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ASSOCIATED PRESS, Wed November 27, 2002 12:58 EST
2002-11-27 15:58:15

Annan asks Cypriot leaders to respond to peace plan; 12,000 Turkish Cypriots march in support of plan

ALEX EFTY
Associated Press Writer
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked the Turkish and Greek leaders of this divided island to respond to a reunification plan by Saturday, while thousands of Turkish Cypriots marched to support it.

Annan submitted his plan to the rival sides Nov. 11. It which would make the eastern Mediterranean island a single country with two equal states in a loose confederation and a rotating presidency. President Glafcos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot leader, accepted it as a basis for negotiations, but Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, who is recuperating in New York from a heart operation, said it ``is full of traps.''

Annan sent a letter asking for more detailed responses so the two sides could finish negotiations to meet a Dec. 12 deadline for final acceptance as the country prepares to join the European Union. ``The message is not an ultimatum. It asks the two sides to inform him by Saturday which points of his plan in their view need to be negotiated and altered,'' Cyprus' government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said.

Between 12,000 and 20,000 people marched in the Turkish sector of the divided capital, Nicosia, on Wednesday, waving banners that read ``Solution'' and ``European Union,'' to urge Denktash to accept Annan's plan.

The demonstration was backed by Turkish Cypriot opposition parties and ``This country is ours,'' an alliance of 92 nongovernment organizations, professional associations and trade unions that support reunification. Both leaders have said the Dec. 12 deadline does not allow sufficient time for negotiation and the settlement of major points.

But Annan has insisted on the date so that the plan could be incorporated into the agreement for the entry of a reunified Cyprus to the European Union during a Dec. 12 EU summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The summit is expected to give formal approval to the entry of Cyprus and nine other prospective members by 2004.

Cyprus has been split into a Greek Cypriot controlled south and a Turkish-occupied north since 1974 when Turkey invaded the island in the wake of an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece. A breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north was established in 1983 but remains only recognized by Ankara, which maintains 40,000 troops there.

Speaking to Turkey's private NTV television, Denktash said his side has started preparations to respond to Annan's latest letter and to relay points he opposes in the plan by Saturday. ``We will say what we don't want, what is wrong and unjust,'' Denktash said.

``They're forcing us to create one nation from two nations; what I'm seeking is a partnership with two sovereignties.''

Greek Cypriot refugees from the north have rejected the plan, saying it violates their right to return and other fundamental human rights like freedom of movement and the right to own property anywhere on the island.

Turkey has warned it will annex the occupied north if Cyprus joins the EU before a settlement is reached. Greece countered it will use its veto to block the planned expansion of the EU if Cyprus is not included among the new members.

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