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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 03-03-05

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

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


Wednesday, March 5, 2003

CONTENTS

  • [01] Turkish Cypriots discuss crucial vote
  • [02] $5 million for information on terrorist funds
  • [03] Thieves steal charity can collection cage
  • [04] Consumers urged to watch soaring vegetable prices
  • [05] CyTA cleared over sales of mobile phones
  • [06] DNA testing identifies girl of 15 who died in the invasion
  • [07] Clouds over insurance sector
  • [08] Jumping the gun? New spokesman hits out at US report
  • [09] New government insists medicine prices will be cut
  • [10] Police to probe failure to stop crowd trouble

  • [01] Turkish Cypriots discuss crucial vote

    By Jean Christou

    THE TURKISH Cypriot 'parliament' met yesterday behind closed doors ahead of a crucial vote on Friday on whether to take the UN plan for a Cyprus solution to referendum.

    The meeting was being held in occupied Nicosia as Brussels brought pressure on Ankara by saying that the accession of a divided Cyprus would affects its chances of starting negotiations with the EU in 2005.

    UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan has asked the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders to travel to The Hague on Monday to give him an answer on whether they are willing to hold separate referendums on March 30 on the third version of his plan. Greece and Turkey will also be obliged to sign the document committing each side to holding referendums.

    Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is opposed to holding a referendum because he said his people do not understand the full implications of the Annan plan, and also because agreeing to a referendum implies agreement to the plan itself. He said if the plan were to be submitted to the people it would have to be accepted first.

    Reports from the north yesterday suggested that four out of the five Turkish Cypriot parties would support the holding of a referendum. Only the ruling centre-right National Unity Party (UBP) of 'prime minister' Dervis Eroglu is opposed to it.

    However the reports said that several members of the UBP had expressed support for a referendum, despite the opposition of their leadership and of Denktash. The UBP holds 24 of the 48 seats in 'parliament', so it would take very little UBP support to carry the vote in favour of a referendum.

    Ordinary Turkish Cypriots also want the chance to vote in a referendum and have been staging demonstrations in the north to press Denktash to sign or quit. Yesterday around 2,500 people gathered outside 'parliament' to demonstrate in favour.

    Denktash, who will travel to Ankara today, said the Turkish government was obliged to support the signature Annan wanted from the Turkish Cypriot side. “Will Turkey go to The Hague and sign? Can it sign?” he asked, adding that pressure was being exerted by the UN. “This much pressure and rush is unbelievable,” he was quoted as saying yesterday.

    He said he had written a letter to Annan asking whether he wanted the two leaders to go to The Hague irrespective of their answers. “There is no meaning in going to The Hague in order to say 'no' to conducting a referendum on March 30,” he added.

    Government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said yesterday that the National Council is unlikely to take a final decision when it meets today.

    He said a meeting yesterday afternoon between President Tassos Papadopoulos, who will travel to Athens tomorrow, and UN special envoy Alvaro de Soto aimed at “investigating the possibility of further negotiating issues regarding the UN plan's functionality”.

    He said the President's visit to Greece would be a continuation of last week's talks in the Greek capital between Papadopoulos and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

    “I am certain that there will be a complete discussion of all the issues. In any case, our accession course has been officially declared by the EU and by the Greek government... it is a simultaneous procedure completely independent from a Cyprus settlement”, he added.

    Former President Glafcos Clerides has also been invited to participate in today's National Council meeting, Chrysostomides said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, March 5, 2003

    [02] $5 million for information on terrorist funds

    By Tania Khadder

    U.S. AMBASSADOR Michael Klosson yesterday announced the launch of a new programme giving Cypriots the chance to help combat international terrorism.

    'Rewards for Justice' offers up to $5 million to anyone providing information on the flow of money towards terrorist activities against US interests.

    “Through this programme, we hope to enlist the assistance of people around the world, to generate critical leads that will stop the flow of money to terrorist groups, and will disrupt their operations, thereby protecting the lives of innocent people around the world,” Klosson told a news conference in Nicosia.

    “International terrorism is financed by money sent from all around the world, so we have to stop the flow of money. In order to be able to do this, we need to get new insights into how terrorists move their money.”

    He said that the identity of informers was always confidential, and did not rule out the possibility of providing witness protection to any Cypriot who could provide information.

    Originally established in 1984, 'Rewards for Justice' entered Cyprus yesterday in a campaign specifically focused on stopping terrorist financing.

    “I think overall, the Rewards for Justice Programme has been very successful. In the past seven years, the United States has paid more than $9.5 million to 23 people who provided credible information that either prevented acts of international terrorism or put terrorist behind bars,” Klosson added.

    He provided several examples of success stories, the most significant being the arrest of Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In 1995, Yousef was in Pakistan planning to attack a US airliner, when he was arrested after a tip from an informant who was later rewarded.

    Some of the other active Rewards for Justice campaigns include ones to find the terrorists behind the September 11 attacks, the October 2000 attack against USS Cole in Yemen, and the 1998 bombing of US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

    The ambassador said that while Rewards for Justice focused on terrorism threatening American interests, widespread participation would be beneficial to everyone.

    “Although the law that governs this programme is aimed at terrorism directed against Americans, the United States shares any information we receive with other nations whose citizens are at risk,” Klosson said. “In this fashion, every government and every citizen has a stake in bringing terrorism to justice.”

    “Cyprus is a very valuable partner in the campaign against terrorism,” he added. “Geographical position and regional links make it an especially important member of the international coalition.

    “Since September 11, we have been very pleased with the level of co- operation and support from the Cyprus government in terms of taking UN, US and EU lists and running them through the banking system to see if there are any terrorist assets. They have been very prompt and co-operative,” he said.

    He added that to his knowledge no assets had been found in Cyprus.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, March 5, 2003

    [03] Thieves steal charity can collection cage

    By Sofia Kannas

    THIEVES stole a metal cage full of aluminium cans from Polemidhia Primary school over the weekend, ruining the school's recent Cans For Kids initiative.

    The school was one of several participating in the Cans For Kids project, which collects and recycles aluminium cans to raise money for the treatment of sick children.

    Police yesterday confirmed that the cage, worth £200, was stolen from the school, along with a video and some items from the canteen.

    The School's Environmental Committee Co-ordinator told the Cyprus Mail the theft of the cage had particularly upset both pupils and staff alike.

    “We realised the cage had gone on Monday morning. We are very disappointed. The children were really beginning to get involved and now all the hard work is undone.

    “We reported the theft to the police though it's not the monetary value of the cage that has upset us but what it was worth in terms of helping sick children.”

    Asked why thieves may have taken the cage, he said the cage would maybe be emptied and used to keep a dog or other animal.

    The theft is not the first at the Polemidhia Primary-- during the summer thieves took around £4,000-worth of computer equipment from the school, including 6 PCs.

    “The issue of security is now a concern for the school. One of our aims is to ask the police and the Education Ministry to put us on the list of 'high risk' schools. Maybe we can have some security lights or cameras installed. The problem is that the school is rather isolated. There are no houses around.”

    The school will try and carry on the initiative though.

    “We will attempt to carry on. Perhaps we can build a cage with our own funds.”

    Cans for Kids Committee member Rosie Ogden yesterday expressed her disappointment at the theft of the cage.

    “We are really very upset that people would take a cage full of cans, which was for such a good cause.

    “The project has been going on for 13 years now and we have helped contribute towards the paediatric intensive care unit at Nicosia's Makarios Hospital. We are also committed to funding equipment worth over £50,000 for the ward next door. So we are after every can we can get. But incidents like this set us back of course.”

    Ogden added that the Polemidhia collection bank had been important in the effort to make Can For Kids an island-wide project.

    “We have collection banks in all the major hospitals, in Nicosia, Larnaca, Paralimni, Limassol and Paphos. But to keep raising money we need a Pancyprian collection of aluminium cans.

    Asked if she had a message for whoever took the Polemidhia can bank, she said she hoped the thieves would return the cage.

    “I appeal to the burglars to take the cage back in the middle of the night.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, March 5, 2003

    [04] Consumers urged to watch soaring vegetable prices

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE CONSUMERS Association yesterday warned shoppers to use common sense when buying groceries in the face of soaring prices.

    The price of tomatoes and cucumbers has increased drastically over the past few weeks due to recent bad weather conditions that have destroyed a number of crops, said Association President Petros Markou.

    “Families should use common sense when budgeting their shopping list and not buy products that are priced too highly,” he said.

    “I am not saying that they should boycott goods altogether, but consumers should be vigilant,” said Markou.

    Because of bad weather conditions and low temperatures, a number of crops have been destroyed, he said. Greenhouses also claimed they were being forced to use more fuel to heat their products, which was why prices were rapidly inching upwards.

    “Because there is a limited supply of tomatoes and cucumbers and an increase in consumer demand, particularly as we near Green Monday, they can do what they like as far as pricing is concerned,” he said.

    Markou said farmers should organise themselves and market their own products as a way of bypassing middlemen who upped prices when selling them on to supermarkets and other retailers.

    “Local markets are also cheaper than supermarkets if consumers want to buy cucumbers and tomatoes at better prices,” he suggested.

    The Consumers Association had no quarrel with farmers, but said tomatoes and cucumbers should not be sold at such high prices with extreme fluctuations from one day to the next. “By creating a farmers' marketing organisation these fluctuations will be tolerable and everybody will be much happier,” said Markou.

    Tomatoes and cucumbers normally sell at between 50 and 80 cents a kilo. Over the past week, these prices have soared to £1.70-£2.20 a kilo, he said.

    “Sometimes, prices are lower than the average and other times they are higher, but this is the first time they have hit such extreme highs,” Markou said.

    The Commerce Ministry has said its hands are tied and there is nothing it can do to prevent soaring prices.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, March 5, 2003

    [05] CyTA cleared over sales of mobile phones

    By Alex Mita

    MOBILE PHONE vendors were yesterday fuming over a decision by the Nicosia District Court to allow the Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) to continue selling mobile phones at its outlets.

    More than 20 companies had appealed to the Committee for the Protection of Competition last year, claiming CyTA was using its dominant position in the market as the sole provider of telephone lines in unfair competition with mobile phone vendors.

    The companies also claimed CyTA was abusing its monopoly to “directly and indirectly determine unfair prices of mobile phones, thus creating unfair conditions for trading.”

    The vendors were also furious with CyTA for selling their products at places where people paid their phone bills or used the authority's services.

    But the Committee ruled the vendors' claims were unfounded and allowed CyTA to continue the sale of mobiles.

    The outraged vendors then appealed to the Supreme Court, but after hearing the case, Judge Panayiotis Kallis ruled CyTA was in no way using its position in the market unfairly.

    Speaking to the Cyprus Mail yesterday, Yiannos Diakos, a spokesman for L.I.A. Soundtech LTD, said mobile phone vendors would now appeal to the European Court.

    “If this is their decision we will appeal to the European Court,” he said.

    “We believe the decision taken by the Committee for the Protection of Competition was unfair, because we can't imagine a more classic example of unfair competition.

    “CyTA imported 15,000 mobile phones and sent free advertising to its 300, 000 customers in order to sell them,” Diakou added. “I don't have that sort of backing to help me sell phones.

    “If the system in Cyprus will not vindicate us, then we will be vindicated by the European system.”

    The Chairman of the Competition Committee Christodoulos Tselepos told the Cyprus Mail yesterday mobile phone vendors had no case.

    “We decided that CyTA was in no way breaching the law because the authority presented us with a very low share of the market, around eight per cent,” he said.

    “This is not having a dominant position in the market. To have a dominant position in the market means not to be afraid of the competition.

    “I changed my mobile phone three times since last year and I never once bought them from CyTA because, to be honest, their mobiles are more expensive.”

    But Diakou rubbished Tselepos' comments. “If I had £200 million to spend, I would also raise my prices,” he said. “We will not let this go by, we will fight it wherever we can.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, March 5, 2003

    [06] DNA testing identifies girl of 15 who died in the invasion

    By a Staff Reporter

    EXHUMATIONS at the Constantinos and Eleni cemetery have uncovered the remains of a 15-year old Greek Cypriot girl who died in 1974 while taking water to some national guardsmen in the Nicosia suburb of Omorphita.

    The girl, Vasso Socratous, was one of five children born to George and Kalliopi Socratous, who are now in their seventies. The family lived in Omorphita, an area of heavy fighting in July 1974; most of the suburb is now under Turkish occupation.

    During the hostilities, Vasso was caught in line of fire and took cover with her mother and two sisters in an abandoned house, where other women from the neighbourhood had also taken refuge.

    In the evening of July 20, they made their way home. At around 5am, they began gathering food and water to help the soldiers in an adjacent lookout post. Kalliopi was in one room and Vasso in another when the mortar shell hit the house killing the 15-year old.

    The girl's father told Politis newspaper that the soldiers came and took Vasso's body to the Nicosia General Hospital but it was too late to save her. The family left her name and address on the body and fled to safety in Xylotymbou.

    However, when Vasso's father retuned to Nicosia to claim his daughter's body he was told she had probably been buried along with other victims at the Constantinos and Eleni cemetery.

    The remains of hundreds of national guardsmen as well as civilians on the missing persons list have been exhumed at two Nicosia cemeteries over the past two years. The remains are taken to a special facility in Nicosia, where DNA testing is carried out and the remains then returned to the families for burial.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, March 5, 2003

    [07] Clouds over insurance sector

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    UNCERTAINTY is clouding the insurance sector this week, as MarkeTrends Insurance goes head to head with the Insurance Superintendent's office, each side making contradictory announcements on the status of the company's licence.

    Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Marios Clerides, warned that if the company did not issue a clear statement to its investors clarifying the situation by today, he would suspend trading of shares in the parent company of MarkeTrends Insurance (MI), MarkeTrend Financial Services.

    The story goes back to February 24 when MI's licence expired. According to a new law implemented under the umbrella of EU harmonisation, all insurance companies must renew their licences by the beginning of 2003. Insurance Superintendent, Victoria Natar, informed MI on February 24 that their new application for a licence to offer insurance services had been rejected. The company appealed to the Finance Minister the next day, and he passed on the appeal to the Attorney-general for a legal appraisal.

    The plot thickens. MarkeTrends Financial Services (MFS) released an announcement on Monday concerning its subsidiary company. They claimed that then Finance Minister Takis Klerides upheld their appeal on his last day in office, February 28, “and cancelled the decision of the Insurance Superintendent as apparently illegal”. According to the statement, the minister also declared that MI had a valid insurance licence until December 31, 2003.

    On the same day, Natar issued a statement maintaining the issue was still under examination and no decision had been taken as regards an insurance licence. She went as far as to say that MarkeTrends' announcement was not true and “misleading”.

    Assistant to the Insurance Superintendent, Melina Katsounodou, told the Cyprus Mail that contrary to what the company was saying, they did not currently hold an insurance licence. “We have not notified the company of any changes to the initial decision we took on February 24. We are collaborating with the new Finance Minister to examine the issue and will inform the company of any decision once we reach one.”

    According to Katsounodou, the ex-finance minister left behind a report that did not clarify whether he approved or rejected MI's appeal, leaving each side to make their own interpretation. All three parties now await the decision of new minister, Marcos Kyprianou.

    A Finance Ministry official confirmed that the new minister was still studying the matter, after receiving advice from the Attorney-general on legal points, and would come to a decision shortly.

    One financial observer noted that under the new European law, from 2003 onward, insurance licences will no longer have an expiry date but can be revoked by the Insurance Superintendent at any time. This throws into question the new expiry date announced by MFS for the end of the year, which indicates the former minister gave them an extension on their old licence.

    Clerides from the SEC said yesterday that if MFS, a listed company, did not clear up the position for investors by today, he would move to suspend share trading until further notice. He said the SEC had been pushing them to make an announcement to investors from last Friday when MI's licence expired. Clerides did not rule out imposing a penalty on MFS for giving 'misleading information' to investors but added that, first, it must be proved that they knowingly mislead the public. “We must find out what went on first,” he said.

    Meanwhile, MFS announced the signing of an agreement for the acquisition of 51 per cent of the shares of GAN Direct Insurance Ltd, giving the group a new outlet for insurance contracts. However, the acquisition is subject to the approval of the Insurance Superintendent.

    Observers note there will be a strong link between approval of the acquisition and any conclusion on whether MI has a licence or not.

    The company has been notified that if it does not get its licence renewed, they will be allowed to receive any outstanding premiums and meet their liabilities until the last day of a contract, which in this case, could go no further than February 24, 2004, said Katsounodou.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, March 5, 2003

    [08] Jumping the gun? New spokesman hits out at US report

    By George Psyllides

    GOVERNMENT Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides was apparently caught unprepared yesterday after suggesting Cyprus should make representations to the United States over a State Department report that allegedly suggested measures needed to be taken over money laundering.

    “I am surprised by this news because as you all know, all the questions submitted by the American government in relations to the situation in Cyprus concerning money laundering have been answered by the Central Bank and the MOKAS (Covert Crime Fighting Unit) to the satisfaction of the American authorities,” Chrysostomides said.

    He added: “I think that a representation is in order.”

    But in a written statement, MOKAS said the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report was positive and fair for Cyprus.

    And everything included in the report on Cyprus “portrayed the measures taken by the Republic against money laundering, as well as the financing of terrorism, in an impartial way.

    “They also fully correspond to the facts handed over to the US authorities by MOKAS and the Central Bank for the preparation of the report.

    “In general the report is positive for the Republic of Cyprus and its services; what is mentioned at the end of the report is the need to secure the effective enforcement of the measures, a suggestion usually included in these reports,” the MOKAS statement said.

    The report, compiled by the State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, concludes: “Although Cyprus has criminalised money laundering for all serious crime, and passed additional legislation necessary to construct a viable anti-money laundering regime, the Government of Cyprus should take steps to ensure its implementation of these laws”.

    The report also advises the government to regulate its charitable and non- profit entities in order not to be vulnerable to abuse by organised crime and misuse by terrorist organisations.

    The report makes a brief mention of the billions of dollars illegally transferred out of Yugoslavia by former president Slobodan Milosevic's regime, but recognises the island;s willingness to co-operate.

    “…some of these funds (are) believed to have been transferred through Cyprus.

    “By April 2001, the Government of Cyprus had turned over documents to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague concerning possible money laundering by Milosevic and his associates,” the report said.

    On the other hand, the report suggested there was strong evidence of a growing trade in drugs with Turkey and Britain as well as of significant money laundering activities going on in the occupied north.

    “'TRNC' officials believe that the 21 essentially unregulated, and primarily Turkish-mainland owned casinos, are the primary vehicles through which money laundering occurs,” the report said.

    “…it is clear that 'TRNC' regulations fail to provide effective protection against the risk of money laundering.

    “The major weakness continues to be the 'TRNC's' many casinos, where a lack of resources and expertise leave that area, for all intends and purposes, unregulated, and therefore especially vulnerable to money laundering abuse, ” the report said.

    Concerning the drugs scene, the report said the “small population of soft- core drug users continues to grow slowly”.

    The report said cannabis was the most commonly used drugs, followed by heroin, cocaine and ecstasy, all of which were available in major towns.

    But the report stressed the authorities' low tolerance of drugs and heavy penalties imposed.

    It also noted the authorities' continued co-operation with the US Drug Enforcement Agency office in Nicosia and their aggressive pursue of drug seizures, arrests, and prosecutions for drug violations.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, March 5, 2003

    [09] New government insists medicine prices will be cut

    By a Staff Reporter

    MEDICINES prices will be slashed as of May, but the issue is open to dialogue, the newly instated government said yesterday.

    With pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies threatening action in protest against the price cuts, the Health Ministry has promised to look into the matter and consult with the companies before reaching a decision.

    The decision to make medicines cheaper by 26 per cent was taken by outgoing Health Minister Frixos Savvides just a day before stepping down; yesterday, the new administration sought to rebut claims it was caving in to pressure from large pharmaceutical companies and at the same time stress it would implement its own policies with regard to the pharmaceutical market.

    Andis Tryfonides, the Health Ministry's general director, conceded that medicine prices in Cyprus were significantly higher compared to other countries, including Greece, from which the island imports large quantities.

    He said that Savvides' decision was broadly in line with the current administration's policy of cutting prices, but added the decision was open to amendment.

    Tryfonides explained that the market price of medicines was the sum of the factory price charged by the manufacturer to wholesalers, plus a string of surcharges imposed by vendors on the island. For example, retailers slap an additional 13 per cent on the price tag to cover shipping costs, another 6.5 per cent for storage costs and around 30 per cent for profits. In addition, pharmaceutical companies are allowed a 12 per cent surcharge for providing free samples to customers. But under the new regime introduced by Savvides, shipping surcharges would be slashed to six per cent, profit margins to 25 per cent and storage charges would be abolished altogether.

    As a first step, the new Health Ministry will be commissioning a study on alternative pricing schemes; the study will be carried out by an expert from the London School of Economics.

    Tryfonides dismissed claims that the new administration was vulnerable to pressure groups: "We're confident that dialogue will solve any problems. Any changes made will be based on objective criteria and arguments from all parties involved, and not on vested interests."

    This was echoed by government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides, who noted that Savvides' decision happened to coincide with the government's election- campaign commitment to cut medicine prices. Chrysostomides added that the Health Ministry would "soon" be announcing its decision on the matter.

    Pharmaceutical companies say that the planned reductions will dramatically hurt their finances and diminish their profits. The Association of Cypriot Pharmaceutical Companies (SFEK) has told the Health Ministry it will take action against the decision, although strikes were not mentioned.

    The association slammed Savvides for not consulting with them, accusing the former minister of outdated practices that were not in line with the "EU spirit".

    Under Cyprus law, the Medicine Council controls the marketing of medicines, but it is essentially an advisory body to the Health Minister, who has the final say. EU directives require the setting up of an independent committee to control medicine prices. So far, Cypriot consumers have been on the wrong end of the deal.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, March 5, 2003

    [10] Police to probe failure to stop crowd trouble

    By a Staff Reporter

    A DISCIPLINARY investigation has been launched against at least three police officers in connection with the beating of a man by supporters of a Nicosia football team 10 days ago, the police chief said yesterday.

    The incident took place at the GSP stadium, where Omonia were hosting Famagusta team Ethnikos, in what police judged a low-risk fixture.

    But just a few moments before the final whistle, a fan of APOEL - Omonia's archrivals - got up in the stand occupied by the handful of Ethnikos supporters, and decided to show his true colours by waving a blue and yellow flag.

    In just seconds, a furious mob of around 200 Omonia fans crossed over and brutally assaulted the man.

    A handful of police officers and two-three Omonia fans tried to protect the man, who was receiving blows from all directions. The man miraculously escaped serious injury.

    But police were heavily criticised for not doing enough to stop the beating, and especially for not preventing Omonia fans from entering the rival stand.

    Chief of Police Tasos Panayiotou said yesterday the force had received the report on the incident, adding that a “disciplinary investigation has been ordered against three to five members of the force, including officers, because it initially looks as if they committed disciplinary offences”.

    He added the police leadership was determined to impose sanctions in cases where its members did not respond to the demands of their duties.

    Panayiotou said the investigation would determine if officers had committed disciplinary offences.

    The investigation should - in line with the force's regulations -- be completed within one month.

    Panayiotou said the officers involved in the case would not be suspended because they could not influence the outcome.

    “Suspension is not a punishment but it helps in the proper conduct of a disciplinary investigation,” Panayiotou said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003


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