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Cyprus a safe country, says the government
2003-03-18 19:44:03

Nicosia, Mar 18 (CNA) ? Cyprus is away from the centre of possible US military intervention against Iraq and is a safe country, said here Tuesday Government Spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides.

He was speaking after a meeting at the Presidential Palace, chaired by Acting President, House President Demetris Christofias, which examined the situation prior to the looming US war against Iraq.

Chrisostomides said Cyprus does not wish to become involved in any war operations, "nor does it wish to be used as a launch pad". Cyprus, he added, will fully cooperate with the European Union regarding its foreign policy on the Iraqi crisis.|

''Cyprus respects the principles of international law and the UN Charter. Its policy therefore is based on this framework and in view of its accession to the European Union it follows EU common policy,'' he added.

Cyprus, he said, ''is far from any possible war arena, it is safe and there is no reason for concern", adding that a campaign is already underway to curb any adverse fallout on tourism and to reduce any repercussions on the economy.

He said that the whole issue would be examined during a Cabinet meeting on Thursday, bearing in mind the suggestion made by the meeting today that any facilities granted in connection with the Iraqi crisis would have to be "solely for humanitarian and emergency purposes".

Chrisostomides said the Foreign Ministry has set up a special committee to monitor the situation and a hotline for citizens to contact for information on the crisis in the region.

Asked if today's proposal is inconsistent with an existing agreement between Cyprus and the US for the use of the Republic's air space, ports and airports by the US military in connection with the war against terrorism, Chrysostomides said the Foreign Ministry will inform the Cabinet on Thursday about the arrangements made in the past and other agreements between the US and Cyprus on these issues.

"There are agreements and details from accords made between October 2001 and December 2002. These accords will be presented, analysed and interpreted at the next cabinet meeting", Chrisostomides said.

The ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Public Order, Defence, Communications and Works, the Permanent Secretary of the Interior and the Undersecretary to the President attended today's meeting at the presidential palace.

Foreign Minister George Iacovou said the agreement includes the use of the Cyprus air space and airports, always in consultation with the Republic of Cyprus.

Acting President Christofias who met US Ambassador in Nicosia, Michael Klosson, also assured that Cyprus is in no danger and is away from any possible war affected area.

Christofias conveyed to Klosson the House's opposition to a US strike against Iraq.

"Cyprus is not a hostile country to Iraq and the Arab people, it is a friendly country", Christofias said.

Regarding the past agreement with the US, Christofias said the Cabinet will examine whether the commitment between the US and Cyprus in relation to the war against terrorism is still valid. "There is a different situation now that has to be examined", he added.

Communications Minister, Kikis Kazamias assured there has been no violation of Cyprus's airspace since he assumed his duties at beginning of the month and added that there is no danger for civilian flights, as a result of increased air traffic in the Nicosia FIR by US warplanes.

Meanwhile, Police Chief Tasos Panagiotou said the Force has undertaken extra security measures at all entry points of the Republic's government controlled areas, noting these measures will gradually increase.

He was speaking after a meeting with Justice and Public Order Minister, Doros Theodorou, which examined measures regarding a possible war in Iraq.

"Already increased security measures are in force at entry points, that is ports and airports, diplomatic missions, screening foreigners on arrival and departure as well as other measures", Panagiotou added.


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