NEWS

Makarios arms cache destroyed

NICOSIA (AFP) – The United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus yesterday completed the destruction of 4,500 weapons, kept for 30 years inside the UN-controlled Nicosia Airport, in a goodwill gesture to revive flagging peace talks. The weapons disposal began last month as a show of good faith on behalf of the Greek-Cypriot government. The arms cache consisted of Czech-made automatic rifles, machine pistols, heavy machine guns, and mortars, which were purchased with 5 million rounds of ammunition. The guns were imported from communist Czechoslovakia in 1972, two years before the Turkish invasion, by the then president, Archbishop Makarios, who feared increasing opposition to him from paramilitary groups. That same year, the weapons were eventually handed over to the UN for safe keeping after strong pressure from Greece and Turkey. The ammunition was destroyed between September 1999 and March 2000. The weapons, now reduced to 40 tons of scrap metal, will be sent to Britain and melted down.