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Cyprus Reunification Talks Resume - 2004-02-19

Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders have resumed talks aimed at reuniting Cyprus before the Mediterranean island joins the European Union in May.

U.N. envoy Alvaro de Soto welcomed Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash Thursday as they gathered for talks in Nicosia.

The talks come hours after a small bomb exploded in front of the home of Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Talat. No injuries were reported, and Mr. Talat said the talks would go on as scheduled.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who drew up the reunification plan, is appealing to island leaders to seize the moment and work in good faith in a spirit of compromise. He said the final plan must be fair and balanced so Cyprus can join what he calls a united Europe.

The Cypriot leaders plan to keep talking until March 22. If there is no deal, Greek and Turkish negotiators will step in for a final week of talks. If there is still no agreement, Mr. Annan will resolve any outstanding issues.

The Annan plan calls for Greek and Turkish Cypriot states on Cyprus held together by a loose federal government. Mr. Denktash insisted Wednesday that a final deal must not infringe on what he called Turkish Cypriot sovereignty or its ethnic character.

Mr. Annan wants a deal in time for both sides to put it to a referendum before May first, when Cyprus joins the European Union.

If there is no deal, only the Greek Cypriot south will enjoy the benefits of EU membership.

Cyprus has been split since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the island in response to a Greek-backed military coup in Nicosia.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.