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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-05-30

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

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


Tuesday, May 30, 2000

CONTENTS

  • [01] Tempers fray as army chief gives credence to ‘paramilitary’ claims
  • [02] Consumers hammered by soaring electricity bills
  • [03] Parents close down kindergarten after leukaemia deaths
  • [04] Half of diabetics don’t know they are suffering
  • [05] £100 million marina plan
  • [06] Geneva talks to last most of July
  • [07] Record crowds flock to the State Fair
  • [08] Jittery investors cash in on small gains
  • [09] Lawyer killed after driving off cliff

  • [01] Tempers fray as army chief gives credence to ‘paramilitary’ claims

    By Martin Hellicar

    DESPITE a government plea for calm, the fur flew yesterday afternoon as the House Defence committee discussed Akel allegations that Disy was harbouring a ‘paramilitary’ secretariat.

    The head-on clash between the left-wing opposition and right-wing governing party continued outside the House of Representatives too.

    Akel deputy Costas Papacostas repeated his ‘paramilitary’ claims before the committee, saying a clandestine secretariat had been tasked by Disy to keep tabs on the political persuasions of National Guard officers. The aim, Papacostas said, was to ensure favourable treatment for Disy men.

    The allegations, first made on Friday, are being investigated both by the Defence Ministry and by police.

    Yesterday morning, Attorney General Alecos Markides said police investigators had so far found nothing that would justify any criminal prosecutions. "We have in our hands certain unsigned documents... nothing beyond this," Markides said.

    But National Guard chief Evangelos Florakis appeared to give credence to Papacostas' claims yesterday. He told the packed committee that he had seen "documents" relating to an alleged "paramilitary" group and that they were "serious."

    "I almost fell off my chair... I said this would have to be investigated or I would resign," he told deputies.

    The army chief also said that three officers had yesterday come forward to testify in the investigation, though one of them had later ducked out.

    Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos, a former Disy deputy, told the committee his Ministry had "never felt the presence of paramilitary groups in its workings."

    He repeated that he had launched an investigation into the matter even before Papacostas' claims - an assertion backed up by Florakis yesterday - and vowed to come down hard on anyone found guilty of intervening in army affairs.

    Markides complained that Papacostas had not yet given a statement to police even though the criminal investigation had been launched on Saturday.

    Disy deputies insisted there was nothing to link the alleged clandestine group to their party. Papacostas countered that he had documents naming well-known Disy supporters as members of the clandestine secretariat.

    Disy deputies Antonis Karas and Sofoclis Hadjiyiannis tried to turn the tables on their Akel colleagues. "If you did not keep tabs on people how did you know those involved in the ‘paramilitary’ group were of Disy?" Karas demanded.

    Hadjiyiannis asked that the Defence Ministry provide records of past army promotions, insisting this would prove no Disy men secured favours.

    Despite chairman Takis Hadjigeorgiou's efforts to keep things on an even keel, tempers frayed as the debate dragged on and the accusations flew.

    Akel deputy and spokesman Nicos Katsourides erupted in loud protest when Karas nodded agreement and mumbled "Yes, that's right," as Hadjiyiannis launched into another defence of their party.

    Earlier, mindful of the potentially explosive nature of the debate, Hadjigeorgiou had banned television cameras from relaying live coverage of the debate.

    Yesterday morning, Hasikos had met with House President Spyros Kyprianou in a failed bid to have the committee debate put off till investigations had been concluded. Findings are expected before June 5.

    During his morning press briefing, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou issued a plea for a "dampening of tones" in the Akel-Disy clash, suggesting a "minimum level of co-operation" was called for ahead of the upcoming third round of Cyprus settlement talks.

    The plea fell on deaf ears, both within and outside the committee.

    Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades alleged that Akel was funded by the Russian secret services and was guilty of "covering up" financial scandals in two of its sister organisations, the Peo union and the Co-operative bank.

    Anastassiades hinted that he had more "on" Akel and would publicise it if the opposition party continued its assault.

    Katsourides countered that Disy was harbouring fascists, a favourite Akel "jab" at Disy.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    Tuesday, May 30, 2000

    [02] Consumers hammered by soaring electricity bills

    By Jennie Matthew

    THE METEORIC rise in the cost of electricity is the latest burden to hit the consumer, spurred forward by increasing oil prices and a rising dollar.

    Fixed since 1983 on the basis of £50 per metric tonne, but fluctuating according to the price of oil, Electricity Authority oil tariffs had enjoyed a record low in recent years.

    In September 1999, they were pitted at only £47.60 per metric tonne. But in May 2000, the indicator weighed in at £82.45 per metric tonne, an increase of 73 per cent in just nine months.

    "For the last couple of years, the prices have been very low – so we were enjoying very cheap electricity, but cheap oil is a thing of the past," said EAC head of public relations Tassos Roussos.

    In January, the barrel price of oil was just $10 – in the first week of May, it was $25.70. Coupled with the rise of the dollar against the depreciating euro to which the Cyprus pound is pegged, the outlook is bleak.

    Correspondingly the EAC relinquishes all responsibility for the price pressure.

    At the end of September 1999, one pound bought $1.8297. Yesterday, the exchange rate fixed by the Central Bank was $1.5995 to the pound.

    "The price of oil depends on international politics. It depends on what the Americans are doing, what the Arabs are doing. It’s an economic war. We can do nothing about the prices," said Roussos.

    "I mean when prices go up everyone complains. What we’re trying to convey to our customers is that this is an inbuilt mechanism. We were lucky enough to have low prices for many years and we enjoyed cheap electricity. Now they have gone up and we all have to put up with it."

    But for those struggling to foot bills, Roussos’ explanation is little consolation.

    Ninety per cent of EAC consumers are private households – infuriated at having to dig deeper every two months.

    "I think it’s outrageous. It puts an extra burden on the household budget, which, with three children and no help from the government whatsoever, is tight enough already," said one housewife.

    Small relief comes in the June 1 scraping of the bi-monthly contribution to CyBC, adopted by the House Plenum last Thursday alongside the decision to raise VAT by two per cent.

    In the past, the government has ploughed in petrol price surpluses to subsidise electricity costs, but that money has now run out.

    Petrol-pump prices are controlled by the government precisely to protect the consumer from the vagaries of the international oil market.

    When prices were low, the government surplus, earned by selling petrol for more than it was bought, was distributed back to consumers through electricity subsidies.

    In January 1999 and from August to November last year, petrol surpluses channelled to the EAC subsidised prices in the region of 7-7.9 per cent.

    But the surplus has petered out and Nicos Rolandis, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that "there was no way the government could do anything on the question of electricity bills".

    And he added that the EAC’s hands were further tied by the expense of building a new power station at Vassiliko.

    It is still unclear which way the government will go over petrol prices – whether to raise them, or carry on subsidising them in an increasingly expensive market place.

    Rolandis said the matter would probably be decided by the Council of Ministers on Friday.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Tuesday, May 30, 2000

    [03] Parents close down kindergarten after leukaemia deaths

    By George Psyllides

    ANGRY parents of children attending a Limassol kindergarten yesterday closed the school indefinitely because they say an electrical sub-station has caused leukaemia in four pupils.

    Two of the children died, while a third is fighting for his life in London.

    The fourth child is understood to be clear of leukaemia.

    The parents’ association of the 15th Public and Community Kindergarten in Polemidia yesterday decided to shut the school down, claiming tests had shown electromagnetic field emissions to be higher than the accepted standards.

    The action follows repeated but vain pleas to the Education Ministry to move the kindergarten.

    "There were 60 children in the school and now only half that number remain, " said Parents’ Association Chairman Michalis Michail.

    "Four had leukaemia, two died, one is in therapy, while another was cured," Michail said.

    "Most parents have moved their children to other schools," he said, adding that almost all registrations for the next school year had been withdrawn.

    If the ministry did not find another site for the school, then it would remain closed, Michail said.

    Electricity Authority (EAC) spokesman Tassos Roussos disputed the validity of the tests cited by the parents, and maintained the structure was meant to be a house and was later turned into a school.

    He said the EAC had carried out extensive tests to sub-stations and found the emissions to be below the suggested limits.

    "We follow what the European Union and the World Health Organisation say. What else can we do? We cannot go to the limits suggested by scientists A or B," Roussos said.

    "We believe that there are many environmental and other factors that need to be studied before making allegations," he added.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Tuesday, May 30, 2000

    [04] Half of diabetics don’t know they are suffering

    By Melina Demetriou

    A LARGE percentage of diabetics - maybe half - do not know they are suffering from the disease until five years after they get it, endocrinologist Dr Krinos Trokkoudis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    "The reason is because sometimes the first diabetes symptoms appearing are minimal or even non-existent and the person who has a slightly high sugar level might not realise it and carry on following his or her usual diet causing the sugar level to rise or remain the same. Either case is bad enough, because the objective is to lower it as much as possible," Trokkoudis said.

    The way for people to tackle this problem is to have regular medical check- ups when they pass 40. According to test results and taking into account family history in diabetes, people in the 40-50 age bracket should have check-ups every three or five years, and over 50, every two, he said.

    About 5 to 7 per cent of the population is suffering from diabetes, as it happens in all developed countries, said Trokkoudis.

    Diabetes' symptoms are: Fatigue, micturition, unexplained thirst, gynaecological infections for women, eye problems and slow healing of injuries.

    "I think that unlike in other European countries, people and doctors in Cyprus are very well aware of the severity of the disease and of its symptoms. I think we have managed to raise awareness on this matter," said Trokkoudis.

    People take good care of themselves, have regular check-ups and go on therapy once they are diagnosed with diabetes, he said.

    But as far as state hospitals are concerned, Trokkoudis said their staff did not have the time to urge people to have check-ups, because they were sorely over-stretched, barely managing with emergencies.

    "Family doctors are the ones to advise their patients about what examinations to go through and when. Of course, people have the right to have check-ups at hospitals if they wish," Trokkoudis said.

    A survey published in the UK yesterday showed up to one million people suffering from diabetes in Britain were not aware of it because of lack of knowledge about the symptoms. There are another 1.4 million people who have the disease and do know it.

    "Diabetes is one of the most serious health issues we are facing in the UK today and if society keeps on ignoring its importance we will be facing a potential health time bomb," said Paul Streets, chief executive of the Diabetes UK charity, which commissioned the survey.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Tuesday, May 30, 2000

    [05] £100 million marina plan

    CYPRUS is to build six new yachting marinas by 2002 at a cost of £100 million in a drive to boost a top-class tourist niche market.

    The new marinas will house a total of 4,000 vessels in an effort to tap growing demand for berth space in the eastern Mediterranean.

    "Demand for berthing space in this region is expanding rapidly," said Minister for Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Nicos Rolandis.

    There are currently only 700 berths for yachts at 2 marinas on the island. The new harbours will be built along the west and south coasts.

    Although the marinas are to be state property, Rolandis insisted that the £100 million cost would funded by the private sector, which would operate the facilities for about 220 years to recoup their investment.

    The House of Representatives passed the marina-specific regulations last Thursday. The government will request international tender applications before the autumn.

    Tourism accounts for a fifth of GDP and it has been a persistent effort of the Rolandis administration to attract big spender tourism.

    April tourism was up 23 per cent on last year, and the total number of visitors since January has increased by 16 per cent compared to the first five months of 1999.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Tuesday, May 30, 2000

    [06] Geneva talks to last most of July

    By Athena Karsera

    THE third round of UN-led proximity talks in Geneva is likely to last most of July with a break in August and a fourth round starting in September.

    According to Greece's ambassador to Cyprus, Kyriacos Rodousakis, the third round of talks, set to kick off on July 5 in Geneva, will last approximately three weeks, with small breaks in between meetings.

    Sources close to the government, meanwhile, said President Glafcos Clerides had been told to be prepared to spend the entire month in Geneva.

    Speaking after a meeting with Clerides to discuss progress on the Cyprus problem and an upcoming meeting between the President and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Rodousakis said the fourth round of talks would almost certainly take place in New York.

    The talks will probably precede the Millennium Summit, where world leaders will meet ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting on the third Tuesday of September.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday the UN and many countries in the international community were attempting to upgrade the upcoming proximity talks into more direct negotiations.

    Speaking during his daily briefing, Papapetrou said the Greek Cypriot side would be happy to move onto more substantial talks, provided the Turkish Cypriot side was willing to do the same.

    "What the government knows is that the UN and various countries are carrying out attempts to upgrade the talks. In any case, I want to say that if this is the Turkish side's intention, then this satisfies our side because our intention is not only to exchange positions and opinions but to get into substantial negotiations that will create the preconditions to finding a solution to the Cyprus problem."

    Hurriet Kibris newspaper yesterday reported that the two sides would be able to exchange written or oral positions during the third round, something that had not been done in previous rounds at which a UN mediator acted as go-between for the two sides.

    Papapetrou said that the government had not been approached to lift the embargo against the occupied areas in exchange for the return of the ghost town of Varosha, as reported in a local paper yesterday.

    Papapetrou said that if such a proposal were made, it would be carefully examined by Clerides and by the National Council, but that the government's refusal to recognise the occupied areas as a sovereign state was not negotiable.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Tuesday, May 30, 2000

    [07] Record crowds flock to the State Fair

    By Athena Karsera

    VISITORS to the International State Fair will have to do battle with huge crowds as record numbers this year have surpassed all expectations.

    According to an announcement from the State Fair Authority yesterday, "the number of visitors to the 25th International State Fair has since risen significantly since its opening."

    An authority official told the Cyprus Mail that approximately 45,000 people had visited the fair in its first three days alone, a 12 per cent rise on last year's figures.

    Typically, the annual event attracts about 150,000 visitors, including both the general public and professional traders.

    The fair providing an opportunity to view a wide variety of consumer and industrial goods and plays a vital role in promoting local trade.

    This year, more than 40,000 square metres of exhibition space have been covered with 1,500 company exhibitions from Cyprus and 34 other countries.

    Also, in honour of its 25th anniversary, the Fair this year features a series of entertainment events, including recitals by top Cypriot and Greek singers, performances by dance groups and children’s shows.

    The Fair, which opened last Friday, will be open until Sunday June 4, from 6pm to 11pm on weekdays and Sunday, and until midnight on Saturday.

    Entrance is £2 for adults and £1 for students and pensioners, while foreign businessmen, card-carrying large families and visitors with invitations get in free.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Tuesday, May 30, 2000

    [08] Jittery investors cash in on small gains

    By Michael Ioannou

    SHARE prices were flat yesterday as early gains, especially among blue chips, were quickly absorbed by investors impatient for profits.

    Trimming a firmer open, which saw the market open with gains in the region of 1.10 per cent, the bourse started slipping in the early minutes of trade, dipping to a low of 528.12 but narrowing the gap in the last half hour to a close of 529.40.

    The pattern has been repeated for the past few weeks as jittery investors opt out at the first sign of gains, rather than waiting it out for higher yields, said traders.

    "Because of the experience in the not-too-distant past, there are investors who prefer to take their profits at the earliest opportunity. Its a phobia created by the correction," said Suphire's Yiannos Andronikou.

    That behaviour was most predominant among individual investors, rather than the institutionals, investing for the long term.

    The market tumbled by some 30 per cent between its peak last November and early March, when hundreds of people who got sucked into the euphoria of buying a bourse bubble saw their investments decline dramatically. But in addition to jittery nerves, new listings were being pursued in contrast to existing issues on the market, bourse watchers said.

    "Things are slightly tilted in favour of new companies at present... Right now the market is moving horizontally with very few fluctuations and it needs something to trigger an upsurge," said Cisco's Stavros Agrotis.

    Agrotis and Andronikou said they saw Bank of Cyprus' Greek listing prospects as lifting the market in the short term.

    There have been persistent reports and speculation that the Bank has been given priority status in its dual flotation application request from the Greek authorities. Floor traders reckon the initial public offering of 39 million BOC shares will be announced within the next five to six weeks.

    Traded values reached £32.2 million yesterday, some two million less than on Friday, and on more than 10,000 deals. That figure is the highest seen in more than four weeks.

    PHC Franchised Restaurants, the franchise holders of Pizza Hut in Cyprus, made their debut at £2.50, within analysts' expectations. The share scaled to a high of £2.80 and closed at £2.52 on a volume of 846,373 shares changing hands.

    PHC had floated 17,333,331 ordinary shares with a nominal value of 20 cents each and 3.3 million warrants.

    Advancers outpaced laggards 62 to 42 and eleven issues were unchanged on 115 traded.

    Meanwhile, the CSE said yesterday that Paphos-based hotel chain Constantinou Bros. Hotels would list 160,714,286 ordinary shares on Monday June 5.

    Orphanides Supermarkets said yesterday it had acquired the Vavatsiniotis Supermarket in Limassol for an undisclosed amount.

    Vavatsiniotis, established in 1996, has already come under Orphanides' management. It is Orphanides' fourth acquisition since going public. It has previously acquired the Omega Supermarkets in Paralimni and the Philips and Antonescu shops in Paphos.

    Cosmos Insurance plans to issue shareholders with bonus shares at a ratio of one for every 10 held in July, it said yesterday.

    The company said that it would also issue further warrants at a ratio of one for every 10 held on July 17.

    In addition to the bonus and warrant issue, shareholders will be called to approve an increase in nominal share capital to 30 million shares from Cosmos's present 20 million at an extraordinary meeting on June 29.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Tuesday, May 30, 2000

    [09] Lawyer killed after driving off cliff

    PAPHOS lawyer Marios Georgiou, 26, was killed yesterday when his car plunged down a 600-foot ravine in the Paphos area the early hours.

    His critically injured father, Andreas, 50, lay in the wreckage of his dead son's car at the bottom of the crevasse for some 10 hours before his desperate cries for help were heard.

    According to police, Marios was driving the car, which plunged into the deep crevasse next to the Kathikas to Peyia road at around 2.30am yesterday.

    The son was killed instantly. The father, badly injured, began shouting for help.

    Police had launched a search for the father and son just before midday yesterday, after the family reported them missing. At around the same time, a shepherd grazing his sheep near the ravine heard Andreas's calls and alerted police.

    A police helicopter had to be used to get into the steep crevasse.

    The father was last night in intensive care in Paphos hospital.

    Less than two years ago, lawyer Marios Georgiou was acquitted by an Athens appeal court and released from a Greek prison where he had been serving a sentence after being wrongfully convicted of murdering an elderly woman in Athens in 1998.


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