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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 January, 2004, 20:52 GMT
Pressure mounts for Cyprus deal
The Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, left, with US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Powell said US would play an active role in helping to find a solution
A power-sharing deal on the divided island of Cyprus is close, said the US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Mr Powell said he would put pressure on both Greek and Turkish Cypriots to reach a settlement, after meeting the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul.

Meanwhile, after meeting the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Cypriot president said no time could be lost in trying to reach a deal.

Turkey offered a surprise conciliatory peace initiative last week.

Results needed

"I think it is time for all of us to put pressure on all sides to get a resolution to this difficult situation," Mr Powell said after talks with Mr Gul in Washington on Thursday.

"It has gone on for so long and I think we are getting close to a solution."

Mr Powell said he would not seek a role as mediator in negotiations, as requested by Turkey.

But he said the US was ready to use its "good offices" - its good relations with both Greece and Turkey - to encourage progress.

Later, after a meeting with Mr Annan, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos called for talks to resume immediately.

"We lost quite a considerable time trying to wait for developments in the Turkish-Cypriot side, and the time is really short," he said.

"So we must aim at talks which are result-oriented."

Momentum for a deal has been building since last week, when Turkey made a surprise offer to let the UN "fill in the blanks" on its unification plan - which had gathered dust since last year, when both sides refused to accept the UN-proposed compromises.

Time short

The Turkish-controlled northern half Cyprus is unrecognised, and thus EU law will not extend there until a reunification plan is reached.

But there is little time to reach a deal before the 1 May EU accession date, if the Annan plan is to be adopted and referendums held on both sides of the island.

Turkey is keen for a deal before the EU expansion, as this would increase its own chances of beginning talks on membership next year.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the island's future on Wednesday with US President George W Bush.

"I state once again that the Turkish side is determined for a solution," Mr Erdogan told reporters.

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