Cypriots elect a new president

Tassos Papadopoulos, an opposition candidate from the center-right who was backed by the island’s communist and socialist parties, was elected president of Cyprus in the first round of voting yesterday. Papadopoulos, 69, a prominent lawyer, got 51.51 percent, winning a five-year mandate. Incumbent Glafcos Clerides got 38.80 percent in his effort to serve a third, consecutive term. Clerides had decided to stand for a truncated, 18-month term to conclude UN-mediated reunification talks and see Cyprus’s accession into the EU in 2004. The change comes at a particularly sensitive time, when Clerides had been meeting three times a week with Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in an effort to meet the Feb. 28 deadline for agreement on the basis of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan. Annan is due in Cyprus next week. Clerides, 84, accepted Papadopoulos’s invitation to stay on the National Council, a body of party leaders and senior officials. «The people have chosen change. They have given a new mandate for a society of unity, and I want to assure them that the government will be one of unity,» Papadopoulos said. «I especially want to send a message to our Turkish-Cypriot compatriots that I look forward to a just and viable solution, for the good of both, in a spirit of equality. Our desire for a solution remains firm and unwavering… We will make every effort to have a united Cyprus join the EU.» PM Costas Simitis congratulated Papadopoulos. «He is greatly experienced, he has knowledge of the situation and so is very suited to lead the Cypriot people at this time when major issues will be decided,» he said. «I am sure our cooperation will be very good, as it was with the Cypriot leadership until now.»