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Wednesday, December 30, 1998 Published at 21:38 GMT

World: Europe

Missile decision hurts Greek-Cypriot pride

Pact still stands: Greek PM Costas Simides with Cypriot President Clerides

By Chris Drake in Nicosia

The Greek and Cypriot Governments have come under intense criticism in both their countries after abandoning plans to deploy the Russian S-300 missile system in Cyprus.

The alternative proposal is for the missile delivery to the Greek island of Crete, but Turkey, which threatened military action if they arrived in Cyprus, is now objecting to this idea too.

For most Greek Cypriots the biggest disappointment has been the discovery that their main ally, Greece, was not prepared to support the missiles' deployment in Cyprus - support which during the past two years they have taken for granted.

They are now openly questioning the validity of the five-year-old defence pact which calls for Greece to come to their rescue in the event of a Turkish attack.

Greece won't risk war

In reality nothing has changed. Greece is still prepared to defend the Greek Cypriots, but not prepared to risk a war with its Nato ally and neighbour Turkey just so that Cyprus can deploy the missiles.

Their argument, though rarely spelt out in public, is that the system offers less security in Cyprus than the people here would like to think - a state of affairs which is generally accepted even by those political parties in both countries which are now criticising the governments.

Loss of pride is the cause for most denuciations, although the Socialist party EDEK, with its defence and education ministers, is expected to quit the government because it feels President Clerides has bowed to what it calls Turkish blackmail.

But the missile crisis may not be over yet. Turkish objections to Crete as an alternative site are based on one Nato member importing a system which threatens another.

And Turkey is questioning the wisdom of western allies in allowing such sophisticated Russian equipment with Russian military staff to be deployed there.

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