Cyprus leader promises full blast inquiry amid mass protests | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.07.2011
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Cyprus leader promises full blast inquiry amid mass protests

As thousands of protesters called for his resignation, Cypriot President Demetris Christofias has spoken publicly for the first time since a deadly munitions explosion that knocked out the island's power supply.

Cypriot power plant with plumes of smoke in the background

The blast occurred next to the country's primary generator

Cypriot President Demetris Christofias defied protesters' demands for his resignation over a deadly munitions explosion Thursday, promising to launch a full investigation into the incident.

"It is the demand of all that responsibilities are identified and attributed, whatever those may be, from the lowest to the highest level," Christofias said on national television, in his first public address since a massive munitions blast at a Cypriot naval base on Monday killed 12 people and knocked out the country's major power plant.

"I assure you responsibility will be apportioned and taken," he said.

'Thorough' investigation

Christofias has appointed lawyer Polis Polyviou to head the investigation.

Polyviou, he said, would probe "every aspect and all the circumstances of this tragedy," which has led to widespread power cuts throughout the Mediterranean holiday island.

Christofias said his government offered its condolences to the victims' families. However, the president did not issue the apology some had expected.

A map of Cyprus

Every house in the village of Zygi was damaged by the explosion

Meanwhile Thursday, a crowd of between 3,000 and 4,000 people took part in a rowdy demonstration outside the presidential palace in Nicosia in a third straight night of protests.

"We're hoping to come here every day until Christofias resigns," said actress Despina Chrysanthou, an organizer of the protest at which the president was branded a "murderer."

The defense minister and army chief resigned hours after the incident, which also left one person declared brain dead and damaged hundreds of homes.

Negligent storage

The munitions that caused Monday's explosion were being stored in scorching temperatures in an open field at the naval base near the port of Limassol, next to a major power station.

Cyprus had confiscated the munitions in 2009, under pressure from the United States and other Western powers, from a ship sailing from Iran to Syria, for violating United Nations sanctions.

Cypriot authorities have imposed rolling two-hour power cuts in order to cope with the loss of electricity. An Israeli ship has meanwhile brought 10 small generators to the island nation, and more are expected to come from Greece once EU funds are made available.

Author: David Levitz (AFP, Reuters)

Editor: Martin Kuebler

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