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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-05-12

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

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


Friday, May 12, 2000

CONTENTS

  • [01] Police unveil shocking road death figures
  • [02] New delay as all-day talks fail to yield VAT consensus
  • [03] Spokesman confirms Geneva talks option, but says nothing decided yet
  • [04] Computers woo carpets and set the market alight
  • [05] Airport repairs cause tourist check-in chaos
  • [06] Mobile desalination plant could provide Limassol with summer relief
  • [07] Cyprus unconcerned about mobile phone health fears
  • [08] Army vets and supplier under fire over rotten meat
  • [09] Vassiliou ‘doing fine’ after quiet night
  • [10] Bases hail success of plane crash simulation

  • [01] Police unveil shocking road death figures

    By Martin Hellicar

    IT'S official: bad driving is to blame for the overwhelming majority of road deaths.

    Also, according to a police analysis of road deaths over the past 10 years, nine out of ten people killed on the road are front-seat car passengers or drivers not wearing seat belts or motorcyclists not wearing helmets.

    The police figures, released at a news conference yesterday, show that 89 per cent of fatal accidents are caused by some form of bad driving. The other 11 per cent of deaths are the fault of careless pedestrians.

    Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou said the figures proved that the only way to cut the island's alarming road death rate was for drivers to become more responsible.

    He said poor roads and the poor state of some vehicles had to take some of the blame for the fact that Cyprus has the third worst road death rate in Europe. But, the Minister stressed, the greatest share of the blame belongs to bad driving.

    Senior Communications Ministry officer Alecos Michaelides read out a breakdown of police statistics for the past decade, which showed that a third of deaths had been caused by speeding, a quarter by driver carelessness, 18 per cent because the driver was on the wrong side of the road, 13 per cent by dangerous overtaking. Careless pedestrians were blamed for the remaining 11 per cent of fatalities.

    Michaelides added that 87 per cent of people killed in cars over the past 10 years had not been wearing seat belts and 91 per cent of those killed on motorbikes had not been wearing helmets.

    The wearing of seat belts and helmets is required by law.

    The average toll on the island's roads in recent years has hovered around the 120 mark. There have been 43 deaths on the roads so far this year, in 31 accidents.

    Neophytou yesterday made a plea for more responsible driving: "Today, I want to call everyone to real social responsibility when it comes to driving behaviour."

    "The police cannot do it all on their own," he said, adding, to illustrate his point, that it would be ridiculous to expect police to ensure "we do not use our children as air bags by sitting them on our knees on the front seat."

    The minister said the government was doing its bit by improving the road network. Neophytou added that the problem of unsuitable cars on the roads was also being tackled. He said all tankers had been checked and police were in the process of checking all public vehicles. Getting private garages to provide roadworthiness certificates for private vehicles was another step being considered, the Minister added.

    Neophytou did admit that a lot more could be done to improve both road and vehicle quality. But he insisted any amount of road or vehicle improvement would not eliminate road deaths, as bad driving was the root cause.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    Friday, May 12, 2000

    [02] New delay as all-day talks fail to yield VAT consensus

    By Athena Karsera

    ALL-DAY talks yesterday brought the political parties closer to consensus on the government’s controversial VAT tax package, but not close enough for deputies to put the issue to the vote.

    It was the third time the VAT bill was postponed.

    The package includes a two per cent rise in VAT and a number of compensatory tax measures to soften the blow for lower-income groups. These included a rise in the tax-free threshold and an adjustment of income tax brackets, as well as plans to scrap the CyBC levy currently charged as a proportion of electricity bills.

    Finance Minister Takis Klerides says the measures will return around £47.2 million to the taxpayer, from the £62 million the government hopes to reap from the VAT rise.

    Klerides is seeking approval for a rise from eight to 10 per cent rise as part of a step by step harmonisation with EU norms of 15 per cent.

    Opposition Akel accuses the government of hiding behind the EU to hammer the taxpayer.

    The parties are now understood to be discussing a possible rise to 11 per cent, which would allow the government to offer more generous tax breaks.

    Discussion on the issue will continue on Monday, when party representatives meet with Klerides and the House Finance Committee convenes.

    The original package was approved by the Council of Ministers almost a month ago, but the parties disagreed and have put forward counter-proposals for consideration.

    Speaking at the start of the Plenum yesterday, House president Spyros Kyprianou proposed that a scheduled bill on the CyBC subsidy be decreed urgent and voted on immediately.

    According to the Plenum’s schedule, the bill on the subsidy was due to be voted on after the VAT-related bills.

    The first sign of a postponement came when Disy president Nicos Anastassiades said discussion on whether the bill should be judged urgent or not were irrelevant as the other bills would in any case be postponed.

    Other deputies agreed that, while the bill on the CyBC levy had started out as a separate issue, it had now become part of the whole VAT package. Deputies therefore agreed to postpone the voting on all VAT-related issues until next week.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, May 12, 2000

    [03] Spokesman confirms Geneva talks option, but says nothing decided yet

    By Martin Hellicar

    NICOSIA has been "sounded out" about holding the next round of proximity settlement talks in Geneva in late June, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday.

    Senior government and diplomatic sources have said the third round of talks is to be put back by over a month and moved to Geneva to allow President Glafcos Clerides time to recover from his bowel operation last Friday.

    The third round of indirect peace talks between Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash was originally due to take place on May 23 in New York.

    Papapetrou said nothing definite had been decided about a postponement yet.

    "There is nothing concrete about the third round of talks, the UN have sounded us out about the possibility of having the talks in Geneva at the end of June, but there is no definite decision on the matter," Papapetrou told his daily press briefing.

    The Spokesman said the government would have no objections to talks in Geneva in late June. He said there had been no suggestion of holding the talks in Cyprus instead.

    A Turkish Cypriot spokesman told Reuters yesterday that the talks had definitely been postponed till next month.

    Papapetrou also confirmed that Polish diplomat Zbigniew Wlosowicz was being lined up to succeed James Holger as the UN's permanent representative on the island.

    UN spokeswoman Sarah Russell said the original plan to have Alvaro de Soto - the UN envoy conducting the proximity talks -succeed Holger in Cyprus was being put on hold as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan wanted de Soto to remain in New York for the time being.

    Annan was considering Wlosowicz for Holger's post, Russell said.

    "An official announcement will be made after the Secretary General has reached a decision and informed the Security Council," she said.

    Papapetrou said De Soto was planning to visit Cyprus in early June.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, May 12, 2000

    [04] Computers woo carpets and set the market alight

    By Michael Ioannou

    SHARE prices headed 0.45 per cent higher yesterday as the market was abuzz on news of unlikely suitor Avacom making a bid for a controlling stake in curtains and carpets firm Ceilfloor. The all-share index bucked a stronger opening to settle 2.5 points higher on a turnover of £37.1 million poundson 18.6 million shares traded.

    "The market is looking very strong at the moment and there is a good deal of interest from investors, mainly Cypriots," said Constantinos Tymvios, manager at C.N.Hadjigavriel Stockbrokers.

    "A lot of the interest started when people realised that the correction (of January-March) had ended," he said. Advancing stocks outpaced decliners 60 to 37 and 16 issues were unchanged on 113 traded. There were 8,097 deals.

    An announcement by Avacom Computer Servicesthat it would make a public offer to take a controlling stake in Ceilfloor caused a flurry of activity in the stock.

    Avacom said it would offer three shares in Avacom and eight shares of subsidiary Avacom Net Services for every two shares in Ceilfloor.

    It said it would also offer an equal number of shares from Avacom and its subsidiary for every two share warrants in Ceilfloor.

    Avacom shares are currently suspended from trading pending a bonus share issue and are due back on the market today.

    Ceilfloor climbed 17 cents, or 4.3 per cent, to £4.10 on a turnover of 683, 396 shares.

    Traders said some investors had trouble digesting the announcement, fuelling speculation that Avacom would use the Ceilfloor takeover for a backdoor listing of its Net Services subsidiary.

    It also caused some confusion on precisely why a computer company would want to take a controlling stake in a company known to the mainstream public for its curtains and fabrics.

    Industry insiders said that theoretically, Avacom could use Ceilfloor to get into the market easier, even though the two firms are entirely different.

    However, the company later announced that it planned to boost the customer focus of Ceilfloor through electronic business-to-business commerce.

    Meanwhile, ShareLink Financial Services said yesterday it had plans to acquire a 26.7 per cent stake in Dot.Cy Ltd to further its plans to expand into information technology.

    ShareLink said it would secure 20 per cent in Dot.Cy in a capital raising issue totalling £150,000, and an additional 3.5 per cent each could be acquired by ShareLink vice chairman Phillipos Larkos and a relative.

    The stock added 35 cents to close at £23.90 pounds, the day's second highest climber on a turnover of 39,725 shares.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, May 12, 2000

    [05] Airport repairs cause tourist check-in chaos

    By Jennie Matthew

    PANDEMONIUM at Larnaca airport is leaving foreign tourists with a bitter taste of Cyprus, as construction work causes delays and aggravation.

    Builders were brought in last September to renovate the check-in area. They now occupy half the total area, squeezing the swelling number of passengers into a tiny area.

    With the number of tourists growing as summer nears, check-in queues have become longer and longer with travellers and luggage piled on top of one another.

    "It’s very tiresome to be left waiting like this, I don't quite see why they can't do something about it," complained one tourist, who was returning to London.

    "All this mess brings you back to reality with a bump," said a fellow passenger.

    Larnaca is the island's busiest international airport. Although the real tourist crunch won't kick in until June, Easter tourism was up 90 per cent on last year.

    About 120,000 passengers passed through the airport between May 4 and May 10.

    Angry travellers have blamed air carriers and the Civil Aviation Department for delays, but the situation is being handled by Larnaca airport administration.

    "We have had lots of complaints, of discomfort and delays," an employee admitted, though he did not want to be named.

    Airport management have tried to counter dissatisfaction by recruiting 24 extra ground staff to carry luggage and generally alleviate the chaos.

    A spokesman at Eurocypria, who likewise did not want to be named, said the company had "taken measures to minimise the inconvenience".

    Eurocypria is the airport’s biggest charter service, operating 27 planes out of Larnaca.

    "We have taken the necessary corrective measures and not experienced any problems since," he said.

    But Eurocypria delays have not come only as a result of the airport decorators.

    On Wednesday night, a Eurocypria plane failed to take off after a loud bang in the engine convinced the pilot it was safer to stay on the ground.

    Take-off was aborted just after 8pm. Passengers were forced to wait over three hours, before boarding an alternative flight at 11.45pm.

    Eurocypria passengers were left waiting again on Monday because a return flight from Sweden was delayed by three hours.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, May 12, 2000

    [06] Mobile desalination plant could provide Limassol with summer relief

    THE government has plans to station a mobile desalination plant as a stopgap solution till permanent desalination plants can be built.

    The ship-borne plant would be sited off Moni on the Limassol coast and could be operational in four months’ time.

    Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous yesterday said the plan would be discussed by the Cabinet when it convenes on Monday at the Evangelistria clinic in Nicosia, where President Clerides is recovering from bowel surgery.

    Themistocleous said that if ministers backed the idea, the House of Representatives would be asked swiftly to approve funding for the "water relief" project.

    The Minister promised that approval of the project would lead to fewer water cuts.

    This is not the first time mobile desalination plants have been considered as a drought-busting solution. The idea was in the past rejected on cost and noise pollution grounds, but such concerns may now be brushed aside in view of the island's increasingly dire water situation.

    Themistocleous also said the island's second static desalination unit, being built near the Larnaca salt lake, would be up and running by December.

    Last week, Paralimni mayor Nicos Vlittis announced that a mobile desalination plant was to be anchored off Paralimni to provide fresh water by August. Themistocleous made no mention of this plan yesterday.

    Paralimni is to play host to the island's third land-based de-salting unit.

    The government sees desalination as the way out of the island's deepening water crisis. One unit is operating at Dhekelia but plans to build more have been hampered by strong opposition form local residents. Proposals to build plants at Zakaki in Limassol and at Ayios Theodoros in the Larnaca area had to be shelved because of such opposition. The Larnaca and Paralimni sites were chosen as alternatives.

    Five straight years of drought have left the island's 101 dams almost empty and impressive April rains - which put 8 million cubic mitres of water into dams - have made little difference.

    The government is digging deeper into already depleted ground water reserves to get us through the summer.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, May 12, 2000

    [07] Cyprus unconcerned about mobile phone health fears

    By Jennie Matthew

    A BRITISH report published yesterday, unearthed new evidence of health risks affecting children who use mobile phones, and blamed the British government for inadequate funding on mobile phone related research.

    The study, headed by Sir William Stewart of Tayside University, suggests that children are more susceptible to mobile telephone side effects because their skulls are thinner, allowing their brains to absorb more radiation.

    The global mobile boom swept across Cyprus when the GSM system was introduced in April 1995.

    Now more than 25 per cent of the population are thought to be mobile phone owners, while many more have regular access to them.

    According to the head of public relations at CyTA, Rita Karadjian, 160,000 people in the Republic of Cyprus are registered as mobile owners.

    Current CyTA regulations state that only persons of 18 or over can own a mobile, but use amongst children in Cyprus is thought to be widespread.

    "Telephones are not allowed during lessons, but certainly amongst the older pupils - those aged 17 and 18 - several own mobiles. In the afternoons, I often see children using their parents' mobiles to phone home to be collected. I'd say maybe a third of children use them for that purpose," a teacher at Nicosia’s English School told the Cyprus Mail.

    The sales manager of Aliotis in Nicosia, Antonis Papaleontiou, sells over 300 mobiles a month.

    "People of all ages buy them, from 16 to 50," he said.

    One in four of Britain's 24 million mobile users are under 18.

    The report does highlight that the majority of adults exposed to "reasonable" mobile phone use are unlikely to suffer adverse health problems.

    "But the jury is still out on possible links with a variety of effects including headaches, ear aches, skin problems, concentration and short-term memory problems," said Alasdair Philips of the UK consumer group Powerwatch.

    Papaleontiou said very few of his customers had raised concerns about the health effects of mobiles when asking his advice about which model to buy.

    "Health scares? What health scares?" said another mobile telephone importer, based in Limassol.

    Papaleontiou said market players were expecting monthly unit sales to hit the 5,000 mark when CyTA agreed to open the operating franchise to another company.

    In November 1999, CyTA cut call charges by up to 52 per cent and when a second licence is granted early next year, call prices should become even more competitive.

    The UK report also recommended stricter controls on the siting of mobile phone masts.

    Estimates put the number of mobile base stations on the island at 224. CyTA plans to install a further 150 during the year 2000.

    "The technical engineers take a huge number of factors into consideration when they choose the position of a base station," assured Karadjian.

    The report is the latest in the long line of studies that claim a variety of pernicious effects caused by mobile phone use - none of which have been proved.

    A Swedish cancer specialist published a paper claiming a link between the side of the head that mobile users held their headset to and the location of tumours. A Bristol University report, however, "proved" an improvement in reaction times among mobile phone users.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, May 12, 2000

    [08] Army vets and supplier under fire over rotten meat

    By Melina Demetriou

    MILITARY vets came under attack at the House Defence Committee yesterday for their handling of a consignment of rotten meat that almost ended up being served to conscripts on Easter day.

    Attorney-general Alecos Markides told the committee's marathon meeting – its second on the subject in as many weeks – that a police investigation into how 1,810 kilograms of rotten lamb had got into army supplies had found strong evidence that the supplier had breached regulations for the provision of meat.

    Markides said it seemed the supplier, who has not been named, had stored considerable quantities of meat in a freezer at below minus 18 degrees Celsius for about a month and then started defrosting it gradually.

    The contract for supplying meat to the army says it must be delivered no more than five days after being slaughtered, and kept in refrigerators at between 0 and four degrees.

    Meat from the supplier’s frozen stores was clearly provided to the army just before Easter, Markides said.

    "The whole case is extremely difficult to prove simply because there is hardly any evidence, as the 1,810 kg of meat has been returned to the supplier, and no one knows what he has done with it," the Attorney-general said.

    The army has come under fire for returning the rotten meat to the supplier, instead of keeping as an exhibit for use in any investigation.

    Markides said it would not be possible to prove a criminal offence in court, though a civil case may stand a chance of success, based on eye-witness statements from people who saw and smelled the three allegedly rotten animals brought by soldiers to a butchery at Zygi on April 27.

    But army vets Stavros Chrysostomou and Costakis Krashias, who checked the three lambs at the Zygi butchery after they were called the Defence Ministry to do so, apparently found them suitable for consumption.

    In this, they contradicted Dr Christos Evangelou, an army vet specialised in public health, who first witnessed the lambs.

    "I was called by the butcher, Petros Petrou, who told me that the lambs smelled awful and were green. I went there and indeed the meat was rotten, it was unsuitable for consumption," Evangelou told the committee.

    Petrou confirmed Evangelou's statement, saying the animals’ livers were rotten to a mush.

    Chrysostomou and Krashias, however, said the meat had an unusual colour and was in the process of ageing, but was otherwise suitable for consumption.

    The contradiction raised suspicions at the committee, and many deputies wondered whether one of the two sides were either lying or incompetent.

    They also wondered why Evangelou, who witnessed the animals first, did not withdraw them, and instead let the army officers take care of the situation.

    "I did not want to put the butcher in a difficult position, since his butchery was full of customers, who by the way also complained about the way the meat smelled. I did not think at the time that I had the right to withdraw the meat, and thought I'd leave it to army officers, who I was careful not to expose by coming out loud and saying what had happened," Evangelou said.

    Markides said there were indications that, once the consignment of meat had been returned to the suppliers, some of it had actually ended up on supermarket shelves on April 29. But he said there was no concrete evidence to back this up, since no food poisoning had been reported from people consuming lamb on those dates.

    The Attorney-general added that some of the meat might have ended up as chicken food.

    Dina Akkelidou of the State Laboratory said such a thing would be unacceptable.

    "If humans cannot consume something because it is unsuitable, then animals should not have it either, because then they will be sick and when humans eat those chickens it will certainly not be good for them," she said.

    Akkelidou lab tests had shown the one lamb kept as an exhibit had nothing to do with the three rotten lambs found in Zygi.

    Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos, who had picked out the lamb to be kept said it did not smell, but was very dark, so he had thought it would be a good idea to keep it as an exhibit.

    Markides said the supplier had said the specific animal had been taken from the 1,810 kg consignment provided to the army.

    The Defence Committee will meet again next Thursday. Police are continuing their investigation.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Friday, May 12, 2000

    [09] Vassiliou ‘doing fine’ after quiet night

    CYPRUS' Chief EU negotiator George Vassiliou began his recovery in hospital yesterday following a successful operation on Wednesday to remove a benign tumour from his brain.

    Doctors treating Vassiliou at London's National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery told the Cyprus News Agency yesterday morning that he had had a "good and quiet night… and was doing fine".

    Vassiliou was diagnosed on Monday with a meningioma, or benign tumour, of the cerebellum seated where the head joins the spine. He flew to London on Tuesday for an emergency operation the following day.

    Professor Allan Crockard, who led a team of doctors in the operating theatre, said on Wednesday he was "absolutely and fully satisfied with the result, and the operation went exactly as we had hoped without any worries or any undue problems."

    Vassiliou was released from intensive care yesterday afternoon and will remain in hospital for a further 10 days or so before returning home to resume his normal duties.

    Meanwhile, doctors said yesterday that President Glafcos Clerides’ health was improving and he was likely to be released from Nicosia's Evangelistria Clinic early next week.

    The weekly Cabinet meeting, usually held at the Presidential Palace, will take place on Monday at the clinic.

    [10] Bases hail success of plane crash simulation

    BRITISH forces and Cyprus authorities yesterday fought to contain a simulated emergency after the British Army exploded a dummy aeroplane in the early hours of the morning.

    "The exercise has gone very well and the co-operation between the SBA and the Republic's services has been great," bases spokesman Rupert Greenwood told the Cyprus Mail.

    The ‘Majestic Airways’ carrier exploded at 3.10am on the Kingsfield airstrip, on a ridge above Pyla.

    Military medical services, based at Dhekelia two miles away, arrived on the scene five to 10 minutes later.

    Backup came from emergency medical teams in Larnaca and Nicosia less than half an hour later.

    Police and fire fighters joined doctors and paramedics working through the night to stabilise the area and recover evidence from the wreckage.

    The bases said around 3,000 people had been involved in the exercise.

    "The final figure is not yet known, but an exercise of this kind and an emergency of this scale effects almost every man at Dhekelia," said Captain Greenwood.

    After a debrief session for those involved at 1.30 pm yesterday, an investigation got under way to determine the success of the operation.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail


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