Cyprus, Iraq and others

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The Independent Online

Diplomatic response to Cyprus vote has been disappointing

Sir: As a former mediating officer in Cyprus, may I comment on your coverage of the referenda in the island? You report on diplomatic fury at the Greek Cypriots. Nowhere do you suggest that, as I believe to be the case, it is the international community that has again failed Cyprus and that rejection stemmed from flaws in the final version of the Annan Plan ("Annan 5").

Sadly the plan stemmed from a top-down approach and sought for a compromise with extreme Turkish military sentiment, rather than to build on the social consensus that does exist and on UN and EU principles. The timing imposed by EU-accession also proved unworkable, leaving no margin for final consideration and amendment. And the pre-voting pressures applied by the US and UK, whose policies during the Cold War were a principal cause of communal separation, were clearly counterproductive.

Those known to me who worked most strongly for communal reconciliation felt betrayed by Annan 5, believed that it would ultimately perpetuate division and with great reluctance voted against it. And, in contrast to his current demonisation, Tassos Papadopoulos is a pragmatist who was the leading proponent of communal reintegration under Makarios and who always has been committed to Turkish Cypriot rights. His stand has consistently been against the improper meddling in Cypriot affairs of the Turkish army and other foreigners.

The knee-jerk reaction to the vote so far displayed by EU and US diplomats is discouraging. They should remember that it was the Turkish invasion that dismembered Cyprus and the then failure of the international community to secure the departure of the Turkish army that created the problem with which they are now faced. They would do well to analyse why Annan 5 was rejected and see how a positive way forward can be facilitated.

Banbury, Oxfordshire

Horror of pictures emerging from Iraq

Sir: I cannot begin to think what must be going through the minds of the Iraqi people as they see pictures apparently showing the torture and abuse of their countrymen at the hands of their so-called liberators. Even the small minority who were fooled into welcoming the coalition forces must be wondering at the price they are paying.

What is almost as appalling as the pictures is the reporting by some news correspondents. Even the BBC hastens to mention that, within the same walls, unparalleled horrific torture was perpetrated by Saddam Hussein and his men. What has that to do with the alleged incidents currently being reported? Saddam never claimed to be the liberator of the Iraqi people.

Nauseating, too, is the manner in which another BBC correspondent insisted on using the words "true or untrue" every time he mentioned the pictures. Was he trying to suggest that these were actors in a drama?

Colchester, Essex

Sir: Your correspondents have made much of the terrorism in Iraq. Although the atrocities are being committed by terrorists, many connected to the former regime, they manage to imply that the fault is with the British/US governments. Their answer to the problem of terrorism is that coalition forces should withdraw from Iraq.

The same correspondents ignore the fact that throughout the 1990s Iraqi Kurds were subject to the same form of atrocity and from the same coalition of Baathists and jihadis. Shias continued to suffer persecution that became commonplace in addition to the assassination of their leaders.

Those responsible for these recent terrorist offences are not "resistance forces" in any meaningful sense of the term. They are a coalition of political thugs and religiously inspired zealots whose antipathy to the west is only equalled by their antipathy to Shiism.

Some western observers have recited the mantra that the liberation of Iraq should have been left to the Iraqi people. In 1991 it was. The result was that up to 250,000 were killed and 2 million became refugees. If people in the west are serious about supporting the Iraqi people their targets should be the Baathists and the jihadis, whose one political tactic is the use of terror.

London E16

Sir: George Bush's claim to be "disgusted" by pictures of American soldiers alleged torturing of Iraqi prisoners is risible, given what we know of the treatment of suspects held (without charge) at Guantanamo Bay. Such hypocrisy undermines America's War on Terror and its ugly sister, the liberation of Iraq.


Sir: The Prime Minister should now execute another welcome U-turn and put the brakes on UK military involvement in the areas of Iraq that the US forces have alienated. Likewise, the UN should only take on any role in Iraq if it has proper authority over the outcome. This means, in particular, having political control over coalition forces on the ground. There is no point at all in the UN providing "cover" for an illusory US withdrawal from responsibility in Iraq.

Mr Bush should continue to own this problem, which is almost entirely of his own making, throughout his re-election campaign.

Highbury, London N5

Sir: Spain has now withdrawn most of its troops from Iraq. Far from being paella-eating surrender monkeys, the Spanish have got it right. They have withdrawn their troops until such time as there is proper UN supervision of the political process and, most importantly, of the military occupation.

Rather than sending more troops to be put under US control, shouldn't we be doing the same? This is not abandoning the Iraqis to their fate. This is the only way to make sure that they have a real say in their own future, and not one that is just dictated to them by the US.

Sherborne, Dorset

Sir: Not for the first time, I don't quite follow the Prime Minister's train of thought.

If it is alright to drop bombs from moving aeroplanes on a civilian Iraqi population, then why is it wrong to drop the occasional Iraqi from a moving vehicle?

Shaftesbury, Dorset

Memories of Maggie

Sir: I am grateful to Ivan Massow for showing how greedy, smug and self-congratulatory Thatcherism, the 1980s and Conservatism in general was and is ("Twenty-five years on: Maggie's children", Review, 29 April).

The idea that the fight against the closure of the mines was an attempt to preserve a backward nostalgic village life is laughable. So too is Massow's suggestion that Section 28 was "a blessing in disguise" for gay people Those who could be bothered to "get on their bike" would have quite liked to have cycled to jobs rather than the job centre.

While big business (and fat cat pay cheques) boomed in the 1980s, the greater number of people were worse off - both financially and by having to suffer being told that if they didn't have what others have, it was their fault. Things may be no better under Labour, but at least we have some more people in the Government trying to improve things for everyone and not just for those out for themselves.

London N2

Zimbabwe chillies

Sir: A week ago I needed fresh chillies for a recipe I was making but, after visiting two well known supermarkets, had to do without. The only chillies on offer were emblazoned, quite openly, with Zimbabwe as their country of origin.

You state in your leading article (29 April), that the England cricket team should not tour Zimbabwe. It is interesting to note that although it is preferable for our cricketers not to ply their trade there, it's OK for businesses to trade with the regime there.

The Government should ban all trading with Zimbabwe before bothering to influence cricket tours. That would hurt Mugabe and his followers, right in the pocket.

Grantham, Lincolnshire

The BBC and the arts

Sir: Philip Hensher notes the pro-sport, anti-arts bias of the BBC ("Why does the BBC ignore the arts?" 30 April) because he is concerned with the arts.

In my days I work in a brewery. In my evenings I sing in choirs. I notice that newspapers write endlessly about wine but steadfastly refuse (with the sole exception of The Independent) to write about beer - which is, after all, our national drink. I also notice that you can listen to many hours of Radio 3 or Classic FM before you hear any choral music, despite the fact that choral singers number in the hundreds of thousands.

I am sure that your readers can think of countless similar examples where pure snobbery blinkers our opinions and therefore impoverishes our lives. Mr Hensher's own condescending attitude towards Rolf Harris who, love him or loathe him, is undoubtedly a gifted individual, is just another example.

London SE24

European expansion

Sir: It doesn't take an expert in European history to realise that the last couple of centuries have been dominated by war and invasion of one nation-state by another. Sixty years ago millions were dying, and until recently we lived in a divided continent with nuclear weapons pointing at each other.

Once, any union would have been through annexation, conquest, colonisation or invasion. The three Baltic States were absorbed into the USSR because of a secret pact made between Hitler and Stalin. Slovenia was forced to belong to communist Yugoslavia. Four of the central European candidate states were occupied by the Red Army and forced into a communist bloc against their will for almost half a century.

After decades of repression, forced ethnic assimilation, colonial occupation and economic mismanagement is it a surprise that these states are less economically advanced? Yet, not one of these states chose their fate. It is true that there is much to be bitter about for any of their people.

The EU must succeed. Enlargement is a historic opportunity without precedent. In the East a new sense of hope pervades the streets. Those in the West can and should learn something from this. This is an opportunity that should be embraced but at the very least we should remember history owes these countries.

London N8

Sir: EU expansion is prompting the usual panic about benefits tourism and economic migrants. People should recall that during the 1980s the UK had over three million unemployed, and the country continues to have a lower standard of living and far lower welfare benefits than many other EU states. Despite the fact that we have long had the right to live and work anywhere in the EU, we have never seen hordes of unemployed Brits swamping the more generous welfare systems of Scandinavia, Germany or France.

Do the scaremongers really think that Estonians dream of a life of squalor on minimal benefits in a high-rise English slum?

Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Sir: Michael Howard does not want to be part of what he calls "a country called Europe" (report, 30 April). Perhaps, despite being Welsh, he has forgotten that Wales, Scotland and part of Ireland remain part of a country called Britain in a union that he claims to be great.

The truth is that Mr Howard is chasing the popular and uninformed view that is against all things European. Of course, should the referendum be made regional, those of us in the Celtic fringe might well vote for a constitution, and membership of a different "country". Small countries certainly seem to do well in Europe.

Usk, Gwent

Sir: Our leaders for the new Europe (photograph, 30 April) - and not a woman among them.

London NW6

Roman occupation

Sir: D J Taylor reports ("Boudicca", 1 May) that Andrew Davies's biopic of Boudicca was slated for historical inaccuracy. He then tells us that AD60-62 was "a century or so into the Roman occupation of these fair isles". If he has evidence of Roman conquest c.40BC, my colleagues and I would be very pleased to hear it.

Institute of Archaeology

Obtaining fake ID

Sir: What is to prevent an illegal immigrant who has already acquired a false identity as a British citizen for £600 - namely a birth certificate, passport, NI number and driving licence - from using these documents to obtain a bonefide ID card complete with finger print and iris scan?

Northwood, Middlesex

Unfamiliar speed

Sir: Brian Viner (Sport, 1 May) assumes a four-second mile "to be unachievable even in an aircraft". At 3,600 seconds to the hour, this equates to a mere 900mph, or only just supersonic. Concorde, anyone? The real problem is expressing speeds in unfamiliar terms (seconds per mile instead of miles per hour).


Notices best ignored

Sir: Perhaps someone ought to put the case for signs which are unambiguous. I saw this one in Jersey: "Abattoir entrance - One way only". Depressingly clear.

Fishbourne, Isle of Wight

Clearance sale

Sir: Yesterday I noticed that W H Smith was selling a video called The Story of the Labour Party at 99p. I thought it overpriced so instead bought something by Nick Hornby, which was a more realistic portrayal of the state we live in.