Cyprus' president apologizes for deadly blast

AP News
Posted: Jul 15, 2011 8:33 AM
Cyprus' president apologizes for deadly blast

Cyprus' president apologized Friday for his government's handling of a deadly explosion that killed 13 at a naval base and said if an upcoming inquiry finds him negligent he would be prepared to take full responsibility.

Dimitris Christofias promised in a national address Thursday _ amid public protests over a perceived lack of official accountability _ that two investigations into Monday's blast would determine responsibility from "the lowest to the highest level."

He didn't, however, specify how high that responsibility would reach. Some protesters have called for Christofias to resign

On Friday, he made it clear the investigations would also reach his office.

"State authorities and institutions are tasked with investigating and apportioning responsibility wherever it belongs, like I said, to the highest level _ and the highest level is the president of the republic," he said.

The president had come under harsh criticism for not explicitly apologizing in Thursday's address for the events surrounding the detonation of dozens of seized gunpowder-filled containers .

"Because there was discussion about an apology in the address of the president of the republic, the apologies of the government and the president for what happened must be considered a given and they are a given," Christofias told reporters.

He again appealed for calm and for justice to take its course as thousands of protesters continued to hold nightly demonstrations outside the presidential palace to demand official accountability.

The demonstrations have been mostly peaceful. Police, however, arrested 20 people on Tuesday during clashes as some of the crowd briefly broke into the presidential palace grounds.

Cyprus' defense minister and military chief have already resigned over the island's worst military accident in decades, which also knocked out a key power station and struck a heavy blow to the economy.

Many have accused the government of negligence over the way the 98 containers had been stored at the naval base since being confiscated in 2009 from an Iran-chartered ship the U.N. said had breached a ban on Iranian arms exports.

The containers were left stacked one on top of the other in an open field at the base for more than two years only a few hundred meters (yards) from the power station.

Official documents showed that military officials had previously expressed fears over the impact that exposure to the elements would have on the containers and the gunpowder.