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US Launches Effort to Support UN Cyprus Plan - 2004-04-16

The Bush administration continued diplomatic efforts Thursday in support of the United Nations peace plan for Cyprus, and it said it would be prepared to help the Turkish part of the island if the plan is scuttled by Greek-Cypriot voters in next week's referendum.

The U.S. drive in support of the U.N. peace plan is being led by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has been telephoning political leaders in Cyprus, Greece and Turkey to press them to use their influence to get the plan approved in unprecedented twin referenda April 24.

The peace plan, the product of intensive diplomacy by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, is widely expected to be approved by Turkish-Cypriot voters.

But its fate is unclear on the Greek side of the island, and it must be approved by both communities if it is to take effect and bring a new Cypriot federation into the European Union May 1.

In a talk with reporters, Mr. Powell called it a "moment of enormous opportunity" for Greek and Turkish Cypriots to end the longstanding separation of the island:

"I can see no advantage to voting no at this time," he said. "There is no Plan B. There is nothing coming along to substitute for this plan. The plan took a long time to develop. It is very detailed. Everybody has some problem with it or the other. It cannot be a plan that will apply uniformly and satisfactorily and favorably to both parties, but it is the best that's going to come along."

The island in the eastern Mediterranean has been divided since 1974, when Turkey occupied its northern third in response to a Greek-Cypriot coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece.

If the U.N. plan is rejected by either or both sides in next week's voting, only the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot republic would enter the European Union.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Thursday that if the peace plan was torpedoed by a Greek-Cypriot "no" vote, the United States would not leave the Turkish-Cypriots "out in the cold" and would be prepared to ease hardships posed by their exclusion from the EU.

Officials here downplayed suggestions this might include U.S. recognition of self-declared Turkish republic in northern Cyprus. But they said the United States could drop trade sanctions against it, or give it some of the $400 million in U.S. aid already committed to support implementation of the U.N. plan.