Page last updated at 14:23 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Cypriot ex-leader dies of cancer

Tassos Papadopoulos in an image from April 2007 when he was still Cypriot president
Papadopoulos lost power this year

The former Republic of Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has died of lung cancer in hospital in the Cypriot capital, Nicosia. He was 74.

A veteran of Greek Cypriot politics, he became president in 2003 but lost a bid for a second term earlier this year when he lost in the first round.

Correspondents say he was regarded as a hardliner, notably rejecting a UN blueprint for reunification.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey seized the north of the island.

The troops invaded after a coup in Nicosia engineered by the Greek government.

One of Mr Papadopoulos's achievements was to oversee Cyprus's entry into the European Union in 2004.

His successor as president, Dimitris Christofias, expressed his condolences.

"Tassos Papadopoulos will stay in history as one of the protagonists of our country's modern history," he said.

"A tight bond of friendship tied me with Tassos Papadopoulos. We worked together, fought battles together, we jointly struggled for the cause of Cyprus."

'Strength and dignity'

Mr Papadopoulos, a heavy smoker, died at 1305 (1105 GMT) on Friday, the head of Nicosia General Hospital's intensive care unit said.

"He confronted his disease with strength and dignity," Theodoros Kyprianou added.

In guiding Greek Cypriots to reject the UN reunification plan for Cyprus, Mr Papadopoulos believed he had saved his country from Turkish domination, the BBC's Tabitha Morgan reports from Cyprus.

His supporters considered him a strong leader who championed Hellenism in Cyprus and resisted international pressure.

Critics accused him of being a hard-line nationalist who had passed over the best chance in a generation of reuniting the island.

Mr Papadopoulos trained as a barrister in London during the 1950s.

He later achieved prominence in the political wing of the EOKA, a right-wing paramilitary group which fought to end colonial rule in Cyprus and unite the country with Greece.

After independence in 1960, he became the youngest government minister at the age of 24.

He subsequently occupied several ministerial positions, before narrowly winning the presidential election in 2003.

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Lebanon Daily Star Former Cypriot President Papadopoulos dead at 74 - 25 hrs ago
Modesto BeeCypriot ex-president Papadopoulos dies of cancer - 31 hrs ago
Xinhuanet Former Cypriot president dies of cancer - 37 hrs ago
Telegraph Tassos Papadopoulos - 42 hrs ago
Washington PostCypriot ex-president Papadopoulos dies of cancer - 47 hrs ago
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