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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 03-01-29

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

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


Wednesday, January 29, 2003

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CONTENTS

  • [01] Passenger fury over flights mayhem
  • [02] De Soto: no decision on Plan no. 3
  • [03] Counting the cost of Monday's storms
  • [04] Stolen church doors were copies, police say
  • [05] Election sparks fly over Cyprus problem
  • [06] Race Club facing legal action over ban on British horse
  • [07] Government seeks new punishments for modern schools
  • [08] Greens slam government over refinery pollutants

  • [01] Passenger fury over flights mayhem

    By Sofia Kannas

    CYPRUS Airways came under fire from passengers yesterday, as a second day of strike action by pilots wreaked further havoc with people's travel plans.

    The company apologised for the inconvenience, but dismissed calls by angry travellers for compensation.

    Victor Hall from Paphos had been expecting a friend to arrive in Cyprus on Monday afternoon, but the strike meant she was turned away from the flight she was booked onto.

    "She was booked on the Monday flight from Heathrow to Paphos, and she took a taxi to the airport from her home in Oxfordshire.

    "However, on arrival at Heathrow she was told her flight had been cancelled, and that she had to come back the next day - which meant another expensive taxi home, and a third taxi back to the airport again on Tuesday morning.

    "Why couldn't Cyprus Airways have telephoned passengers affected to stop them from making an unnecessary journey?

    "I flew with British Airways in December and I got a call from them to say my flight would be delayed by an hour and a half due to a refuelling strike in Cyprus. If BA could ring me up over a one and a half hour delay why can't Cyprus Airways ring up passengers to tell them their flights will be cancelled?

    "Moreover Cyprus Airways offered no compensation to its passengers, they didn't even offer them a hotel for the night."

    Hall said inconvenience did not end there.

    "The lady in question arrived at the airport on Tuesday - having paid for another expensive taxi - only to be told that flight CY337 would not be landing in Paphos, which was where she was booked to land. Instead she would have to make her own way from Larnaca to Paphos.

    "Again Cyprus Airways offered no compensation and at first would not even provide passengers with transport to Paphos."

    Hall phoned Cyprus Airways headquarters on behalf of the customer but was angered by the staff's response to his call.

    "When I called Nicosia head office they refused to put me through to a customer service manager and generally behaved with indifference.

    "They suggested that passengers who needed to get to Paphos should pay for a taxi at their own expense, then try and claim the fare back from Cyprus Airways. But that isn't the point. What if you don't have foreign currency - taxi drivers don't accept Barclay cards!"

    Hall eventually received a call from Cyprus Airways in London informing him that taxis to Paphos would be laid on for passengers arriving at Larnaca.

    "But again all this hassle and having to make telephone calls is not acceptable. The airline has a responsibility to its customers - it's not a very good advert for Cyprus Airways.

    Cyprus Airways spokesman Tassos Angelis yesterday expressed his regret at the inconvenience caused to customers.

    "We are very upset by the strikes. Everything has been turned upside down.

    "Of course we have done our utmost to put all affected passengers onto other flights where possible, with as little inconvenience as possible.

    "But this is not always feasible. We heard at 6 pm on Monday night that the pilots were carrying out new actions and we worked around the clock to try and sort things out for passengers.

    "But how can we possibly inform passengers of the latest developments when we don't know what's happening ourselves from one minute to the next?

    Angelis also said it was impossible to offer compensation to passengers for disruption cause by industrial action.

    "No airline in the world offers compensation against strike action," he added.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

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    [02] De Soto: no decision on Plan no. 3

    By George Psyllides

    THE UNITED Nations have not yet decided whether to submit a third revised plan for Cyprus, special envoy Alvaro de Soto said yesterday.

    "We will just have to see how the talks progress to see whether something like that is justified," De Soto said after meeting President Glafcos Clerides yesterday morning.

    Reports yesterday suggested the UN were planning to table a third version of the Annan plan, but the Peruvian diplomat repeated that they first wanted to see how the talks were progressing.

    De Soto declined to comment on the progress of the talks between Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    "The meetings are continuing; there will be one tomorrow afternoon.

    "I am also continuing my consultations with Greece and Turkey," the UN envoy said.

    After his meeting with Clerides, De Soto flew to Ankara. He is expected to be back today in time for the two leaders' meeting in the afternoon.

    "We have agreed that I'll have consultations with a series of officials today and tomorrow.

    "My plan is not finalised but I will be back before tomorrow afternoon," De Soto said.

    Upon arrival in Ankara, De Soto said the UN proposals could be reassessed if the two sides wished, reiterating, however, that no decision had yet been taken.

    De Soto stressed that moves towards designing a new flag and composing a national anthem could not be considered as indications of a solution.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday that talks had entered the substance of the problem.

    He said that in his past two meetings with Clerides, Denktash had discussed and given his views on the substance of the UN plan.

    Papapetrou added the Greek Cypriot side was not satisfied with Denktash's positions, which in several instances deviated from the UN blueprint.

    The spokesman said there was unprecedented pressure to find a solution soon, adding this was the object of De Soto's meeting with Clerides yesterday.

    Papapetrou said there was no information concerning a fresh plan.

    "No one can be sure about how the UN will act in the end," Papapetrou said.

    He declined to comment whether the developments justified the submission of a revised plan, noting that any comment could cause problems for the UN and their effort.

    Earlier yesterday, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said diplomatic sources indicated the UN was seriously looking into tabling a revised plan.

    Cassoulides said there was nothing official, but that he knew the matter was under examination.

    The minister said there was a positive approach by the new Turkish government, despite contradictory public statements, but noted it remained to be seen who would emerge on top - the military establishment or the elected government on the mainland and Denktash or the Turkish Cypriot people on the island.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

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    [03] Counting the cost of Monday's storms

    By Alexia Saoulli

    AUTHORITIES yesterday worked around the clock to estimate the cost of damages caused by Monday's disastrous tornadoes in Limassol and Larnaca.

    The total cost will be calculated by tomorrow, when the Cabinet plans to discuss compensation for the dozens of families that lost homes and businesses, Interior Minister Andreas Panayiotou said.

    The freak storm broke on Monday morning, when three hurricanes formed off the coast of Limassol. A fourth tornado appeared near Zygi in the Limassol district several hours later. Gale force winds uprooted trees, overturned cars, tore off rooftops and smashed shop windows.

    Limassol was worst hit by the storm, with 30 people injured and one man killed when he slipped and fell trying to fix his roof, which had been destroyed by the storm. Fifty families were forced to spend the night at hotels or with relatives due to the severity of damage caused to their homes. Dozens more were left without electricity, as the EAC struggled to fix severed power lines.

    "It was dark. We had no electricity, the situation was desperate," one Limassol woman said. Some refused to stay in hotels, preferring to spend the night in cold and wet conditions, fearing looters might come and take what little possessions had survived the storm.

    Throughout the night, police and the civil defence patrolled shopping areas in Limassol that had been wrecked in the storm, leaving merchandise exposed, to ward off would-be looters.

    Panayiotou said clean up crews had started evaluating the damage at first light yesterday. The Damage Restoration Service, made up of civil defence and district officer engineers and technicians, worked along side public works department and municipality officials to restore some semblance of normality to the area and to repair missing rooftops.

    The Interior Ministry aimed to record all damages by tomorrow and to submit them to the Cabinet for compensation, said Panayiotou.

    "We hope it is complete by Thursday. At least that is our intention, but it depends on what we find before us," he said. He added all technicians and engineers had been called in to help in the clean up and estimation.

    "The government's intention is to compensate citizens, homes and buildings that have been damaged and are not covered by insurance policies," said Panayiotou.

    Priority would be given to houses damaged in the centre of Limassol town, which was hardest hit, and to a Turkish Cypriot community, so that the occupants could return home. At present they were being housed in hotels or with relatives, he said.

    "We will give direct priority to these residences so that these people can return home," he said.

    Although Larnaca was also affected in the storm, there were no casualties and no one was left homeless.

    "Thankfully there was less damage (in Larnaca) and it is a blessing that there were no homeless families, as in Limassol," the minister said.

    Monday's storm was "very serious and a first for Cyprus," Panayiotou added.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

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    [04] Stolen church doors were copies, police say

    By Tania Khadder

    POLICE said yesterday that the doors stolen last week from the Panayia Podithou church in Galata were not the originals, but copies.

    The two-sided doors of the iconostasis were still valuable because of their gold leaf trimmings. The real treasures, however, were kept hidden in a safe place.

    "The authorities are concerned because this church is one of 10 churches in Cyprus with international protection by UNESCO," the police representative said. "The real icons are very old."

    Panayia Podithou is one of 10 Byzantine churches in the Troodos area that is on UNESCO's World Heritage List - a list of the world's cultural treasures to be protected from a variety of threats in a developing world. The churches are characterised by richly painted murals dating back to the Byzantine Empire.

    Church doors were also stolen from Paphos recently, though it is not clear whether the incidents are linked.

    Police have not identified a suspect in the case, but believe those responsible are international thieves. Through Interpol, they have sent pictures of the stolen doors across the world for aid in tracking down the smugglers.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

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    [05] Election sparks fly over Cyprus problem

    By George Psyllides

    THE DEVELOPMENTS in the Cyprus problem are undeniable, and opposition attempts to deny them cannot be justified by any electoral purposes, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday.

    Papapetrou was replying to comments on Monday by AKEL spokesman Nicos Katsourides, accusing President Glafcos Clerides of damaging Turkish Cypriots' morale.

    "The morale of the Turkish Cypriots is damaged by those who send the message that there are no developments, that the Turkish military establishment is invincible and their mobilisation is futile," Papapetrou said.

    The spokesman made special reference to the recent visit of Izzet Izcan, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot United Cyprus party, a party closely connected to AKEL.

    "(Izcan) expressed his anger about some Greek Cypriot parties, who were happy to commend the heroic Turkish Cypriots but in practice refused to co- ordinate their political messages on the UN plan with the messages of those very Turkish Cypriots they were supporting," Papapetrou said.

    He added: "Mr. Izcan has sent us some messages.

    "He said that if the Greek Cypriots thought that things would remain the same if there was no solution they were making a big mistake.

    "(Turkish) settlers would continue to come, the solution would become more difficult, things would continue to get worse and Turkish Cypriots would come to the free areas to seek their properties, even with no solution."

    Papapetrou suggested that several Turkish Cypriot politicians had almost openly expressed their relief when Clerides announced his candidacy for the presidential elections, "because they know he enjoys the necessary trust within the Turkish Cypriot community, something which is a necessary precondition if we want the efforts for a solution to be fruitful".

    The spokesman said the elections concerned the big issues; they concerned the "arrival of the war ships, which would come to load the Turkish troops" and take them away, leaving behind a small contingent.

    "They are elections for the reunification of Cyprus, geographical reunification of Cyprus, political reunification of Cyprus, but especially and above all for the reunification of the souls of Greek and Turkish Cypriots," Papapetrou said.

    AKEL leader Demetris Christofias yesterday accused the government of risk mongering and adventurism in its handling of the developments in the Cyprus problem.

    Christofias urged the government to respect the people and slammed Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides' comments welcoming DIKO chief and presidential hopeful Tassos Papadopoulos to the Clerides school of thought.

    While welcoming the conversion, Cassoulides added, however, that it would be better for the teacher to negotiate instead of the student.

    Christofias replied yesterday: "Mr. Clerides is a professor who failed and the people will revoke his licence."

    Christofias said it would be unacceptable for any revised plan to be on a 'take it or leave it' basis, adding that this had already been rejected by the National Council and Clerides.

    "Strong nerves, a lot of patience and calm are needed, especially by the opposition, because they are mocking the people and these individuals are risk mongering to the greatest extent," Christofias said.

    "Clerides did what he did, he made numerous concessions; from then on good riddance."

    Christofias said Papadopoulos was a candidate for unity; he was supported by so many political forces that he could almost form a national unity government, and would negotiate a solution on the basis of the UN plan.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

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    [06] Race Club facing legal action over ban on British horse

    By Sofia Kannas

    THE NICOSIA Race Club faces legal action if it continues to prevent a UK- born horse from racing at the Club despite changes to the law allowing EU- born horses to race in Cyprus.

    Leonidas Loizides, owner of Glykia Angela (Sweet Angela), decided to take the case to court after he says the Race Club in Nicosia persistently delayed examining his application over a two-month period.

    Loizides claims he has invested a total of 17,779 on the horse, in addition to 400 a month for maintenance and training costs since the animal reached Cyprus.

    Loizides' lawyer Stelios Americanou said yesterday the case would go ahead on Monday unless the Race Club changed its stance on the horse.

    "We will go to court on Monday unless they comply with the law which now permits horses born and raised in EU countries to race here.

    "The Club will reach a decision soon but they don't really have a case. They have to comply, it's a criminal offence not to.

    "If Cyprus is to enter the EU the government is obliged to make changes to fulfil the acquis communautaire."

    Race Club Vice President Stelios Panayides told the Cyprus Mail yesterday the Club would reach a decision on the case soon.

    "The law is there unfortunately, and we should follow the law. However, we were not invited to give our views before Parliament approved the changes.

    "Now anyone can bring a horse born in an EU nation to Cyprus and race, but this isn't fair on local race horse owners. We are concerned to safeguard their interests."

    Racehorse owners like Yiannis Panayis are unhappy at the new legislation, which was introduced in May 2001.

    "The government decided to implement a new law without undertaking any proper research.

    "It should have brought in measures parallel to the new law, to protect us.

    "I appreciate that the change is inevitable with Cyprus' EU accession so near but they should have set some limitations on the importing of horses. The only countries which allow imported horses to race without restrictions are the UK and Ireland, but that's because the standards are so high there."

    Vet and former Race Club member Akis Petris said the Club and the government should have co-operated over the matter.

    "At the moment Race Club regulations say a horse must be born and conceived in Cyprus in order to race. This was introduced to safeguard local owners but they will have to rethink their regulations now. By law, the Race Club will have to change them.

    "But there should have been some other measures introduced, as there were in Spain and France, such as lower prize money for imported horses, or certain races reserved for local horses."

    The Race Club is expected to announce its decision today.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

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    [07] Government seeks new punishments for modern schools

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE GOVERNMENT hopes to overhaul outdated punishment systems in secondary schools by September, a senior Education Ministry official said yesterday.

    Pupils and parents could soon be given the right to appeal punishments, and a form of community service has been mooted as a replacement for suspension, said Christos Pantelides.

    "Everyone admits that existing punishments are anachronistic and in need of modernisation," he said.

    Last year, the Ministry appointed a six-member technical committee to draw up a list of suggested changes. The committee was made up of legal experts, educationalists and psychologists, he said.

    The changes included the introduction of community service to replace some suspensions; a punishment appeals body; and reduced suspension terms. Suggestions were also made to give students extra tuition if they were absent from lessons for extended periods due to sickness.

    Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides has now put the proposals to teaching unions and parents' associations.

    "By Friday all bodies involved in changing the existing system will have completed their meetings with the Minister," Pantelides said. Ioannides will then review the suggestions and draw up a list of his own, which will be put before the Cabinet and then passed to the House of Representatives.

    "Hopefully this process won't take long and should be implemented as soon as the beginning of the next school year on September 1."

    The final suggestions would take students' legal rights and teaching unions' observations into consideration, he said. "Nothing has been decided yet. We are merely at the information and opinion gathering stage."

    Pantelides said most unions agreed on all points, with just a few minor differences in detail.

    "Take the introduction of an appeals body. This will be a body that students and parents can appeal to if they feel a school's punishment - such as expulsion - has been too harsh. It will be made up of teachers, parents and other students. The body will review the decision and decide if it should be upheld, reduced or overturned," he said. "Some unions think not all members of the body should have voting rights. Others disagree. It is details like these that will be reviewed."

    Other disagreements include how many days suspension should be reduced to (from 15 days to eight, for instance), who had the authority to suspend students and how many days, if at all, a head teacher should be able to suspend a student.

    The changes will also apply to private schools, he said.

    Pantelides added that students had also been involved in drawing up their own school rules.

    "Each school has a set of regulations, about uniform for instance. Instead of teachers drawing them up and forcing them on students, students will now also be involved in writing them up." This was a new modern approach to education and encouraged students to co-operate with rules, he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

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    [08] Greens slam government over refinery pollutants

    By Alex Mita

    GREEN Deputy George Perdikis has accused the government of deliberately avoiding the import of ecological fuel in order to support the financial interests of the petroleum refinery in Larnaca.

    Perdikis said the sulphur content in locally produced fuel had increased the concentration of pollutants in the atmosphere in the last 10 years, from 18,000 tons to 23,000. This resulted in Cyprus being classed by the European Environment Bureau as one of four European countries whose emissions of sulphur dioxide and other carcinogenic agents had increased in the last 10 years.

    "They did not want to import ecological fuel because that would mean they would have to shut down the refinery," Perdikis claimed.

    "They preferred to keep the refinery going instead of safeguarding public health and the environment."

    Perdikis suggested that the refinery stop the production of petrol and diesel in the next five years and produce only gas and asphalt, using existing storage tanks to store imported unleaded fuel.

    A source told the Cyprus Mail yesterday the government would have saved up to 5 million a year had the refinery been closed down in 1993, and begun the import of sulphur free unleaded fuel.

    "Sulphur not only harms health and the environment, but also car engines, so you can imagine the amount of money that would have been saved by motorists, instead on being spent on repairing their engines," the source said.

    Commerce and Industry Minister Nicos Rolandis was unavailable for comment.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003


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