EU official is kept off Cyprus TV

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Commission expressed regret yesterday that two Greek-Cypriot television stations had declined to let EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen appear ahead of Saturday’s referenda. The Commission called the decisions «odd,» saying that Brussels simply wanted to explain its position ahead of the April 24 votes. «We are told that this is an interference in the public debate in Cyprus,» said Verheugen’s spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori, but «our intention is not at all to influence in any way, or to campaign. Our intention is to explain. We were told that this is not possible, so we found it quite odd. Of course, (this is a) situation that we regret.» State-controlled Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) replied, «There was never an official proposal to CyBC for such an interview.» Greek-owned private channel Antenna said, «We always carry Verheugen statements in full. On this occasion we were not informed in a timely enough fashion to rearrange programmes.» It was the second time that a foreign official had been barred from the airwaves amid growing resentment among Greek Cypriots at the huge international pressure for them to say «yes» to the UN peace plan. On Friday, UN Cyprus envoy Alvaro de Soto was reportedly told by the state broadcaster that he was no longer welcome to take part in a discussion program to be aired this week. Government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said any decision to exclude foreign dignitaries was a matter for the CyBC board.

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