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Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 08-12-31

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From: The Cyprus News Agency at <>




    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias expressed hope on Wednesday that 2009 will bring freedom to the island, which has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    President Christofias, accompanied by First Lady Elsie Christofia, was speaking at the Presidential Palace, where the Police, the National Guard and the Greek Forces in Cyprus (ELDYK) bands played Christmas carols.

    Addressing the members of the Police band, President Christofias wished for ``peace and freedom in Cyprus and Palestine`` and a speedy recovery for the infants being treated in hospital after falling seriously ill in a private clinic.

    In his remarks to the National Guard band, President Christofias said the National Guard must always be ready to defend the country, noting however that the solution to the Cyprus problem must be found ``on the right basis for the benefit of the people`` and that the Turkish occupation must end and the people be reunited.

    Addressing the ELDYK band, President Christofias wished that next year everyone would live in a more peaceful world.


    ``SS Dignity was creased along with

    The dignity of Europe, which has not reacted to the Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip, has been tarnished, just as "SS Dignity" has been damaged by the Israeli navy, Cypriot MP Eleni Theocharous has said on her return home, after "SS Dignity", which tried to break the Israeli blockage of Gaza to take humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, was intercepted and hit by the Israeli navy. ``One way or another, Israel has never displayed dignity in these issues,`` Theocharous said, adding that ``Israel is behaving like a terrorist state, using the support of superpowers and the military machine it has created, in order to slaughter peoples under its occupation.``

    On Monday, SS Dignity, carrying three Cypriots, including Theocharous, and other volunteers sailed from the southern port of Larnaca for Gaza to take humanitarian and medical aid. The Israeli navy intercepted the boat and hit its left side, forcing it to change course and head for Lebanon. The mission was for the time being aborted and the three Cypriots returned home by air, via Beirut. Theocharous said that the boat was travelling on its course, in line with international law. ``We did not violate any rule and the interception occurred in international waters, 73 km west of Haifa, and this is a violation of international law and a crime against humanity. What happened was attempted murder,`` she pointed out. Describing the dramatic moments of the collision, Theocharous said that ``we were thrice thrown from one side of the boat to the other and in the end we landed on the floor.``

    Theocharous noted that the decision to sail to Lebanon was kept secret. Nevertheless, she added, the destination of the boat was not kept secret, because as soon as the boat changed course, CNN announced that the mission was heading to Lebanon. Theocharous praised the representations of the Cypriot government about the incident, thanks to which the boat was allowed to moor in Lebanon. SS Dignity is being guarded at Tyre port in Lebanon on the instructions of the Lebanese President, after representations made by the Republic of Cyprus.

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