Nicosia faces up to Helios burden

As he prepared to meet with the team investigating the causes of the Helios air crash, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos yesterday put his job on the line, saying he would accept responsibility if his government is found to have any liability in events which contributed to the accident. Papadopoulos issued a 12-page statement yesterday after opposition parties criticized the probe into the crash of the Cypriot airliner for proceeding too slowly and called for an independent inquiry. The calls have been fueled by allegations that Helios received preferential treatment from authorities and that the Cypriot Civil Aviation Authority was not doing its job properly. However, the Cypriot president said it was not appropriate to begin an independent probe and gave his full backing to the Greek investigation being led by Akrivos Tsolakis. Papadopoulos said that once the investigators have delivered their findings, they will be passed to the chief prosecutor in Cyprus and he will decide whether there are any charges to answer. He said that if his government was found to have any political responsibilities for the crash, this would «burden the government as a whole – and me personally – and they will be borne when, and if, they are established.» Tsolakis is due to meet with Papadopoulos today before he sets about the task of interviewing at least 20 people in Cyprus in relation to the crash – the worst air disaster in Cypriot and Greek history. He is expected to question some of the relatives of the 121 victims as well as Helios staff and directors.