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 Sunday, 19 January, 2003, 21:25 GMT
Denktash defiant over UN Cyprus plan
Demonstrators at Tuesday's rally
Many Turkish Cypriots support the UN plan
The Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has repeated his threat to stand down as leader rather than sign a United Nations plan to reunify Cyprus.

In an interview with a Turkish newspaper, he said the plan in its current form was not in the interests of Turkish Cypriots.

I want a peace that guarantees the existence, security, future and equality of the Turkish Cypriots. The plan does not guarantee any of these

Rauf Denktash
In particular he had reservations about the constitutional structure of the proposed new state, and said there was not enough trust between the two communities for them to live together again.

Mr Denktash faces mounting pressure - together with Greek Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides - to agree to the UN plan by the end of February.

The European Union has invited Cyprus to join in 2004, but only the Greek-Cypriot side will join if the island is not reunited by then.

Referendum proposed

"I will not sign this plan as it is," Mr Denktash told the daily Milliyet in an interview.

"I want a peace that guarantees the existence, security, future and equality of the Turkish Cypriots. The plan does not guarantee any of these."

Rauf Denktash
Many Turkish Cypriots feel Mr Denktash does not understand their interests
Mr Denktash said he would call for a referendum if he was put under too much pressure, and step down from negotiations if it went against him.

"If my people want this plan, I would tell the parliament to choose someone else to sign it," he said.

Mr Denktash also lashed out at the UN, accusing Secretary-General Kofi Annan of siding with the Greek Cypriots.

"It is very difficult for me to negotiate under these circumstances," he told Milliyet.

Mass protest

Mr Denktash, 78, resumed his talks this week with Mr Clerides, after tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots demonstrated in favour of the UN deal.

Map of Cyprus
"I was stabbed with a dagger at the back," Mr Denktash said of the protest.

"When Clerides sees this, he thinks I have no other choice but to accept this plan."

But despite a growing mood against him, Mr Denktash is aware he still has the backing of the Turkish army, says the BBC correspondent in Cyprus, Tabitha Morgan.

The Turkish military's support will significantly reduce the impact of any domestic dissent, our correspondent says.

Cyprus has been effectively partitioned along ethnic lines since Turkey invaded in 1974 in response to a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

Turkey maintains some 40,000 troops on the island, and is the only country to recognise Turkish-held northern Cyprus as a separate state.


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