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Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 16:36 GMT
New Cypriot leader 'eager' for talks
Tassos Papadopoulos
Papadopoulos must be "realistic", says Denktash
Cypriot President-elect Tassos Papadopoulos has said he will start talks on reunification of the divided island in a positive spirit despite calling for changes to the plan.

''I assured Mr. De Soto of our eager wish that there will be continuity to the talks and no gap

Tassos Papadopoulos
Mr Papadopoulos, who scored a decisive election victory on Sunday, agreed after meeting United Nations special envoy Alvaro de Soto to resume the talks in a few days.

However, correspondents say the UN is concerned that Mr Papadopoulos's nationalist, anti-Turkish past may further hinder attempts at a diplomatic settlement.

UN negotiators have set 28 February as the last possible date for agreement between the Greek and Turkish communities if Cyprus is to join the European Union as a united country next year.

Diplomatic efforts to salvage a deal are intensifying, with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul meeting on the sidelines of the EU summit in Brussels on Monday.

Mr Gul and Mr Annan both said afterwards they thought a deal could still be reached.

Earlier, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash expressed regret over the defeat of incumbent Glafcos Clerides, saying the poll had damaged chances for reunification of the island.

Mr Denktash called on Mr Papadopoulos to draw up a "realistic" plan, otherwise - he said - it would be pointless to continue talks.

'Dead-end process'

Mr Denktash, who has himself been strongly critical of the plan, attacked Mr Papadopoulos' pledge to be "president of all Cypriots".

Rauf Denktash
Denktash: Greek Cypriots "intransigent"
"As long as Papadopoulos does not draw himself a realistic plan and abandon his imaginary solutions, there is no reason to continue with this dead-end process," he said.

"It is the intransigent stance of the Greek Cypriot people which won," he added.

Election results showed Mr Papadopoulos secured 51.5% of the votes, to 38.8% for Mr Clerides.

The centrist Democratic Party leader told a cheering crowd after his election that he wanted to "bring about the improvements necessary to change the [UN] plan into a viable and lasting solution".

Mr Papadopoulos' wish to give Greek Cypriot refugees the right to return to the Turkish northern sector is not endorsed by the UN proposals.

When these were first made public last November, Mr Papadopoulos argued they should be rejected without a second glance.

But since then, he has been keen to stress that he accepts the plan as the basis of a future settlement.

Lack of trust

Mr Papadopoulos - who will become the fifth Greek Cypriot president - benefited from the support of the influential communist party, Akel, one of the largest political groups in Cyprus.

Map of Cyprus
He also picked up votes from Greek Cypriots who believe that Mr Clerides has given away too much in UN-sponsored talks with Mr Denktash.

In January thrice-weekly talks began between Mr Denktash and Mr Clerides aimed at resolving their differences over the current UN plan.

Cyprus has been partitioned since Turkey invaded in 1974 in response to an abortive Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

The BBC's Tabitha Morgan reports from Cyprus
"Mr Papadopoulos' supporters were confident he would win in the first round of voting"
Cypriot journalist Kyriacos Tsioupras
"Mr Papadopoulos was identified with a hard line policy (towards unification)"

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28 Jan 03 | Europe
02 Jan 03 | Europe
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