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The BBC's James Robbins
"Britain insists there would be no danger to local people from the masts"
 real 56k

Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw
"The violence was completed unacceptable"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
Cyprus army base protests condemned
Trouble at the Akrotiri base in Cyprus
Twelve vehicles belonging to British forces were set on fire
The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has condemned violence that left 40 police officers injured at a British military base in Cyprus.

Eight are still in hospital after up to 1,000 people rioted on Tuesday following the arrest of a Cypriot MP, who had been protesting at plans to put up a radio mast near the base at Akrotiri.

Vehicles and buildings were set on fire and a nearby police station was destroyed in the violence.

A British policeman injured during trouble at the Akrotiri base in Cyprus
Forty police officers were injured during the trouble
Mr Straw said the attacks were "completely unacceptable" and every effort had been made to assure the Cypriots that radiation from the mast posed no risk.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "These bases are British sovereign bases, British territory. We have always worked very co-operatively with the Cypriot Government.

"The Cypriot Government has been consulted about these changes... and a huge amount of effort has gone in to consult the local people and to satisfy them that these transmissions are safe."

The trouble flared following the arrest of MP Marios Matsakis for trying to break into the base at Akrotiri.

Protesters burst into a nearby British police station where he was being held, demanding his release.

More protests planned

Troops in riot gear confronted the crowd of protesters and fired tear gas, in clashes which lasted all evening.

Twelve vehicles belonging to British forces personnel were gutted, and the provisional cost of repairs was put at C100,000 (120,000).

Witnesses said some cars had been set on fire and brush fires had been started. Helicopters were brought in to help control the fires.

A British military spokesman called the protests "one of the most violent and abhorrent acts of lawlessness ever seen in Cyprus".


I can say this is one of the most violent and abhorrent acts of lawlessness ever seen in Cyprus

Robert Need
British military spokesman
BBC correspondent Tabitha Morgan said security had been stepped up at British bases and a clean-up operation was underway on Wednesday to clear the debris from the violence.

She said another demonstration has been organised for Wednesday night by the Cyprus Communist Party, which is a strong political force in the country.

People were being urged to "march and demonstrate peacefully" she added.

Protesters say the six low-frequency masts to be built near UK bases by 2003 will emit radiation that could seriously harm local residents, especially children.

They are also concerned about possible effects on migratory birds.

British authorities deny there is any risk to health, and say the antennae are needed for the UK military's global communications network.

There are about 3,500 British soldiers based in Cyprus.

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See also:

14 Jun 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Cyprus
07 Jun 01 | Europe
Timeline: Cyprus
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