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 Friday, 3 January, 2003, 14:50 GMT
Cyprus president seeks re-election
Glafcos Clerides
Clerides is personally committed to reunification
Cyprus' President Glafcos Clerides has said that he will run for re-election in the country's presidential elections on 16 February.

The veteran 83-year-old leader said he had made the decision in order to steer Cyprus through United Nations-brokered reunification talks in the "historic" months ahead.

It's my historic duty... I do not have the luxury of having a personal choice to do otherwise

Glafcos Clerides
"I will stand for 16 months with the exclusive aim of settling the national issue and ensuring Cyprus accedes to the European Union," he said.

Cyprus is on course to join the EU entry in May 2004 whether or not an agreement is reached with Turkish Cypriots to end the island's divisions.

Mr Clerides has already served two five-year terms in office since 1993, and in the past he had said he would not seek re-election.

But in the current circumstances he said it was a "historic duty".

"I do not have the luxury of having a personal choice to do otherwise," he said.

Reunification lynchpin

The BBC's correspondent in Nicosia, Tabitha Morgan, says the news that Mr Clerides plans to stay will be met great relief among UN negotiators.

Map of Cyprus
Our correspondent says he is personally committed to reunification and that his personal authority will prove a great asset if it is necessary to persuade the Greek Cypriot population to swallow unpalatable changes.

Mr Clerides warned that he needed a national mandate to continue the reunification process.

But he said that he did not want to have to run an election campaign.

Instead he urged all Greek Cypriot parties to unite behind him in support of reunification.

Negotiations are due to resume on 7 January and on 13 January UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's special envoy on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, will arrive for talks.

Erdogan intervention

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey took control of one third of the country in the north, prompted by an Athens-supported coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan published a comprehensive peace plan in November, in the hope of reaching broad agreement on reunification by the EU's Copenhagen summit the following month.

Both sides have raised objections to certain aspects of the plan, which envisages a Swiss-style confederation of two equal component states.

On Thursday, the leader of Turkey's governing party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urged the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, to try harder to negotiate a resolution.

Mr Erdogan is keen to resolve the conflict in order to promote Turkey's bid to join the European Union. However the Turkish army backs Mr Denktash's hard line.


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03 Jan 03 | Europe
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