NEWS

Ecevit hurls bin Laden slur at Cyprus

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit yesterday urged the European Union to think twice about accepting Cyprus as a member, claiming the country was a center for money laundering and anti-Turkish terrorism. After years of Turkey warning of dire consequences if Cyprus joined the EU, the PM who ordered the 1974 invasion of Cyprus now made an effort to exploit the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States at Cyprus’s expense. It is already clear that there are all types of corruption and black money games going on in this country. Southern Cyprus is a risk in terms of regional security, Ecevit told CNN Turk television. Anyway, it has directed terrorism at Turks for many years. Therefore, the European Union should think again before accepting the southern Cypriot government as a member. In Athens, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas reacted strongly to the Turkish PM’s comments, which hinted at connections between Nicosia and the riches of Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, prime suspect for the September 11 attacks. There is only one terrorist on Cyprus, and that is the occupation forces, Reppas said. The international community must give this terrorist a final and effective answer. And Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, who arrived in Cyprus yesterday to attend today’s Independence Day celebrations, said Ecevit’s statements were indicative of Ankara’s inability to stop Cyprus’s course toward EU accession. An ex-CIA spymaster, James Woolsey, caused a furor on Cyprus this month with remarks In Italian daily La Repubblica that Nicosia had been reluctant to cooperate with a 1998 probe into bin Laden’s funds. The Cyprus central bank later described Woolsey’s remarks as unfounded and malicious. Allegations that money is laundered through Greek-Cypriot banks have surfaced before but local authorities have always denied them. Earlier this month, Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Cassoulides summoned the US and EU ambassadors to deny the claims, challenging them to produce any leads they may have to bin Laden funds so that these could be investigated. The US embassy in Cyprus issued a statement saying Woolsey’s views did not reflect government policy. (Combined reports)