UN 7-day deadline for Cyprus unification

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented his latest reunification plan for Cyprus to leaders of the Greek and Turkish sides yesterday, with a seven-day deadline for a deal.

Despite mounting odds against a swift deal, Mr Annan remained hopeful his latest effort to end the three-decade-old division of the island could bring a breakthrough.

"I pray the leaders in their wisdom will come to an agreement in the coming few days," Mr Annan said after arriving in Cyprus. Underscoring the importance the UN places on a deal, Mr Annan is set to spend three days on the east Mediterranean island despite mounting tensions over Iraq.

Mr Annan arrived in Cyprus after talks in Ankara and Athens, in a final push to get a deal on Cyprus ahead of tomorrow's deadline set so a united island can sign an accession treaty on April 16 to join the EU.

Mr Annan has said it was high time Greek and Turkish Cypriots, locked in long UN-monitored talks, reached a decision if they did not want to waste an historic opportunity.

"Let the word go out to Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike, you have a rendezvous with destiny," he said. Mr Annan was due to meet outgoing Cypriot president Glafcos Clerides and his successor Tassos Papadopoulos yesterday, as well as Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

The eastern Mediterranean island was partitioned along ethnic lines after a 1974 invasion of Turkish troops, triggered by a failed Athens-backed coup to unite Cyprus with Greece.

A Cyprus deal would be based on a largely decentralised bi-zonal confederation, with one area populated largely by Greek Cypriots and the other by Turkish Cypriots.

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