‘Overwhelming response to call for Serbia volunteers’

By Jean Christou

ANORTHOSIS football club said yesterday there had been an overwhelming response to its call for volunteers to join Serbian forces in Yugoslavia.

Kikis Constantinou, the president of the Famagusta refugee football club, made his appeal in Politis daily yesterday, saying he was ready to go and fight.

According to the newspaper, Constantinou, who could not be reached yesterday, called on Cypriots to enlist to help Yugoslav forces. The club is also appealing for humanitarian aid.

A source there said yesterday afternoon the club had had a “huge response”, not only to its plea for humanitarian aid, but also to its call for volunteers.

“We don’t have the exact number,” the source said. “But there were an awful lot of calls with offers to go and fight.”

The source said the club would be pursuing the issue today and would have more information in coming days. It has also approached the Yugoslav embassy, but officials there could not comment yesterday because meetings were being held with a mystery “Cypriot delegation”, the embassy said.

Diko deputy Marios Matsakis said he was all for the idea of Cypriots volunteering to go to Yugoslavia. “I will be the first one to join,” he said. “I have already given my name to the Yugoslav ambassador.”

But Matsakis, a forensic pathologist by profession, cautioned that he would not like to see people volunteering unless they could offer some sort of practical assistance.

“I don’t think 10, 20 or 100 Cypriots is going to make any difference,” Matsakis said. “It’s symbolic. We can’t fight planes.”

Matsakis said that during the war in Bosnia he had gone to the region four times. “I would like to tend the wounded in the field, but I will fight if necessary.”

Yesterday the Cyprus Church rallied around the Serb cause, calling for collections of food and clothes to send to Yugoslavia. Bishop Chrysostomos of Paphos announced he would give up his monthly salary for the cause.

“We must help with all our strength our brother Serbs who must not be abandoned because tomorrow our turn will come,” Chrysostomos said. “If the US gets away with it they will do what they like in the world dictatorially.”

The Bishop also called on fellow Paphians to contribute to the Serb cause.

“Kosovo belongs to Serbia and they have their roots there and Tito brought Albanians. Just because the US and Nato have strength, is it right that they should do what they like?” he asked. “They did the same to Cyprus. Americans brought the Turks. Just because the US is powerful, does it mean they should do what they like in the world?”

Archbishop Chrysostomos meanwhile has announced that the Church will be launching a huge fund-raising campaign on April 4 in all churches across Cyprus.

The Archbishop expressed his sorrow at the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia and said it was taking place because of the “Muslim element” in the region.

Meanwhile, the American embassy has urged US citizens to review their security practices, remain alert to the changing situation and avoid areas where demonstrations are in progress.

“The US has increased security at United States government facilities worldwide,” the warning said.

The US embassy in Nicosia has already been the focus of two pro-Serb demonstrations, and is bracing itself for more.

Yesterday, a group of some 500 technical school students left classes early and gathered to march to the US embassy, but changed their minds at the last minute, preferring to hit trendy local cafes and the streets of the capital.

The House of Representatives announced yesterday that it would be passing a resolution condemning the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia at the plenum on Friday.