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Turkish Side Rejects Unity Plan for Cyprus

February 28, 2003|From Associated Press

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The Turkish Cypriot chief on Thursday rejected the latest version of a United Nations plan to reunite Cyprus. The decision came after his meeting with the Greek Cypriot leadership and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

About 70,000 Turkish Cypriots -- almost a third of the population in the northern, Turkish part of the island -- demonstrated in favor of the plan in divided Nicosia, calling on their leader, Rauf Denktash, to resign.

Annan, who met for 45 minutes with Denktash and the outgoing and incoming Greek Cypriot presidents, Glafcos Clerides and Tassos Papadopoulos, wants acceptance of his controversial reunification plan within eight days.

The deadline is intended to allow time for separate referendums by the two communities to approve the plan so that a reunited Cyprus could sign the treaty of accession to the European Union on April 16, opening the way for it to join the bloc next year. EU leaders have said they would accept only the Greek side if the island was not reunited by the U.N. deadline.

"There is trickery. It is a sleight of hand," Denktash said of the third revision of the plan. Denktash also indicated that the sides were being asked to let the public decide on the proposal even if the leaders are unable to reach agreement.

"Whether we want it or not, they want a commitment from us to take the issue to a referendum," he said. "They are telling us to ask the public, bypassing the government."

Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Thursday in Athens that Annan would invite the two sides to New York to sign a declaration agreeing to hold separate plebiscites even if the leaders can't agree.

The U.N. leader did not comment on Thursday's talks. His special envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, said the secretary-general would meet Papadopoulos and Denktash again today.

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