NEWS

Cyprus votes as deadline looms

Less than a fortnight before the expiry of a UN deadline for a peace solution on Cyprus, Cypriots go to the polls tomorrow to choose a new president who will sign the island’s official EU accession – and, possibly, a deal to end 29 years of Turkish military occupation and division. The electoral campaign officially ended yesterday, as President Glafcos Clerides – who is seeking re-election on a curtailed, 18-month mandate – held the latest of a series of UN-sponsored meetings with Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in an attempt to move closer to a solution. The United Nations have called for a deal by February 28. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said he will visit the island from February 26-28. But yesterday, Denktash ruled out a deal in the next 13 days. «We cannot achieve anything by the 28th,» he said after meeting Clerides, whose chances of staying in office appear shaky. In polls, the president trails opposition, left-wing candidate Tassos Papadopoulos, who favors a tougher approach to the peace process. If neither wins, a second round will be held next Sunday.