Cypriots protest against "criminal negligence" by government officials

13:49, July 15, 2011      

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Tens of thousands of Cypriots gathered outside the Presidential Palace in capital Nicosia on Thursday night demanding the resignation of President Demetris Christofias, accusing him of responsibility for a massive blast at a naval base that killed 13 people.

The blast on Monday also wrecked the island's new power station forcing rolling cuts of electricity to consumers and caused an estimated damage of 2 billion euros (about 2.84 U.S. dollars) to private property.

Thursday's demonstration was the most massive of nightly demonstrations in protest against what most people consider as criminal negligence by government officials in either removing a dangerous cargo of explosives or taking adequate safety measures, after two thousand tons of military explosives and munitions were stored at the naval base.

The demonstration came only hours after President Christofias promised a full inquiry into the case and appealed for calm and cooperation to restore confidence in the state and its institutions, which have been under constant criticism after the explosion.

Even Attorney General Petros Clerides who oversees criminal investigation into the case was critical of the way officials acted.

"The state has suffered a serious blow," Petros said in a radio interview. "We were given a cargo of explosives to take care of and we managed to bomb out our country," he said after instructing the police to proceed with the investigation.

The demonstrators shed scorn at the president's call for restoration of confidence in the state and demanded that those responsible be made to pay for the great loss of life.

President Christofias has seen his credibility and popularity wrecked by the blast after the publication of documents claiming that he had instructed the National Guard to continue having custody of the dangerous cargo so as not to damage relations with Syria.

The explosives and munitions were confiscated early in 2009 from a Russian ship while being transported from Iran to Syria, allegedly in violation of United Nations resolutions.

Published documents have shown that army explosives experts had warned about an imminent blast after some of the 98 munitions containers had bulged, probably after smaller explosions only days prior to the big blast.

The Presidential Palace repeatedly denied it was aware of the dangerous state of the munitions.

Police kept a discreet watch on the demonstrators and did not intervene as they did two nights ago when young extremists tried to storm the Presidential Palace.

The demonstrators dispersed quietly after several hours.

Demonstrations of the kind seen after Monday's explosion are virtually unknown in Cyprus as its people themselves concede they are rather passive at events even when they affect their daily lives.

Source: Xinhua
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