Cyprus poll victor reassures critics

Cyprus’s new president, Tassos Papadapoulos, immediately sought to dispel his reputation as a hardliner who did not want a compromise with the Turkish Cypriots. Speaking to supporters late on Sunday after his election, he pledged to work toward a UN-mediated solution «to bring about the improvements needed to make the solution functional.» Regarding Turkish Cypriots, he said, «They have been poisoned by slander against me, I ask them to judge me for what I am rather than what they are told that I am.» But Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash declared yesterday, «It is the intransigence of the Greek-Cypriot people that has triumphed.» On the other hand, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s envoy, Alvaro de Soto, who met with Papadopoulos, said, «Papadopoulos told me he would continue the reunification talks in a positive spirit.» The president-elect will visit Athens on February 24 for talks with PM Costas Simitis. Annan will visit Cyprus on February 26 ahead of the talks’ February 28 deadline. Yesterday, Annan told reporters at a EU emergency summit on Iraq he hoped that a flare-up would not push Cyprus off the front pages. «But it is not distracting me from my objective of working with the parties to try to get a settlement by the end of the month,» he said. «I think it is possible.» Simitis and Turkish PM Abdullah Gul discussed Cyprus and Iraq in Brussels yesterday. They also met separately with Annan. Gul expressed optimism on a Cyprus deal before next Friday.