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Twelve Palestinians leave Cyprus
2002-05-22 09:59:14

Larnaca, May 22 (CNA) -- Twelve of the 13 Palestinians, brought to Cyprus after being released from Bethlehem's Nativity Church left Cyprus today on board two planes heading to six European countries that have agreed to take them in.

Three of the Palestinians are transferred to Italy on an Italian aircraft and the rest nine to Spain (3), Greece (2), Ireland (2), Portugal (1) and Belgium (1) on a Spanish military plane, that arrived here yesterday. The thirteenth will temporarily stay in Cyprus.

The 12 Palestinians arrived at Larnaca airport at 0820 local time (0520 GMT) under tight security.

Eleven of them left the hotel they were staying in Larnaca at 08.15 hours. They arrived at Larnaca airport with a small bus. The 12th Palestinian, who was taken yesterday to hospital with gastritis symptoms, was transferred to the airport with an ambulance.

The Palestinians, were accompanied to the airport by the Ambassadors of Spain, Italy and Ireland. Representative of the Palestinian Authority to Cyprus Samir Abou Ghazaleh waited for the Palestinians at Larnaca airport.

The Palestinians arrived in Cyprus on May 10 on a British military airplane, after their release from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Their distribution to various EU member-states was the result of an agreement reached by the EU General Affairs Council. |

The thirteenth Palestinian remaining in Cyprus will stay on the island most probably for a few more weeks, Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said here today.

Speaking after the departure of the 12 from Larnaca International Airport, Kasoulides expressed the government's satisfaction with the successful completion of the operation "which resulted in the end of the stand off around the Nativity Church," highlighting Cyprus' contribution to this effect.

Kasoulides congratulated the EU Spanish Presidency for all the efforts it had made towards the successful operation.|

"Cyprus has shown patience awaiting for the agreements to be made in the EU. A 13th person remains in Cyprus most probably for a few weeks until it is demonstrated that the 12 well absorbed in the countries of their long temporary stay and this will prompt either one of the existing countries that are receiving the Palestinians or another EU country to accept him as well," Kasoulides said.

Invited to say which Palestinian remains in Cyprus, Kasoulides said that "the distribution of the names will remain classified information."

The 12 Palestinians left today, three of them aboard an Italian airplane, heading to Italy and the rest aboard a Spanish military aircraft.

The latter will be distributed to Greece (2), Spain (3), Ireland (2), Portugal (1) and Belgium (1).

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