'Tough guy' president who exasperates world leaders

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The Independent Online

As the European Union prepares to welcome 10 new members on Saturday, there will be no challengers to Tassos Papadopoulos, the Greek Cypriot President, as Mr Unpopular. The 70-year-old London-trained barrister looks and sounds like a tough guy, speaking in a dramatic, hoarse whisper, because of a serious throat problem. Neither impression is misleading.

World leaders from Tony Blair and George Bush to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan have failed to budge Mr Papadopoulos one inch.

Since 1998, when Cyprus began accession talks to the EU, there was a quid pro quo agreement with the Greek Cypriot government. The wealthier south would be welcomed if it signed up to the first "reasonable and internationally accepted" solution to the 30-year division of the island.

Someone forgot to tell Mr Papadopoulos. After he entered UN-sponsored negotiations, he campaigned successfully for an overwhelming rejection of the peace plan.

In the 1950s, Mr Papadopoulos was an EOKA militant, waging a war of terror to secure independence from Britain. When independent Cyprus needed a new constitution they drafted him in, at 24, to help write it, appointing him interior minister.

His career includes stints at the ministries of finance, health, agriculture and labour. He also built the island's most successful legal practice. At the height of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, he aided the Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, by setting up a network of offshore companies said to have been used for sanctions-busting and money-laundering.

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