US regrets leaks, says will tighten security

THE United States said yesterday that it deeply regretted the release of any classified information and would tighten security to prevent leaks such as WikiLeaks’ disclosure of a trove of State Department cables.

More than 250,000 cables were obtained by the whistle-blower website and given to the New York Times and other media groups, which published stories exposing the inner workings of US diplomacy, including candid and embarrassing assessments of world leaders.

The US Justice Department said it was conducting a criminal investigation of the leak of classified documents and the White House, State Department and Pentagon all said they were taking steps to prevent such disclosures in future.

‘We have to speak up’

AN ONLINE petition calling for a long-overdue tidying up of state finances has surpassed its target of 4,000 signatures, and its originators now plan to sound out political parties for support.

Launched two weeks ago, the petition ( wants an end to the two-tier system of contributions to the Social Security Fund and to bring the civil service in line with the rest of society.

Workers in the broader civil sector contribute three per cent to the SSF while people in the private sector contribute 16 per cent of their earnings.

Our View: Penalising the consumer to protect small shop owners

SOME 40 shops were to be prosecuted for violating the law governing the advertising of price reductions, said the Commerce and Industry Minister Antonis Paschalides, responding to a letter about the subject from EDEK deputy Yiannakis Omirou. The files had already been forwarded to the police for the necessary action said the minister.

WikiLeaks shows 21st-century secrets harder to keep

THE DIPLOMATIC cables so far released by WikiLeaks might embarrass US diplomats but probably won’t shatter any international relationships.

The key lesson so far seems to be just how much easier the information age has made it to steal vast quantities of data — and how much harder it is to keep secrets.

The US and other governments have been keen to talk up the potential diplomatic damage from the release of some 250,000 cables, details of which began to be published on Sunday by Western newspapers.

The cables, some of which were released in full and some only in part, revealed confidential — and often unflattering — views and information from senior US diplomats based overseas that would normally have been kept confidential for decades.

The North Korean dilemma

SOUTH Korea’s defence minister, Kim Tae-Young, was forced to resign after criticism that he was too slow to respond when North Korea attacked the island of Yeonpeong on Tuesday, killing at least four people. But what was he supposed to do? What can his replacement, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Kim Kwan-jin, do? Not much, really.

South Korean artillery fired back, dropping eighty shells on North Korean gun positions along the coast facing Yongpyeon, so honour has been served. But now North Korea is warning that the joint US-South Korean military exercises that began just off that coast on 28 November (and include a huge US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier) are pushing the region “to the brink of war.”

CA announce measures to save airline

CYPRUS Airways yesterday presented the company’s workers with a raft of cost-cutting measures aimed at saving the ailing airline, expected to post a €30 million loss this year.

The around 20 proposals do not touch salaries directly – they mostly target benefits and allowances – but will affect total income.

“It is our position that once again we will contribute to rescue the company, as long as certain conditions are met,” said Charalambos Tappas, chairman of the pilot’s union PALPU.

He added that everyone should do their part and warned that they will not accept the workers paying the lion’s share for the rescue.

‘Satisfied with EU forecast’

THE government yesterday voiced satisfaction over the EU’s economic forecasts for Cyprus, which align with the finance ministry’s assessments.

“I want to stress that the EU’s assessments and forecasts are identical with the government’s assessments as regards the public finances and the growth rate,” Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis said.

According to the EU forecast released yesterday, Cyprus will record a 0.5 per cent growth rate in 2010 and a 5.9 per cent deficit, which meets the government’s target of a shortfall of under 6.0 per cent.

Night buses rolled back as new buses roll out

OSEL’s Monday to Saturday night bus service in Nicosia will be reduced to just Fridays and Saturdays this week because of a lack of passengers, while Limassol received an extra 26 buses.

The nightly services from Nicosia to Lythrodontas, Arediou, Lympis, Pyrga have been cancelled, while nightly services from Nicosia to Tseri, Geri and Anthoupoli will run on Fridays and Saturdays, at 10.30pm, 12.30am and 3am.

The last buses to all destinations during the week will be the 7.10pm and the 11.15pm.

Bus driver Demos Antoniou said yesterday that few people have used the weekday night buses – with most carrying no passengers – and that he was unsure how long the service would remain in place.

Stavrakis upbeat on Qatar deal

FINANCE Minister Charilaos Stavrakis yesterday seemed upbeat about the prospects of a planned Cyprus-Qatar development project on the island.

“At this moment we are more optimistic than we had been before our trip. There have been some convergences,” Stavrakis said of the bilateral talks this weekend in Doha, Qatar.

Earlier this year, the two countries signed a multi-million euro deal to develop a hotel, residential and commercial complex in central Nicosia opposite the Hilton hotel. Under the deal, Qatar and Cyprus are to set up a 50:50 joint venture to develop the project. Cyprus’ contribution to the venture is the actual land plot, while Qatar will put in an amount equal to the value of the land.

Re-elected AKEL leader calls for unity

RULING LEFT-wing party AKEL re-elected Andros Kyprianou as the party general secretary on the closing day of its 21st pancyprian conference on Sunday.

Ninety-eight members of the party’s newly-elected 105-member Central Committee voted for Kyprianou, the sole candidate for the top spot, while three voted against and four abstained.

In his speech, Kyprianou said it was imperative to support President Demetris Christofias in his effort to find a solution to the Cyprus problem, noting that only this would ensure stability and peace in Cyprus and give people a chance to prosper.