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Tuesday, December 29, 1998 Published at 19:03 GMT

World: Europe

Cyprus decides against missiles

The Russian missiles are in the same class as US Patriot missiles

The Greek Cypriots have decided not to deploy Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles on the island - a move that Turkey said it would have resisted with military force.

BBC Correspondent Chris Morris: Turkey argues that this exacerbates exisiting tensions
President Glafcos Clerides said Cyprus would negotiate with the Russian Government about installing the missiles on the Greek island of Crete, where they would be out of range of both Turkey and northern Cyprus.

Turkey, which supports the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island, said placing the missiles on Cyprus would have changed the balance of power on the island.

President Clerides denied the decision was the result of pressure.

He said he now expected the international community to deliver on promises to promote a settlement between the two communities in Cyprus.

Chris Drake in Cyprus: Mixed feelings for the Greek Cypriots
President Clerides met with the Greek prime minister before making his announcement on Tuesday, but no statement had been forthcoming.

Mr Clerides said he had taken the responsibility of the decision himself because there had been no unanimity among Greek-Cypriot politicians in the National Council.

Cyprus's internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot Government had come under enormous international pressure not to deploy the S-300 missiles it ordered from Russia early last year.

The BBC Correspondent in Cyprus, Chris Drake, said Greek Cypriots would have mixed feelings at the decision: relief at the reduction in tension and a feeling of humiliation and defeat.

Drawing international attention

Our correspondent says the aim of ordering the missile system two years ago was to goad the international community into taking dynamic action to end the division of the island.

Instead, the missiles themselves, rather than the problem of a divided island, became the main focus of international mediation.

Promises of action by the international community have resembled routine annual declarations rather than anything providing cause for optimism.

Our correspondent says the proposed deployment succeeded in drawing world attention, but now the Turkish Cypriots and their staunch mainland backers in Ankara have become progressively more demanding.

Prior to the missile deal talks were held on an inter-communal basis. But now the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, insists on full recognition as a separate state.

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