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Decision Time for Cyprus, Declares Kofi Annan

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan says decision time has arrived on the Cyprus issue.

Mr. Annan arrived for talks with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Tuesday declaring that if this opportunity to reunite Cyprus is missed, there may not be another one for some time.

The U.N. Secretary General is trying to persuade Greek and Turkish Cypriots to sign on to a peace deal which would reunify Cyprus after nearly three decades of division. Although he said he was prepared to let the Friday deadline for the plan slip by a few days, Mr. Annan added that any further delay would shatter all chances of a deal.

Mr. Annan, who has invested a great deal of time and energy to resolving the Cypriot crisis, also announced that he would reveal details of a new and final plan to Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders on Wednesday when he begins a two-day visit to Cyprus.

Under the U.N. proposal, Cyprus would reunite as a loose federation of the southern Greek and northern Turkish blocs, joined by a weak central government. If the deal is signed by Friday, the whole island will join the European Union in 2004. If the deal is not signed, only the Greek side will join, and the Turkish Cypriots will be excluded.

At present however, chances of any deal being struck look slim, with negotiations deadlocked as leaders from both sides blame each other for failing to compromise.