprianou, 18, will appear before the court in January.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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