Fifteen days after voting for a house of representatives in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus ended in a draw between pro-European Union and nationalist parties, Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday offered the mandate to opposition chief Mehmet Ali Talat. Talat, head of the Turkish Republican Party (CTP) – which combined forces with the Peace and Democracy Movement (BDH) to win 25 of the assembly’s 50 seats – will now have 15 days in which to form a viable administration. This will require cooperation from either the National Unity Party (UBP) or the Democrat Party (DP), both of which back Denktash’s nationalist, anti-EU policies. The CTP won 19 seats, one more than the UBP. «The president has appointed me to form a government that can get a vote of confidence from Parliament,» Talat said. He stressed that Cyprus’s EU entry date poses a strict deadline for Greek and Turkish Cypriots to reach a deal on reunification. «We need to form a government as soon as possible, because May  2004 is a very real date by which time a solution to the Cyprus problem needs to be found.» New polls will be held if an administration is not formed by early February. Denktash insisted yesterday on the need for a four-party coalition. This would temper the strength of opposition parties which have vowed to oust Denktash – who rejected a peace blueprint by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan earlier this year – as chief negotiator on reunification. Talat has committed himself to entering negotiations on the basis of the Annan plan. Turkey is increasingly indicating backing for such a course of action. «I hope that Mr Talat is successful in quickly forming a government,» Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday. «Northern Cyprus doesn’t have time to lose.» Turkey’s Cumhurriyet newspaper said yesterday that Foreign Ministry officials in Ankara have drafted a document envisaging a solution based on the Annan plan but with several adjustments. The document included a series of proposed maps offering alternatives for redistributing land on the island. It accepts cutting Turkish troops in northern Cyprus from 30,000 to 6,000 within 40 months, and specifies that the number of residents from Turkey and Greece on the island should not exceed 5 percent on each side.