Turkish press fuels sanctions fear: Concern that Nadir's flight will provoke economic reprisals appears unfounded

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FEARS OF British sanctions against northern Cyprus spread in Turkey and its small island neighbour yesterday as the fugitive bankrupt Asil Nadir took a break at a family-owned beach.

'Embargo on Cyprus' trumpeted the front-page headline of Turkey's mass-circulation daily newspaper Sabah, echoed by a clutch of Turkish opposition newspapers in northern Cyprus that are feeding worries that the return of their 'Robin Hood' might not all be a good thing.

Sabah said that Britain would start taking 'precautions' from today, listing as possibilities a freeze on Turkish Cypriot assets in London, sanctions against an estimated pounds 50m in annual trade or banning entries to Britain on passports issued by the breakaway north Cypriot state.

The fears seem premature. The Turkish foreign minister has denied that Britain mentioned any such possibility in meetings last week. British officials contacted by the Independent say there was no mention of sanctions in talks with north Cyprus officials and that they are still working on the assumption that Nadir will be handed over.

However, that still seems unlikely. 'If they think we will return our Asil Nadir because of pressures (like an embargo), they are dreaming,' Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, told the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. He added that he had already rejected an alleged British request for the Turkish Cypriots to kidnap Nadir and deliver him to one of the British sovereign bases on the island.

At a news conference on Saturday, Nadir said that he would be travelling soon to Turkey. Although this might make Ankara uncomfortable, there is no sign Britain would have any luck in getting him back from there.

Yesterday, Nadir left his house to visit a beach east of Kyrenia, a famous nesting site for logger-head turtles that he acquired from the Turkish Cypriot state when he was at the height of his power. 'We don't know what he did,' one local editor said. 'We don't have any paparazzi here yet.'

Nadir appeared yesterday on two BBC television programmes, Breakfast With Frost and The Money Programme, to continue what appears to be a relentless publicity offensive.

He had faxed a handwritten two-page letter to Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, setting out his conditions for returning to Britain from his 'safe haven' in northern Cyprus. In it he offered to come back to Britain in return for unconditional bail restrictions so that he could travel abroad on business.

The letter was passed to the Home Office. Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, speaking on BBC Radio 4, reiterated that Nadir should surrender to his bail and let the courts deal with the matter.

He added: 'I have no intention of engaging in correspondence with him to keep up the publicity in northern Cyprus.'