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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 14:29 GMT
Protests mar Straw Cyprus visit
Greek Cypriot protesters greet Jack Straw
Protesters greeted Mr Straw at the foreign ministry in Nicosia
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has been snubbed by the president of Cyprus during a visit to begin talks on how to reunify the island.

Tassos Papadopoulous refused to see Mr Straw as he met the Turkish Cypriot leader in his "presidential" offices.

Mr Straw faced Greek Cypriot protesters shouting "go home" as he arrived on the island but insisted he came in friendship for both communities.

Greek Cypriots rejected a UN plan to reunify the island in 2004.

Turkish Cypriots voted for the plans in a referendum.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded in response to a short-lived coup by Greek Cypriots.

'Trappings of state'

Mr Papadopoulous' snub meant Mr Straw was only able to meet the Cyprus Foreign Minister, George Iacovou.

A spokesman for the Cyprus High Commission in London said the president had refused to meet Mr Straw because he was meeting Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in his "so called presidential palace".

He said the Turkish Cypriot state was not internationally recognised and so Mr Straw should not meet Mr Talat in buildings which had the "trappings of state".

But the Cypriot government did not object to Mr Straw meting any Turkish Cypriots elsewhere, added the spokesman.

Hostility

As he arrived at the foreign ministry in Nicosia amid torrential rain, Mr Straw was confronted by the protesters, with one throwing an umbrella at his car.

A mock gallows was set up and several people rushed at the car.

Protesters paraded pictures of Greek-Cypriot guerrillas hanged for fighting British colonial rule, which ended in 1960.

One protester, Ioannis Shekersavvas, said: "It's divide and rule all over again."

A group about 10 members of a minor left-wing party also shouted at Mr Straw when he crossed the UN-patrolled buffer zone separating the two parts of Cyprus to see Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in the north.

Referring to the British military bases still operated on the island, they said: "Guarantors Out! The bases must be closed."

'Bad for everybody'

But Mr Straw said: "I come here with friendship for both communities, not just one."

Turkey on Tuesday proposed reviving UN talks on the reunification of Cyprus and offered to lift trade restrictions.

Greece has said it will study the proposals, although the Greek Cypriots rejected them in advance as nothing new.

Mr Straw said the Turkish initiative deserved to be taken seriously.

"The current situation is bad for Cyprus, bad for the east Mediterranean and bad for the EU," he told a news conference in the UN-controlled buffer zone.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins said British officials travelling with Mr Straw were baffled by the hostile reception, particularly as Sir Malcolm Rifkind made a similar visit when he was foreign secretary 10 years ago.


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