CYPRUS – Clerides to host dinner for Denktash on Saturday Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said on Monday he had accepted an invitation to have dinner with President Glafcos Clerides at his private residence in Nicosia on Saturday. This is in reciprocation for the dinner that Denktash held in his home in the Turkish-occupied part of Nicosia on December 6. As that opportunity marked Clerides’s first visit to the occupied sector of the island, so will this be Denktash’s first to the free part since the Turkish invasion of 1974. The head of the UN mission in Cyprus, Zbigniew Wlosowicz, will join the two for dinner. UN-mediated talks aimed at reuniting the island will resume on January 16, at Nicosia airport. POLL Opposition leads, but Simitis still ahead as choice for PM The opposition New Democracy party would win the most votes if elections were held now, but the number of people who expect it to win has dropped from the last such poll in September. Prime Minister Costas Simitis still leads ND leader Costas Karamanlis as voters’ choice for prime minister. The poll, conducted by Kapa Research on December 6-12 and published by To Vima on Tuesday, gives Simitis 36.2 percent to Karamanlis’s 34.3 percent (up from 34.3 percent and 33.6 percent, respectively, in September). If elections were held this Sunday, ND would get 36.6 percent to PASOK’s 31.3 percent (as opposed to 36.1 percent for ND and 30.7 percent for PASOK in September). As for who would probably win, 44.7 percent predicted ND (down from 47.8 percent) while 38.4 saw a PASOK win (up from 33.5 percent in September). UNEMPLOYMENT Joblessness down in Q1 The unemployment rate in Greece dropped to 10.9 percent in the first quarter of 2001, down from 12.1 percent in the same period in 2000, the National Statistics Service said on Monday. According to final figures, joblessness among men was at 7.2 percent and 16.3 percent among women, it said. The southern Aegean had the highest rate (16.2 percent) while Crete had the lowest (6.5 percent). Ship lost. The search for a Cypriot-registered freighter carrying 27 crew members was called off on Christmas Day by Portuguese authorities who had been searching for the vessel since it disappeared off the Azores Islands in the Atlantic on Saturday. The coal-carrying Christopher is feared to have sunk after naval authorities found just two empty lifeboats belonging to the vessel near an oil slick. In their last communication on Saturday, the crew told the ship’s owner the vessel was taking on water through a hatch while being pounded by seven-meter-high waves. News agencies were unable to determine the nationalities of the crew members, the ship’s destination or its last port of call. Palestinian appeal. Foreign Ministry spokesman Panayiotis Beglitis issued an appeal on Christmas Eve to the Israeli government to allow the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to visit Bethlehem over Christmas, following a visit to the ministry earlier that day by Palestinian Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah. Arafat was conspicuous by his absence at the Bethlehem Christmas celebrations this year, having attended regularly since 1995. Burned bodies. A man was found burned to death in a mobile home on farmland belonging to his father on the island of Rhodes yesterday, along with another charred body whose gender or identity was not immediately known, the Athens News Agency reported. The one body belonged to Ioannis Hadzigeorgiou, 30, who a few days ago told his father he would be staying in the mobile home. Police were investigating the cause of the fire. Arson fine. Three archaeological workers must pay 500,000 drachmas each for causing a fire through negligence at the summer resort of Kalamos in northern Athens in July 2000, after the Council of State upheld the fine issued by the Chief of the Fire Service. Antonios, Giorgos and Aimilia Nikolaou appealed to the Council of State, the country’s top administrative court, claiming the fines would financially ruin them. But the council upheld the fine, saying that protection of the environment was paramount. An Athens court has already imposed a 1-million-drachma fine and a two-year prison sentence on the three, who were working at the archaeological site of Amphiaraeon where the fire is said to have started on July 28, 2000.