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Will Not Be 'Hostage to Any Party,' Vassiliou Says : New Cypriot Leader Vows Independence

February 23, 1988|CHARLES P. WALLACE | Times Staff Writer

NICOSIA, Cyprus — George Vassiliou, who was elected president of Cyprus with the support of the Communist Party, declared Monday that he will not be a "hostage to any party."

Vassiliou, who will take office Sunday, said his first act as president will be to create a national council to deal with Cyprus' principal problem--the occupation of the northern third of the island by Turkish troops since 1974.

His margin of victory was barely 3% of the vote in a runoff election Sunday against right-wing politician Glafkos Clerides. The incumbent president, Spyros Kyprianou, was eliminated in the first round of voting Feb. 14.

Vassiliou, 56, a millionaire businessman and political novice, is expected to pursue moderate policies that preserve Cyprus' recent economic boom and position as a nonaligned nation.

Western diplomats had expressed concern that the Communist Party, which is known here as Akel, might demand that Vassiliou give the party a voice in his government in return for its support and take some symbolic step against the presence of British and American forces here.

U.S. Radar Facility

The United States has a radar station on Cyprus to monitor Soviet military activity, ostensibly under the auspices of British forces here. Unlike two major British bases on the island--Britain was granted "sovereign territorial rights" at the time of independence in 1960--the U.S. facility is provided at the discretion of the Cyprus government.

"I am not going to be a hostage to any party," Vassiliou said in a radio broadcast. "From the very first moment, I have stated that I am an independent, and I was prepared to accept the support of anybody."

Appealing for continued support, he said, "We should not divide the people between winners and losers." Loser Clerides also appealed for calm, saying that "although the majority was very small, we must all accept the result."

After the results were announced, Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader and president of the breakaway Republic of Northern Cyprus, offered to meet with Vassiliou in an effort to help heal the rift between the two communities.

But Vassiliou appeared to dismiss the offer, saying that Denktash should visit him at the presidential palace since he was now the elected president of all Cyprus.

Proposals for Protection

When asked by an interviewer what steps would be taken to protect Cyprus' minority Turkish population in any peace settlement, Vassiliou said he was considering several proposals, including the possibility of an international police force. A U.N. peacekeeping force now serves as a buffer between the two communities.

"At this moment," he said, "the ones who are endangered are not the Turkish Cypriot community but the Greek Cypriots and the integrity of the Cyprus Republic, because the strong party is the Turkish party and not us."

After hearing Vassiliou's victory speech, Denktash told a news agency, "It was like a cold shower."

Members of both communities have expressed hope that the elections would provide new impetus for finding a solution through negotiations. The United Nations has proposed the creation of a federal republic of two communal states, but Kyprianou rejected details of the U.N. plan, arguing that Turkey should first withdraw its 20,000 troops from the island.

Vassiliou's parents were founding members of the Cyprus Communist Party. He was educated in Hungary. After attending schools in England and Switzerland, he founded a highly successful market research company and made a fortune in the burgeoning Middle East market.

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