One third of Cypriots want president out - poll

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 17, 2011 7:24 AM
One third of Cypriots want president out - poll

NICOSIA (Reuters) - One-third of Greek Cypriots believe Cypriot President Demetris Christofias should resign, blaming him for a deadly munitions blast which plunged Cyprus into an energy crisis last week.

A poll by the leading Phileleftheros daily said 39 percent of respondents blamed Christofias for the disaster personally, with 33 percent believing he should step down.

The July 11 explosion of confiscated Iranian munitions at a military base killed 13 people and triggered Cyprus's worst peacetime disaster with rolling power cuts leading to the most serious challenge to Christofias's three-year presidency.

In an unprecedented show of public fury, thousands of people have taken to the streets in Cyprus to protest the blast. The poll itself was also rare; the presidency is a respected institution on the Mediterranean island which rarely faces any kind of challenge.

The munitions were confiscated by Cyprus from a ship sailing from Iran to Syria in 2009 for violating U.N. sanctions. They were stored in high temperatures in an open field next to Vassilikos, Cyprus's primary power station which supplies the island with more than half its electricity.

They exploded in a 1.5 megaton blast on July 11, killing the island's navy chief, military personnel and fire-fighters. The defense minister and army chief resigned.

Christofias himself was unaware of deteriorating storage conditions of the munitions, government officials have said, even though the army had repeatedly appealed for their removal.

Cyprus's attorney general has ordered a criminal investigation into the incident. Christofias has said an inquiry would also scrutinize his own role.

(Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Jon Hemming)