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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 08:55 GMT
Cyprus election threatens peace plan
Tassos Papadopoulos
Papadopoulos has taken a hard line on the UN plan
The victory of opposition candidate Tassos Papadopoulos in the Greek Cypriot presidential elections has cast doubt on the future of a peace plan to reunite the island.

Mr Papadopoulos, who defeated veteran incumbent Glafcos Clerides by a large margin, has said he wants to change part of the UN plan, days before a 28 February deadline for both sides to accept it.

The centrist Democratic Party leader told a cheering crowd after his election that he wanted to "bring about the improvements necessary to change the [UN] plan into a viable and lasting solution".

Mr Papadopoulos is seeking the right of return of all Greek Cypriot refugees to the Turkish Cypriot northern sector, while the proposals allow for only about 50%.

The political dilemma comes a week before UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is due to visit Cyprus to try to secure support for the pact he devised.

Surprise win

Election results showed Mr Papadopoulos won 51.5% of the votes, to 38.8% for Mr Clerides.

President Glafcos Clerides speaks to the media after casting his vote
Clerides had been leading delicate negotiations

Attorney General Alecos Markides won a further 6.6%, with the remaining votes split among another seven candidates.

The 83-year-old Mr Clerides acknowledged defeat in a telephone call to Mr Papadopoulos and wished him luck.

Although Mr Papadopoulos had been ahead in opinion polls, it had been widely expected that he would fail to get more than 50% support in the first round.

Mr Papadopoulos will take over negotiations on reunifying Cyprus, with less than two weeks to thrash out a deal before the deadline.

When the UN proposals to reunite the island were first made public last November, Mr Papadopoulos argued they should be rejected without a second glance.

But since then, he has been keen to stress that he accepts the plan as the basis of a future settlement.

Lack of trust

Mr Papadopoulos - who will become the fifth Greek Cypriot president - benefited from the support of the influential communist party, Akel, one of the largest political groups in Cyprus.

Map of Cyprus
He also picked up votes from Greek Cypriots who believe that Mr Clerides has given away too much in UN-sponsored talks with the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash.

A recent poll found that 64% of Greek Cypriots doubted that their political leaders could find a political solution to the island's troubles in the near future.

In January thrice-weekly talks began between Mr Denktash and Mr Clerides aimed at resolving their differences over the current UN plan.

Mr Denktash has threatened to stand down as leader rather than sign the plan in its present form.

Cyprus has been partitioned along ethnic lines since Turkey invaded in 1974 in response to an abortive Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

The BBC's Tabitha Morgan reports from Cyprus
"Mr Papadopoulos' supporters were confident he would win in the first round of voting"
Cypriot journalist Kyriacos Tsioupras
"Mr Papadopoulos was identified with a hard line policy (towards unification)"
Tassos Papadopolus, President of Cyprus
"Our preference is that a unified Cyprus will accede"

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See also:

28 Jan 03 | Europe
02 Jan 03 | Europe
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