NEWS

Cyprus allows USA access to its air space

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cyprus yesterday granted the USA military access to its air space after Washington requested the island’s help in the war on Iraq, said a government spokesman. «We have accepted the American request for flights within Cyprus air space on condition that it does not endanger civil aviation,» Kypros Chrysostomides told reporters after a Cabinet meeting. Due to the island’s strategic location in the eastern Mediterranean, the USA asked for «some conveniences,» including overflight and refueling rights if necessary, the spokesman said. However, the spokesman said the request did not include use of the island’s seaports. The government has been opposed to war in Iraq, saying the Americans are going ahead without the consent of the United Nations or the backing of the European Union which Cyprus is due to join next year. «We believe the UN Security Council is the sole instrument to secure world peace, and the majority [of the population] believed war could have been averted,» said Chrysostomides. Some 1,000 Greek-Cypriot students yesterday left classes to stage an impromptu anti-war rally outside the American Embassy following the launch of US strikes on Iraq. Hundreds gathered outside the fortress-like embassy soon after news broke that America had launched its first missile strikes on Iraq signaling the start of hostilities. Many of the noisy crowd held placards declaring: «No More Blood for Oil» and “Don’t Attack Iraq.» There were also chants of «Who Let the Dogs Out?» and «Bush: Killer of Women and Children.» The imposing embassy building was ringed with barbed wire and riot police were on hand to ensure the demonstrators were kept at a distance. No incidents were reported, apart from some egg-throwing.