NEWS

Cyprus says north breeds terrorists

NICOSIA – Cyprus lashed out Wednesday at Ankara’s claims that the island was a money-laundering haven and a risk to EU security by countering that the Turkish-held north was a training ground for terrorists. In its latest bid to silence critics, Nicosia has also swiftly adopted a UN resolution to freeze assets if they are found to belong to any terrorist organization. The government is smarting from accusations made by Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and from a leaked US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) document that apparently brands Cyprus as a country that shelters terrorists. Whether Mr. Ecevit likes it or not, Turkey and the occupied areas are a huge breeding ground for every type of terrorist activity and illegality, Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou told reporters in Nicosia. The Americans and the Europeans are fully aware of this and so is Turkey, which is the main supplier of drugs to the entire West, he added. Ecevit advised the European Union on Sunday to beware of leading accession candidate Cyprus because it posed a danger to regional stability due to its corrupt practices. Corruption and money laundering are practiced in that country. Southern Cyprus is a risk for the security of the region, Ecevit said on CNN-Turk TV. In the current atmosphere of a global wave of terrorism, our European friends who want to accept Cyprus within their fold should take into consideration this kind of activity by the Greek-Cypriot administration. Turning to the question of terrorism, Christodoulou said the Cypriot government had passed on to the relevant countries fighting global terrorism any relevant information it had. Just like we told Russia about Chechen terrorists training in the occupied areas, said Christodoulou. Local media reports had surfaced in the past linking the occupied areas to Chechen training camps. It is alleged that hardline Chechen rebels offer sympathetic support to Saudi-born Islamist Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the devastating anti-American attacks on September 11. In the wake of the attacks, former CIA chief James Woolsey said Cyprus was a haven for bin Laden’s treasure. Nicosia has roundly dismissed any implication that it was viewed as a suspect country by the United States when it came to international terrorism. Cyprus has repeatedly proven that it has nothing to do with terrorism and money laundering, we have passed the international test with flying colors, said Christodoulou. A Foreign Ministry source told AFP that the government made representations about being put on any kind of FAA blacklist and asked for clarification after the story appeared in Tuesday’s Athens press. An American Embassy spokesman in Nicosia confirmed to AFP that Cyprus is on an FAA list that provides guidance to US carriers regarding security procedures to protect the public against terrorist acts. This is not to be confused with the US government’s designation of certain governments as supporters of state-sponsored terrorism, said Embassy Spokesman Walter Douglas. He said Cyprus was on the FAA list because of its geographical proximity to countries hostile to America but stressed there were no problems with airport security. After meeting with US Ambassador Donald Bandler on Wednesday, Cypriot Finance Minister Takis Clerides said Cyprus had adopted a UN resolution to freeze accounts and assets belonging to terrorist organizations.