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US Mediates Cyprus Missile Crisis

December 14, 1998 GMT

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ U.S. mediator Richard Holbrooke tried Monday to defuse the latest crisis between NATO members Greece and Turkey over the planned deployment of Russian missiles to Cyprus.

But Holbrooke seems to have made little progress in preventing the deployment after talks with Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos. Leaving the hourlong talks along with his assistant Thomas Miller, the annoyed-looking American envoy refused to utter a word.

He had arrived a few hours earlier from Istanbul, Turkey, where he met with business leaders from the war-divided island.


Greek Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides on Sunday insisted the planned deployment of the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles will go ahead as scheduled later this month.

Turkey has said it will use force to stop them, which would probably lead to a war with Greece. Athens has a defense accord with Cyprus and has nearly fought two wars with NATO ally Turkey in the past 11 years over territorial disputes over the Aegean Sea.

The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot governments since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded its northern third after an abortive Athens-backed coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Turkey maintains 35,000 troops in a northern breakaway state recognized only by Ankara.

Tsochadzopoulos indicated he and the Americans didn’t see eye-to-eye on the missiles. The United States strongly opposes Cyprus’ plans to install the anti-aircraft weapons.

He said he and the U.S. envoy exchanged views on what ``each side sees as realistic for the outcome″ of the problem.

Reports said the initial delivery schedule had the missiles leaving Russia on Tuesday. But there was no independent confirmation that the repeatedly delayed delivery was imminent. Such a development would significantly shorten the time available to Holbrooke.