Nicosia (Reuters) – Vodafone, Orange and Greece’s CosmOTE are emerging as the main contenders in the race to become Cyprus’s second mobile operator, Cypriot Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou said on Saturday. Neophytou said that a public hearing would be held in a matter of days. «After this, we may make some adjustments to the policy we have announced and then we will go for the tenders,» Neophytou said. The government received a rap on the knuckles from the EU’s chief negotiator for Cyprus, Leopold Maurer, earlier this week for its delay in liberalizing the telecoms sector. Cyprus is due to join the bloc in May 2004. The country’s first rival mobile GSM licence is expected to be issued to investors early this year. The semi-governmental organization CyTA currently has a monopoly. The new licence is likely to be issued for a period of 20 years. «We believe that in three months we will have the new operator,» Neophytou said.