The Cypriot government said yesterday that Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s rejection of basic principles of the UN proposal for a solution to the Cyprus problem did not raise hopes that a solution will be found by Feb. 28. Speaking to London’s LGR Greek radio station, spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said President Glafcos Clerides would keep working for a solution by the deadline but that, following Denktash’s statements, he was not optimistic. Those statements are apparently the reason Clerides did not reply, as expected, yesterday to a letter from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan laying out their arguments on the basis of his proposal for a solution. Clerides met with senior aides and decided to delay his reply until Cyprus’s National Council of party leaders met on January 2 and 3. Annan’s envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, is due on the island to renew mediation efforts on January 7. Denktash said in an interview with the Turkish daily Milliyet on Sunday and in remarks to the press yesterday that Annan’s plan would lead to the elimination of the Turkish Cypriots. In the interview, he rejected the return of territory now under Turkish occupation, he demanded permanent joint presidential powers and a total ban on the return of refugees to the island’s north. He also called for the EU to recognize his breakaway state, arguing that Annan’s plan proposed a common state made up of two component states, therefore, even without a solution, the Turkish-Cypriot component should be recognized. «The more we study the plan, the more we see that it is weighted against the Turkish Cypriots,» Denktash said yesterday. «Accepting this plan means the end of the Turkish Cypriots within five or 10 years,» he said. Cyprus’s parliamentary speaker, Dimitris Christofias, charged that Denktash’s statements were «divisionary,» and he noted that «under no circumstances can these demands be accepted.» Denktash’s position hardened after the Turkish Foreign Ministry and senior officials said they supported him. This has been seen as a sign of the dispute between the ruling Justice and Development Party and the establishment.